Road Test: BMW iX xDrive40 Sport
Putting this luxury electric vehicle, the BMW iX xDrive40 Sport, through its paces on a trip to Mount Field National Park via the Central Highlands is a thrilling experience.
I’m behind the wheel of an electric vehicle (EV) for the first time. My 17-year-old daughter and I exchange secret smiles every time the salesman unveils another futuristic feature of the BMW iX xDrive40 Sport.
We're starting at the top end in this metallic Sophisto Grey fully electric SUV. Barely believing it’s ours for the day, we excitedly set out on a loop drive from Hobart to the Central Highlands and over to Mount Field National Park.
We're test-driving not only the EV Bimmer but also my state of mind for any signs of range anxiety. That’s how EV drivers describe their reaction to the prospect of running out of battery power before they reach a recharging station, with even high-end EV batteries yet to match the range of equivalent petrol and diesel powered vehicles. Our proposed route should keep us well inside the iX xDrive40 Sport’s advertised 426km range, but we shall see.
While the xDrive40 is a tad more heavily haunched than I’d envisaged, it's a charismatic chariot to behold. The interior is next level, with gear shifter, iDrive controller and seat adjustment knobs all made from Swarovski crystal. Complementing the shameless bling is a ‘Shy Tech’ design that mostly hides an 18-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system from view. Messing around with Spotify, we fall into a swoon when we feel the bass notes of our Billie Eilish and Lana Del Rey sad-girl songs vibrating through the seats.
The salesman snaps us back to reality. “I nearly gave my mother whiplash on my first test-drive in this model,” he says. “It's blisteringly quick to accelerate.”
I nose through the city streets until we reach the Brooker Highway. When the speed limit lifts, I press pedal towards metal. The power surge is thrilling and so is the sound. BMW commissioned Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer to come up with a suite of simple, futuristic sounds, dubbed IconicSounds Electric, to score the EV’s operations, including start, stop and accelerate. Zimmer’s aural cues are both mesmerising and reassuring in the absence of engine sounds, and within the cosseted – but potentially discombobulating – interior.
Crossing the River Derwent at Bridgewater, we head to the Central Highlands to visit one of my favourite B&Bs, Rathmore House. I’ve been meaning to get back here for years, having brought my little Zara to stay eight years ago. That was soon after new owners Cally and Richard Lyons opened the historic sandstone home to paying guests.
Back in the car, we head to Lawrenny Estate, a whisky distillery about 15 minutes away, between Hamilton and Ouse. Head distiller Joe Dinsmoor invites us to stay for a BYO picnic lunch in the leafy gardens. We then recross the river at nearby Meadowbank Lake en route to Mount Field National Park. On straight stretches, I test the iX xDrive 40 Sport’s smart system – driving sensors that correct my line whenever I run over white rumble strips marking road edges. The vehicle corners beautifully.
Outside the Mount Field National Park Visitors’ Centre, we spot the charging station we noted on the recharging app earlier and decide to top up. It’s in use, though, so we head on up to the Tall Trees walk, an easy 1km stroll known for its towering swamp gums (Eucalyptus regnans).
When we return to the recharging station half an hour later, the same EV is still plugged in. As it’s approaching day’s end, we give up and head back to Hobart. It’s a timely reminder that though charging stations are popping up in regional Tasmania, the process takes longer than refuelling, and much longer if you have to wait your turn.
Pricing: $184,888 driveaway (no stamp duty in Tas)
Body style: SUV
Energy consumption: Electric consumption 24.5kWh/100km
Electric range: 426km
Charging time AC: 7.5hr
Charging time DC: 10-80% 31min
Battery size: 76.6kWh/74.4kWh
Charging/Plug: Includes five-year Chargefox subscription
Drive type: Four-wheel drive
Max power: 240kW
Max torque: 630Nm
Safety rating: 5 star