Well, we have a winner. Simply put, the BMW iX M60 blows everything else we’ve ever tested for maximum highway range, cruising down Ontario’s hilly and windblown Highway 407 at a steady, cruise-controlled 125 kilometres an hour for 414 kilometres before running out of electrons. For perspective, the first Porsche Taycan we tested, the 2020 4S, managed 342 kilometres; and the last Tesla Model S we could get our hands on (a 2019 model) about 355 km.

So, not only is the performance version of the BMW’s electric SUV the longest-range EV we’ve ever tested, but it’s also the first to run more than 400 kilometres at 125 kilometres per hour. And while that still doesn’t match the range of a typical gas car — not to mention the 1,000 klicks a good Jetta TDi can eke out of a tankful of diesel — that translates into more than three hours of driving before the interminable charging stop.

Road warriors will still be left wanting more, but that makes the M60 a much more practical open-road EV than, say, the much-heralded Volkswagen ID.4 that Range Finder tested at 325 km kilometres under roughly the same conditions. We should note that the weather was perfect for maximum range, the 23-degree ambient temp sapping neither heater nor air conditioning of precious free electrons. Exactly how much that contributed to the big iX’s exemplary range is unknowable. Whatever the case, the BMW is, again, the first EV we’ve tested to get past the 400-kilometre mark on a single charge and therefore must be feted.

range finder: 2023 bmw ix m60

2023 BMW iX M60 Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

The BMW iX M60 is an unlikely champion

BMW’s M products are normally known for their excess power, not frugal energy consumption. And the M60 is no slouch in the performance sweepstakes, boasting — depending on the mode, Normal or Sport — between 532 and 610 horsepower. Officially, it’s good for a 3.8-second sprint to 100 kilometres an hour. That’s exactly the same as the X5M.  We did not test the two machines back-to-back, but if I had to guess, the electrified iX would be quicker out of the hole, but the twin-turbo’ed gas version would still have the advantage once they both got rolling. Nonetheless, it’s a spirited beast, making its electrical parsimony all the more surprising.

All the more so since it also sports the same battery — 111.5 kilowatt-hours total; 105.2 kWh usable — as the base iX50. In fact, both iXs use the same front motor, but the rear motor’s rotors has been lengthened some 20 millimetres (allowing a larger magnetic field) and a higher amperage inverter added — 1,200 amps instead of 600A — which accounts for its increase from 335 hp to 483 hp. Neither change speaks to increased efficiency, though BMW is the first to use brushed electromagnet synchronous AC motors, which are known for being better in that regard.

Whatever the source of its parsimony, the iX M60 averaged an extremely impressive 25.4 kWh/100 km at a steady 125 klicks, by far the best energy efficiency we’ve seen from a large electrified SUV and about on par with, say, a Tesla Model 3, a far lighter and more aerodynamically efficient sedan. Consider, for instance, that the lighter and much-lighter VW ID.4 mentioned earlier averaged a steady 23.7 kWh in a similar test over the very same roads, barely a seven-per-cent improvement over the much larger — and more powerful! — BMW. Imagine the X5M only suffering a one L/100 km disadvantage over, say, a Subaru Forester. At the risk of repeating myself, it really is surprising how efficient the M60 really is.

Or not. Car and Driver recently noted that the lower-powered xDrive50 version was the second-highest-range EV ever tested in its 75-miles-per-hour (120-km/h) highway test, eaking out 290 miles (466 klicks) on a single charge. So, maybe there is something to those non-permanent magnet motors BMW raves about.

The BMW iX M60 doesn’t lie

range finder: 2023 bmw ix m60

BMW iX M60 interior Photo by BMW

If you’re read Range Finder before, you know one of our pet peeves is how optimistic — that’s me saying “deceptive,” politely — most EV fuel, er, energy consumption readouts are. Underestimating energy usage by 10 per cent is commonplace, and exaggerating efficiency by more than 20 per cent is not unheard of.

Not the BMW. It’s energy readout — as I mentioned before, 25.4 kWh/100 km — was spot-on to the decimal place. We’ve never seen any onboard calculation that accurate before, and BMW is to be commended for its veracity. By the way, it’s fairly easy to calculate using the efficiency noted above and the M60’s 414-kilometre range: 25.4 kWh/100 km times 414 kilometres works out to 105.16 kilowatt-hours which is, as I said, within a decimal point of BMW’s claimed 105.2 kilowatt-hours of usable lithium-ion. Remarkably accurate.

That said, the actual range estimator was off by some 10 per cent, not uncommon given that these readouts are usually “smoothed” to offer an average estimation, not a single-purpose highway-only estimation like Range Finder’s. Nonetheless, unlike almost all other EVs, the BMW is completely honest with its efficiency numbers, only a little off on how it uses those figures to calculate the range remaining.

Charging the BMW iX M60 remains a little tedious

range finder: 2023 bmw ix m60

2023 BMW iX M60 Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

According to BMW, the M60 can charge at a maximum rate of 190 kW, a far cry from the 270 kW that Porsche’s Taycan boasts. The result is that BMW says the M60 can charge from 10 to 80 per cent in 35 minutes. If all the numbers I have been bandying about are correct, that means it, in the best of circumstances — i.e. at a willing charging point, not in the dead of winter — the M60 can replenish about 73 of those kilowatt-hour things (70 per cent times 105.2 kWh) in 35 minutes. Do just a little bit more math and that means that its very best average charging rate is about 125 kW, a far cry from the 350-kW charging rates EV proponents promise will soon be commonplace.

According to ARStechnica, however, if the charging point isn’t pumping to capacity — as so many of the aren’t — that 70 per cent charge can take as long as 50 minutes. It’s also worth mentioning that, if you want to take advantage of that ‘quick’ charge, you’ll get 290 km of new range in return, about two-and-a-half hours more of happy highway motoring. That’s better than most — if not quite all — comparable EVs, but still a long way short of anything powered by an ICE. And, if you really do want to charge the iX from a completely empty “tank” all the way up to that aforementioned 414 kilometres of range, you’re probably looking at close to an hour and a quarter in the best of times.

The BMW iX M60 is priced nicely

range finder: 2023 bmw ix m60

2023 BMW iX M60 Photo by Sami Haj-Assaad

The M60 starts at $121,750, an uptick of $41,850 compared with the lesser iX. That actually makes the electric M60 cheaper than its gasoline counterpart — the X5M costs a whopping $136,600 — and marks less of an increase than the X5M demands over the base X5 ($57,500). If you’re thinking that means that BMW Canada wants to move a lot of electrified SUVs, you’ll get no disagreement from me.

The M60 is also a delight to drive. If it’s not quite as quick as I expected — i.e. not significantly faster than said X5M — it certainly doesn’t lack for muscle. I also have to admit that I expected better cornering abilities. It, after all, wears an M badge. On the other hand, the iX M60 does scoot around corners way better than a tall SUV weighing a significantly hefty 2,622 kilograms has any right to.

But despite all that power, the most impressive aspect of this latest iX is its efficiency. That it also wears that M badge shows just how much the world has changed.

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