Upgrading from a mainline BMW to an M Sport or a full-blown M model has always been easy to justify if money wasn't a concern. There was more performance available, but you were also getting a different engine with its own unique soundtrack, character, and power delivery; all things that make the driving experience more enjoyable.
With the 2023 BMW iX M60, you get the extra performance, sure, but I was expecting more of the intangibles that make M-badged products so easy to recommend, both relative to their standard BMW siblings and to the competition from around the world. But as it turns out, that’s not so easy with electric motors, which are equally responsive and linear regardless of manufacturer or purpose.
These EV hallmarks, combined with a $22,000 premium over the lesser iX xDrive50, the lack of exclusive equipment, and a significant drop in range mean this entertaining and likable EV earns high marks thanks to its subordinate's excellent bones, rather than anything wildly impressive that comes with the M badge.
BMW didn't reinvent the wheel with the iX M60's electric motors, but that's because it did so with the original iX xDrive50, engineering magnet-free power units that do without rare earth metals. Switching to EVs for sustainability reasons while plundering the earth for neodymium and dysprosium feels a touch hypocritical, so well done to BMW for finding a more environmentally friendly approach (but let's not talk about lithium mining…).
In the xDrive50, these fifth-generation motors produce a combined 516 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque alongside a 111.5-kilowatt-hour (gross) battery – the M60 ups the ante with a model-specific rear motor and a total output of 532 hp and 749 lb-ft on the same size pack, but that only tells part of the story. Switch to Sport and output swells to 610 hp, while activating Launch Control boosts the torque number to 810 lb-ft. At its most aggressive, the M60 will scoot to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, or eight-tenths quicker than the xDrive50. The top speed increases to an electronically limited 155 mph versus 124 in the standard iX.
The M60’s performance is striking, with instant and relentless performance off the line. But compared to similarly powerful EVs in the iX’s 5,700-pound weight class, it’s tougher to get excited about unless you’re using Launch Control. A Mercedes-AMG EQS has 49 fewer pound-feet of torque, 39 more horsepower, and 200 extra pounds of weight, but feels noticeably quicker in every situation. At the same time, the iX’s flat-as-a-pancake power curve means there’s nothing especially interesting about accelerating. It’s going to feel the same every time you smash the accelerator (which you could say about all EVs).
The iX wins points for its Hans Zimmer-sourced soundtrack, though. It builds up while using launch control, but even if you simply step on the accelerator, the audio quickly surrounds you with a futuristic whir. And in a neat twist, the iX comes with a deceleration effect, which sounds like a slight distortion of what you hear while the pedal is down. That’s an overlooked quality that I hope more EV manufacturers adopt. As for how the higher-performance iX’s pace and “hallmark M characteristics” sound compared to the base model, look for an xDrive50 review from yours truly in the next couple months.
The M60’s higher top speed, meanwhile, only matters in the place I was driving BMW's latest EV: Germany. On a derestricted stretch of autobahn outside Berlin, I climbed to just past the 155-mph limited top speed (there was a slight tailwind, I think), with the iX delivering relentless acceleration right until the nannies stepped in. I'd bet my bottom dollar an unlimited iX M60 could go a good bit faster than 155, but it’d take a pilot braver than me for the job.
The iX never felt terribly happy at such high speeds. While it was a slightly windy day, keeping the two-box electric crossover pointed straight at 155 was more difficult than when I did the same thing in an X6M later in the week. The standard Integral Active Steering grew light and the M-spec suspension (air springs and adaptive dampers running M-spec software at all four corners and M60-exclusive rear anti-roll bar), combined with three degrees of rear-axle steering, lacked the glued-to-the-ground sensation I'm used to when driving BMWs at high speeds.
Of course, at 70 to 80 mph, the iX M60 is every bit as civilized as its lesser sibling despite M suspension tuning. The steering is well isolated, requiring few small corrections on the impeccably smooth German autobahn, while the air suspension quashed the rare imperfection I encountered with typical Teutonic composure. On country lanes, the ride struggled to keep impacts from reaching my backside, but they had no real effect on the iX's direction of travel.
That relative roughness was down to my tester's optional 22-inch alloys, which wear 40-series tires. For comparison, the standard 21s (which are optional on the iX) have far more conservative 255/50 tires, which works out to an extra three-quarters of an inch of rubber in the sidewall. The lack of road noise with the more aggressive option was telling – the M60 is spooky quiet.
I might say screw ride quality and go for the bigger rollers if they resulted in demonstrably sharper handling, but it was tough to assess where the M60 improved in that regard. BMW's prescribed test route and the fact that the topography around Berlin is about as interesting as my native southeastern Michigan meant that I rarely had the chance to attack a bend in the iX. Look for a more detailed analysis on handling once one of my colleagues in California snags an M60.
BMW’s M60-exclusive changes extend to the brakes, but only just. There’s a new coat of blue paint with an M logo on the calipers. The rotors and the caliper internals match the standard xDrive50.
Then again, I rarely needed the mechanical stoppers, as the M60 carries the same smart regen system found in the standard model, which gives drivers the option of full one-pedal driving or an adaptive function that draws on navigation data to adjust the recuperation. I preferred the fixed level of regen, but that's purely personal preference – the Adaptive setting is surprisingly predictable, requiring little additional attention over one-pedal mode.
With great power comes, um, less range. Sorry, Uncle Ben. Where the base iX xDrive50 can cover 305 to 325 miles on a charge (depending on the wheel option), the longest-legged M60 will cover 288 miles with the 21-inch wheels or 274 with 22s. That's a significant drop, although at least the M60 enjoys the same brisk charging as the xDrive50. At a DC fast charger, the M60 can juice from 10 to 80 percent charge in 39 minutes, hitting a peak rate of 195 kilowatts and 500 amps. You'll need a high-end 350-kW charger for that – a more common 150-kW charger will take the M60 from 10 to 80 in 49 minutes at 100 kW/250 A.
For home charging, things are still respectable. On an 11.0-kW home charger and a 48-A circuit, the M60's will recharge from zero to 100 percent in 10.25 hours. A 9.6-kWh charger and 40-A circuit takes two hours longer, while a 7.4-kW/32-A pairing takes a leisurely 16 hours.
The sameness of the iX M60's charging setup reflects my broader problems with this product. It feels so incremental compared to other M-Sport products. And the standard equipment only supports that argument. Standard BMW LaserLight headlights, a 30-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio system, ventilated front seats, and radiant seat heating are all fine and dandy, but they're also all available on the xDrive50.
The only feature of any real consequence that's exclusive to the M60 is the added power. Yes, BMW will argue that the M programming of the suspension and exclusive rear sway bar, the acceleration sound, and the brakes aren't available elsewhere, and that's true. But none of these features make such a substantial difference as to warrant spending $106,095 (including $995 destination charge) on the M60 when the $84,195 xDrive50 and a liberal attitude toward optional extras will yield you a marginally slower car with significantly more range.
The base BMW iX then, is the M60's biggest problem. I wouldn't fault anyone that buys the quicker version, especially if they're keen on the extra standard equipment. Equipping an xDrive50 to mimic the M60 shrinks the price delta to around $6,000, which is a less significant amount than $22,000 when we're discussing $100,000 vehicles. The reality is that there are strong cases for either model. But were it my money, there's no question: the base iX is a fine, luxurious, long-legged EV that captures much of the M60's thrill for less money.
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