2023 BMW iX M60 First Drive Review: This One’s a Tough Sell

The iX M60 isn’t special enough to carry a “60” moniker or an M Badge.

byPeter HolderithMay 24, 2022 6:01 PM
2023 BMW iX M60 First Drive Review: This One’s a Tough Sell
Peter Holderith
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At this point, we all know about the new BMW iX and its nice big grille. But the car that’s been most anticipated within the iX lineup is, of course, the fastest one: the 2023 BMW iX M60. Here, the Bavarian automaker has given its flashy new electric SUV a tad over 600 horsepower. And while that might sound like a recipe to make us reach for it over the lesser iX model, it—unfortunately—isn’t. Actually, what this top trim really does is bring to light a fundamental problem with EV trim levels in general. It’s much tougher with EVs than with ICE-powered cars to make every trim in a model’s range feel special and unique. They all deliver power in the same basic way, after all.

This issue is especially apparent on the iX M60, and it had a lot to do with how it’s named and where it sits in the iX hierarchy. The most powerful iX definitely isn’t a bad car, but it isn’t a great one, either. It is, in a few words, tough to justify.

2023 BMW iX M60 Specs

  • Base price: $106,095
  • Powertrain: 105.2-kWh battery | 190-kW front motor | 360-kW rear motor | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 619
  • Torque: 749 lb-ft
  • 0-60: 3.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 155 mph
  • WLTP range: 312 to 348 miles 
  • Curb weight: 5,862 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Quick take: BMW and other automakers have to do more to distinguish their EV's trims.
  • Score: 6/10 

The Basics

The first thing you should know about the iX M60 is that it’s the most powerful version of this SUV and completely unrelated to the XM, although the names are very similar. The only other iX offered for sale in the United States, the iX xDrive50, has just over 100 less horsepower. The other thing you should know is that the drivetrain underpinning the iX M60 is far more competent than the vehicle’s front fascia might otherwise make it seem. The battery pack is substantial at 105.2 usable kilowatt-hours. The drivetrain features dual motors with a rear-biased balance of power; the front motor produces 258 hp as compared to the rear unit’s 489 hp for a total system output of 619 hp. The keen amongst you will notice those two figures add up to 747 hp; however, how an electric vehicle’s horsepower is calculated is not as simple as just adding the motor outputs together.

At a max charging rate of 195 kW, it can reportedly juice up from 10 to 80 percent in as little as 39 minutes. All of this means little if this car doesn't have enough range to get its foot in the door, but it does produce 350 miles on the European WLTP test cycle, which is typically a hair more liberal than our own EPA rating. Any way you slice it though, this thing has north of 300 miles of realistic range, can charge quickly, and has plenty of power.

Following that, the iX M60 gets most of the luxury EV formula right from the get-go, and on the inside, it’s clearly trying to impress when it comes to the details. Many of the controls are made of beautiful crystal that feels—and photographs—very well. Just the same, the car features heated and cooled seats, a funky hexagonal steering wheel, and, of course, a nice big screen which is shared with several other of the company’s models to display what seem like endless apps and settings. I won't speak at length about all of these various menus, but I will say that I found the new iDrive system in the iX more difficult to navigate and frustrating to use than it needed to be. Controls like the heated/cooled seats, for instance, now require two clicks on a screen to access instead of just one button. One must stop and ask why. After spending a few weeks with the system, I predict a buyer would get used to this, though.

Infotainment foibles aside, BMW made the effort here to make its top dog iX a little more exciting. Check out the exterior styling details beyond the massive grille—as hard as it is to ignore. The bronze accents are trendy, if anything, and the blacked-out M badging is a nice touch, too. I’m not sold on how this car looks as a whole, but the colors and materials are very satisfying on the inside and out.

The Bad News, and Not Just for BMW

And that’s really where the overt praise ends, unfortunately. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a bad car. If it was released perhaps as the only iX, it would be fine. But the place where it does exist and its very nature make its appeal limited.

The first issue is that the iX M60 sits above the iX xDrive50, as previously mentioned. That car produces 516 hp as compared to this one's 619. On paper, that’s a difference of over 100 hp, but in practice, it isn’t a big enough change to make the iX M60 feel special. Due to the nature of how almost all EVs drive, the power results in the exact same character between the two cars. 

This lack of distinction is especially stark when you consider the fact that BMW carried over its combustion nomenclature to its current range of EVs. For those who aren’t familiar, a car with a “50” designation typically has a V8 engine these days, while the “60” moniker is reserved strictly for V12-powered cars. It’s easy to justify giving a high-end luxury vehicle a V12 even if it makes almost no more power. A V12 is... well, a V12. BMW has actually done this before with a previous generation of the 7 Series, the E38, which was built between 1994 and 2001. Its V8 engine produced 282 hp while the V12 churned out just 322. Consider the weight difference between these two engines, and the performance of a V8-powered 7 Series versus a V12 car was almost identical. But the V12 obviously had a lot more panache and refinement; it made the 7 more special and nobody had to explain why. 

Now compare this to the iX M60, which is marketed as the “more special” iX model. It’s only very slightly mechanically altered from the xDrive50 version—it’s actually almost no different except for a rotor in one of the electric motors which is a few millimeters larger—and it’s not like mildly amping up the output on an electric drivetrain is equivalent to adding another four cylinders in a gasoline-powered car. It’s cool that they don’t emit a lick of tailpipe emissions, but EVs also don’t offer a whole lot of variation when it comes to the physical driving experience. The iX M60’s extra 100 hp does not manifest in an EV that’s smoother, quieter, or has more character than a 200-hp Chevy Bolt. I’m not saying a Bolt pulls as hard as a $100,000 BMW with 619 hp or is just as impressive, I’m saying they’re both torquey, responsive, silent, and smooth—they just really aren’t very different at all outside of their outputs. Not to talk up my side of the Atlantic too much, but domestic EV makers have already figured out how to differentiate the sensation of one EV from another: add four-figure hp to launch the sense out of people. BMW didn’t do that within the different models of the iX, and after speaking to its engineers at the media preview event, it doesn’t seem like they have much interest in doing so, either.

And that’s really a shame because, for the most part, the iX was agreeable to drive. Let me be frank and get the not-so-good part out of the way first: This thing didn’t ride great. Over rough roads or cobbles, it was shaky and beat me up. This is despite having air suspension on every corner. Besides that, though, it was perfectly competent. It has one pedal driving, which is great once you get used to it in an EV, it hid its weight reasonably well thanks to those famous low-mounted batteries, and the braking was responsive thanks to aggressive regen. The steering even felt pretty tight—which shouldn’t be a surprise for a BMW with any kind of M badge on it—but was admittedly a nice surprise in an electric crossover.

This brings us around to another problem: the M badge. Not the badge itself—I like the black and bronze, I'll keep saying that—but applying it to a car like this just doesn’t really work. BMW M cars are about nuance and precision and everything that makes a car good to drive in a handshake, extension-of-your-body sort of way. The iX M60 feels like it has an M badge only because it produces 619 hp and it’s the highest trim iX. There’s a reason why the full “XM” name was saved for an SUV with a twin-turbocharged V8. Having driven that prototype, I can tell you for certain the XM is more like the M cars we’re used to, cars that are (for now) seemingly inseparable from an internal combustion engine.

Also, in a truly cruel twist of irony, the best part about the iX M60’s performance was its launch control system. The entire car did a nice little vibrating shimmy before it took off, which felt very natural and interesting. Think of the sorts of things a combustion car does when it launches, but translated into an EV. But I mean, damn. BMW builds an EV with an M badge on it and the best part about it is the best part about every other electric vehicle: that instant-torque launch. Talk about a gut punch for a company that prides itself on performance when you're, you know, not going in a straight line.

A Boring Reality

You can cross-shop the iX M60 against a Tesla Model X—but in reality, its closest competitor comes from within the iX line itself. The call is coming from inside the house. The iX M60 is different than the xDrive50, but not different enough to justify that M Badge, a “60” moniker that doesn’t make any sense, and a much higher price tag than the lower-trim SUV. I have a hard time defending the iX M60’s existence over the iX xDrive50.

Also, keep in mind that the less powerful iX starts at $83,200—more than $20,000 less than the top dog, which starts at $106,095. You can also seemingly get everything in the M60 in the xDrive50: the high-end 30-speaker sound system, the heated/cooled seats, and even the cool crystal interior detailing. 

To offer some buying advice, you’re probably best off just getting that lower-trim iX. It’ll perform in largely the same way and offer a lot of the same features. If you really want black badging or the prestige of having the most expensive version of the iX, it’s your money. Otherwise, wait until automakers figure out how to properly differentiate their EVs. 

But these problems aren’t so much BMW’s fault as they are with EVs as a whole. In the coming electric age where every car delivers power and behaves almost exactly the same, how do you really set your cars—and more specifically your trims—apart? Funky synthetic noises when you accelerate? We all know that's a gimmick, even if BMW got Hans Zimmer to make them like it did in the iX. Tesla and others went with the simple, more-power route. BMW took its own stab at that differentiation, but I can’t say it paid off. There’s still time for trial and error, though, and I anticipate things will go more smoothly when the automaker finally ships a car built on its modular, dedicated EV platform. BMW doesn’t just name its new series of cars “Neue Klasse”—after the series of sports sedans that kickstarted its whole brand—without having seriously high expectations for itself. Let’s hope this future calculus adds up in a more impressive way.

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