These two electric SUVs are the pinnacle of technology for their respective brands, but which flagship flies the flag more proudly?
When you think of electric car brands, Tesla is usually the first that pops into most people’s minds. But while Tesla may have been the first brand to give EVs mass market appeal, the Californian company doesn’t have a monopoly on EVs any more.
There are challengers aplenty at all levels of the EV market, including luxury SUVs which we’re looking at today. Two of the more exciting luxury SUVs are the Audi E-Tron and the BMW iX.
Both of these vehicles are 100 per cent electric from beginning to end. They’re also well endowed with luxury and technology, making them pseudo flagships for their respective brands.
But how do they measure up against each other, and which one is the better value for buyers with six-figure budgets?
Let’s take a closer look.
How much does the Audi E-Tron cost in Australia?
The 2022 Audi E-Tron 50 Quattro, or base model, starts at $137,100 plus on-roads. It has a 230kW/540Nm powertrain with a 71kWh battery pack that is said to be good for 334km driving range.
Our test car included the option of privacy glass ($1050) along with metallic paint ($2300) to take the overall on-test cost to $140,450.
One step up is the E-Tron 55 Quattro that has a starting price of $146,100 plus on-road costs. This variant has a 300kW/664Nm powertrain with a 95kWh battery, which increases the driving range to 452km on a full charge.
The flagship variant is the E-Tron S, which has a 370kW/973Nm powertrain hooked up to the same 95kWh battery. This package is said to be good for 0–100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a driving range of 419km.
And it’s worth mentioning that both models also offer a Sportback variant.
How much does the BMW iX cost in Australia?
There are three iX variants from which to choose, starting with the iX xDrive40 we’re testing here in Sport trim priced from $141,900 plus on-road costs. For that, you get 240kW worth of electric motors in the front and rear feeding from a 77kWh battery that is good for 420km.
If you’ve got more to spend, the $169,900 (plus on-road costs) iX xDrive50 has 385kW electric motors that lop 1.7 seconds off the xDrive40’s 0–100km/h time of 6.3 seconds. As you’d expect, the xDrive50 also gets a bigger battery pack that is good for almost 630km.
Now, if you want something even faster, then try the BMW iX M60 for $222,900. Its electric motors produce 455kW and 1100Nm, endowing the M60 with the acceleration to go from zero to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. It also has the bigger 110kWh battery pack of the xDrive50, but because of the extra performance, range drops to 566km.
|Key details||2022 Audi E-Tron 50 Quattro||2022 BMW iX xDrive40 Sport|
|Price (MLP)||$139,900 plus on-road costs||$141,900 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Intense blue||Sapphire Black metallic|
|Options||Privacy glass – $1050
Metallic paint – $2300
|Enhancement Package – $9500
– BMW Laserlight
– Soft-close doors
– Panoramic glass roof
Interior camera – $300
Interior Applications Clear & Bold – $2200
– Crystal-finish switchgear
– Interior wood inlays
|Price as tested||$143,250 plus on-road costs||$153,900 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||N/A||$163,600 (Victoria / estimate supplied by BMW)|
How much space does the Audi E-Tron have inside?
Sitting inside the E-Tron is comfortable and spacious. Audi again hasn’t strayed far from its siblings with features such as the steering wheel and infotainment system providing a familiar feel. This Audi scores two screens – a 10.1-inch infotainment system plus an 8.6-inch screen just below that is dedicated to climate control.
The front row scores great leg and head room with extra storage in the door bins, but we found the centre console small and the extra compartment underneath odd as the sides are open, and therefore items often flew around the cabin.
In the second row, again, leg and head room are decent and the seats comfortable. Passengers here also have access to two USB ports, while the door bins again are generous. Cargo space in the boot is 660L or 1725L with the second row folded.
For the interior as standard, you’ll receive a wireless charger, heated seats in the front row, keyless entry, and leather trim.
If you want some extra flair, there are plenty of options including a 3D sound system for $1750, panoramic sunroof at $3400, virtual exterior mirrors for $3500, and a premium interior package for an additional $2950, just to name a few.
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How much space does the BMW iX have inside?
This is where the BMW iX really shows off. This interior looks stunning, from the sweeping infotainment screen to the plushly quilted seats and walnut highlights. Everything about this interior is next level.
For example, there are crystal glass buttons for adjusting your seats and seat memory. The iDrive controller is a crystal glass dial seated in a walnut-finished control centre with touch-sensitive areas acting as buttons. Below the touchscreen itself are some of the most rakish air vents to grace any car.
Bear in mind, those crystal and walnut touches are part of a $2200 Interior Applications Clear & Bold options pack.
It’s all really futuristic, and it works. It makes you feel like you’ve bought a really expensive car… Which you have.
But there are a couple of things that are just a bit weird. One example is the placement of the cupholders on a lower tier below the armrest, which makes it hard to actually get cups in and out.
Some may find the door handles a bit weird, initially, because they’re buttons rather than handles that take little effort to activate.
Other than that, it’s a luxury tour de force inside. The front seats are electrically adjustable in more ways than the Kama Sutra, including adjustable bolsters to hug you snugly.
Jumping into the back seats, there is loads of room for two adults – both legroom and headroom. A third adult in the middle will be snug, as it is in most five-seaters these days.
You’re better off leaving that fifth wheel at home and enjoying the fold-down armrest, or playing with the quad-zone climate control, or plugging devices into one of the four USB-A ports aimed at back-seat occupants.
Parents with young kids will be pleased to learn that the iX has ISOFIX latches in both outer back seats, hidden behind a cleverly retracting leather flap. Another nice touch.
As for the boot itself… You’d be expecting a big one from the exterior photos, but you’d be wrong. The iX has just 500L of space in there, which is less than a number of mid-size SUVs, and is not wide enough to take a set of golf clubs.
The back seats do fold down 60/40 – and there are buttons in the boot to do that in a flash – so you can expand the iX’s carrying capacity to 1760L, albeit at the expense of human occupants.
The iX does not have a spare wheel under the boot floor – or anywhere – because it rides on run-flat tyres. Instead, that’s where it houses the charging cables.
|2022 Audi E-Tron 50 Quattro||2022 BMW iX xDrive40 Sport|
|Boot volume||660L seats up
1725L seats folded
|500L seats up
1750L seats folded
Does the Audi E-Tron have Apple CarPlay?
Audi hasn’t strayed far from the E-Tron’s siblings with the infotainment system providing a familiar feel. This Audi scores three screens – a 12.3-inch digital display acting as the gauge cluster, a 10.1-inch infotainment system, plus an 8.0-inch screen just below that dedicated to climate control.
Hats off to Audi for the infotainment system as it’s all super responsive, sharp and easy to click through. My iPhone connected quickly, and I opted for wireless Apple CarPlay for most of my trips, which comes standard. Android Auto is also standard, but can only be accessed via a cord.
In terms of connectivity, there are two USB-A ports in the console, a SIM card, and an SD card slot up front.
Does the BMW iX have Apple CarPlay?
Yes, the BMW iX has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and these are deeply integrated with the impressive multimedia system.
The infotainment screen stretches across two-thirds of the dashboard, and most of it is touch-sensitive, which makes interacting with its hundreds of functions relatively easy. It’s also very customisable, allowing you to put most-used functions on the home screen for easy access.
The central screen measures 14.9 inches and has graphics good enough to rival your kid’s gaming PC. A 12.3-inch driver’s instrument cluster makes up the other third of the big screen, and is very easy to read and also to customise.
Whichever way you hook up Spotify to the iX’s sound system, you are guaranteed concert quality through an 18-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system. Or you can upgrade to a 30-speaker Bowers & Wilkins unit for a fee.
Now, one cool feature of this car (and others in the BMW range) is the BMW smartphone app, which means you’ll never lose your car in a carpark again because you can get the car to take a photo of what’s around it.
The Audi E-Tron has been crash-tested by ANCAP and given a five-star rating. The E-Tron scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for its safety assist systems.
The E-Tron comes standard with dual frontal airbags, and side chest protection and side head protecting airbags in the first and second rows.
Plenty of advanced safety comes standard including auto emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, collision-avoidance assist with evasive steering, rear cross-traffic alert, plus an exit warning system on the door that detects cyclists and vehicles.
Now for safety. The BMW iX has been independently crash-tested by ANCAP and declared a five-star car. Adult occupant protection scored 91 per cent, child occupant protection at 88 per cent, vulnerable road user at 73 per cent, and safety assist packages at 78 per cent. All of those scores are very good.
BMW claims the iX comes equipped with the most extensive set of active safety features ever seen on a BMW. It has front collision warning that can also detect oncoming traffic as well as pedestrians and cyclists. It has lane-control assist and steering assist, active cruise control with stop-and-go function, safe exit warning, and 360-degree cameras.
Audi includes a six-year Chargefox membership, which means you can charge for free at any of the many Chargefox charging stations around the country.
I made three visits through testing – quite a novel experience, like using any new technology for the first time, it just takes getting used to. The process was helped by the addition of charging ports on both sides of the car.
Audi claims the E-Tron can reach 80 per cent of charge in just 30 minutes, or a full charge in only 45 minutes. I can attest to this on my charging trips, as to get to full it only ever took me just over the 45-minute mark.
If you’re low on energy, use tricks where you can. Just as you do with your phone by closing apps or turning your brightness down, the best thing to do is to keep your air-con off. I often found that I would instantly drop a good 10 or so kilometres once I popped the air-conditioner on, but should really have been conserving energy instead.
Let’s start with recharging capabilities, which is fundamentally important technology for an EV.
On a normal domestic plug trickling 1.1kW down the pipe, our testing suggests a 60hr charge time. But, to be honest, if you can afford a $140,000 car, you can afford to put in the wall charger that goes with it.
If you want the fastest charging option, that’s DC. This car can recharge at up to 150kW and BMW claims it will go from 10 to 80 per cent in just over 30 minutes. The BMW iX xDrive50 can charge at up to 200kW.
As for how much all of that recharging could cost you… How does zero sound? BMW is currently packaging a five-year subscription to Chargefox with every iX sold, and there appears to be no limit on the distance you can travel in those five years. Well, none beyond the fine print that states your usage “must be fair, reasonable and not excessive”. It also says you can’t use your iX as a taxi, or for government or commercial purposes.
If you assume an average distance of 75,000km in those five years, then that’s a saving of around $15,000 compared to an X5 averaging 10L/100km.
The BMW iX comes with an underwhelming three-year warranty – BMW is one of the few prestige brands still stuck at this low level. Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer five years.
The battery carries an eight-year, 160,000km warranty.
BMW offers a pre-paid service package that costs $1520 for the first four years, or $2195 over six years. These prices are competitive.
As for energy efficiency, the BMW iX is said to consume 22.5kWh/100km, which seems fair but not exemplary for such a heavy car. Mercedes-Benz claims 20.9kWh/100km for the EQC. The Audi E-Tron, however, is rated at a rather high 23.6kWh/100km.
|At a glance||2022 Audi E-Tron 50 Quattro||2022 BMW iX xDrive40 Sport|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km
Eight years / 160,000km high-voltage battery
|Three years / unlimited km
Eight years / 160,000km high-voltage battery
|Service intervals||24 months or 30,000km||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||Six years free servicing||$1520 (4 years)
$2195 (6 years)
|Energy cons. (claimed)||23.6kWh/100km||22.5kWh/100km|
|Energy cons. (on test)||Not recorded||21.1kWh/100km|
|Battery size||71kWh (334km – WLTP)||76.6kWh (425km range – WLTP)|
Once you’re charged up and on the road, this Audi is an impressive drive. Unlike some electric vehicles that have opted for adding sounds for effect, the E-Tron is exceptionally silent. There’s no road noise entering the cabin either, and we found the drive incredibly smooth and absorbing any bumps on coarser roads without getting flustered.
The car is quite heavy weighing in at 2610kg, but you certainly don’t notice its weightiness into twists and turns. In fact, its steering is near perfect thanks to the low centre of gravity from the battery that lies in the base of the car.
The Audi E-Tron utilises a motor on the front and rear axles. It produces 230kW of power and 540Nm of torque. It’s pretty torquey, and even when cruising in Comfort mode the acceleration is instant. There’s also the option of Dynamic, Efficiency, Auto, All-road and Off-road modes.
To suit challenging road conditions, the adaptive air suspension comes in handy by adjusting through almost 80mm.
One of the more pivotal functions for the everyday drive is the ability to adapt regenerative braking. This can be done easily via the paddle shifters, and like all electric vehicles it will further regenerate when the brake is pushed.
There is a bit of roll in the Audi, and by that I mean unlike a Tesla, which if you’ve driven one before, you’ll know the highest level of regeneration is rather aggressive. But it can come to pretty much a complete stop with the regeneration on its own. The Audi thankfully never feels abrasive.
Visibility all round is great, and worth a mention is the incredible camera that is clear and even provides a 3D view allowing you to spin the car around – pretty nifty.
What is the BMW iX like to drive?
First off, I think I owe this wheel and tyre package an apology, because I assumed a car on 22-inch wheels would ride terribly. In fact, the iX xDrive40 rides beautifully. It is very smooth and luxurious, and does a good job absorbing the bumps.
I won’t go on about performance, except to say the iX xDrive40 has the performance to disguise its 2.5-tonne weight. It feels strong and generous with its acceleration and always has torque on tap to give you that kick when you need it.
What impresses me more is the way the drivetrain uses the vehicle’s other smart systems to maximise performance. Systems like satellite navigation, driver assistance functions and driving sensors.
BMW calls it Adaptive Recuperation and it works like this: if you’re using one of the more aggressive energy recuperation settings (or have the transmission in ‘B’ not ‘D’), then it’s smart enough to use other vehicle systems to maximise efficiency.
Lift your foot off the accelerator to coast on a freeway or a road and the car will let you coast. Lift your foot off because you’re approaching a junction or stopped traffic and the car slows more rapidly harvesting energy in the process.
It’s this kind of integrated thinking that costs $141,900 now, but will filter down to more affordable cars.
As for the rest of the iX xDrive40’s dynamic capabilities, they fall on the luxurious side of the scale, not the sports-luxury some may expect of a car wearing a BMW roundel.
This is not an involving or exciting vehicle to drive, but it is incredibly comfortable and cossetting. What it gives up in dynamic prowess it more than makes up for in isolating its occupants from the harsh realities of the outside world.
The iX has one of the quietest cabins this side of a Rolls-Royce, and the default suspension tune is reminiscent of Rolls-Royce, too, in the way it wafts elegantly over the road.
In everyday driving, there are few cabins that will make you feel as spoiled or comfortable. But if your perception of BMW is of ‘ultimate driving machines’ and ‘sheer driving pleasure’, the iX xDrive40 is not a vehicle that elevates those brand pillars.
|Key details||2022 Audi E-Tron 50 Quattro||2022 BMW iX xDrive40 Sport|
|Engine||Dual asynchronous electric motors||Dual current-excited synchronous motors|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Single speed||Single speed|
|Power to weight ratio||88kW/t||101kW/t|
|Spare tyre type||Space-saver||None|
|Maximum charging||150kW DC||150kW DC|
Should I buy an Audi E-Tron or a BMW iX electric SUV?
These two impressive SUVs may be luxury items, but that doesn’t mean their buyers don’t know the value of a dollar. Or could there be another reason that both Audi and BMW include six years of free Chargefox recharging in the purchase price, lowering running costs considerably?
On top of that, Audi charges not a whit for servicing during those same six years, meaning all you will pay for ongoing costs is registration and insurance.
But insurance is a whopper. Whereas a car like a Toyota Corolla can be comprehensively insured for less than $1000 per year, the Audi E-Tron costs $4175 each year and the BMW iX xDrive40 is $4280 per year.
Those are not inconsiderable sums, but if you can afford these vehicles, then we expect that you can afford that annual bill.
What this all means is that the BMW is dearer to buy and dearer to maintain. It is $2K more expensive on the showroom floor. It has a $105 higher insurance premium and you’ll pay just under $400 more each year to have it serviced.
Still, that’s but a drop in the ocean if you’re considering a $160K drive-away vehicle.
But then the BMW starts to hit back. The iX xDrive40 is considerably lighter than the Audi and more powerful. It also has a much better driving range thanks to a bigger battery and more efficient energy use.
Again, neither of these cars are particularly efficient – a Hyundai Ioniq 6 is said to use just 14kWh/100km, whereas these two behemoths drain 22–23kWh to cover the same ground.
But these are large luxury SUVs and they come with the space and equipment to justify both those labels.
The Audi has a slightly smaller body but has more space inside and a bigger boot.
The Audi’s cabin is more conventional and less technologically impressive – which is surprising for a brand that proudly proclaims Vorsprung Durch Technik.
The BMW’s cabin is a generation ahead of the Audi’s, particularly in the front. Everything from the cabin layout to the seat materials to the digital screens pushes the envelope not just for EVs but for cars in general.
The iX’s interior exudes not just luxury and quality, but also cutting-edge. And that, ultimately, is why we would choose the BMW even though its driving dynamics are not as sharp as the Audi’s.
In short, the BMW nails the progressive luxury brief in every way a driver could want.
It’s not perfect – the boot is small for the car’s size, BMW’s warranty is a paltry three years, and servicing frequency and costs are inconvenient – but the BMW iX xDrive40 is the one that pampers its buyer and their family more.
That said, if driving dynamics are important, or you need a bigger boot or the peace of mind of a five-year warranty, then the Audi E-Tron will suit your needs more.