BMW revealed its future at Auto Shanghai 2021 with the unveiling of the BMW iX, along with updates to BMW’s iDrive system. The show also featured a preview the fully electric BMW i4 M Sport.
Built using BMW Group’s new, modular scalable architecture that will underpin its future portfolio of battery-electric vehicles, the BMW iX xDrive50 and BMW iX xDrive40 both wear an controversially large double-kidney grille and employ all-wheel drive; they differ mainly in power and range.
The BMW iX xDrive50 generates more than 500 horsepower, a 0-62 mph time of less than 5 seconds while delivering an estimated range of 373 miles. The BMW iX xDrive40 has less power — still, more than 300 horsepower — yet is still capable of reaching 60 mph in less than 6 seconds while delivering more than 240 miles of range.
Its new tech could prove problematic outside China
The iDrive system in the new BMW iX now integrates the Tencent app WeChat into the operating system. Known as Weixin inside China, WeChat has more than 1 billion users worldwide. In the new iX, it’s accessed and viewed through the iDrive system on the curved display.
Similar to WhatsApp, WeChat supports video, voice, text chat and translates messages and content in 20 different languages. It serves as a substitute for Facebook, Google and Twitter and other international social media platforms, which are all blocked in China.
While WeChat is free to download for iPhone and Android users, the app is not encrypted and is actively censored since Tencent shares user data with the government. This may be fine in China, but it could prove problematic if introduced in the U.S. market.
Nevertheless, it is also 5G-capable, and the automaker says the iX uses technology that can process 20 times more data than existing models, allowing for faster-reacting sensors throughout the vehicle.
BMW’s next act
BMW also used Auto Shanghai 2021 to preview the BMW i4 electric 4-door gran coupé, whose U.S. market launch is scheduled for 2022, sometime after its launch in China later this year. Like its sibling, the i4 wears an outrageously oversized twin-kidney grille, looking similar to BMW’s other 4-door gran coupés. BMW displayed the car in M Sport trim, while emphasizing it has more than 500 horsepower, allowing it to reach 62 mph time in 4 seconds. It has an EPA test range of 300 miles.
The two new nameplates will mark a turnaround for a brand that has sold EVs lacking mass market appeal. Worldwide, the bizarre i3 never topped 40,000 sales worldwide, and its i8 sports car fared even worse. In contrast, both iX and i4’s forms are far more traditional, more akin to current BMW SUVs. This should minimize buyer resistance.