Basking in Basque Country

The Invitation

Last year I had the pleasure of driving BMW’s flagship EV in their SAV/SUV lineup, the BMW iX. And we did it in one of the most picturesque locations: Iceland, the very model of sustainability. That peek at the future of mobility combined with Iceland’s amazing approach to renewable energy blew our socks off, and we couldn’t wait to see what would come next. This year, I have the good fortune to be invited by BMW to experience how their EV technology has developed even further and more importantly how it has now trickled down its range and influenced it’s approach to more climate-neutral mobility in every vehicle they currently produce wether EV or ICE.

The invitation was to experience Bilbao and the Basque Country of Northern Spain and do it aboard the exciting, new BMW iX1.

Bilbao via iX1

Taking off from Bilbao on a 2-day scenic drive across Basque country, we put the iX1 through it’s paces. Northern Spain is the perfect backdrop of contrasts. On one hand it holds dearly to it’s deep traditions, Basque culture, quaint old towns and natural attractions including a vibrant surfing scene. But it has also embraced all the future brings. Modern art via the Guggenheim museum right in the heart of Bilbao, Michelin-starred restaurants and a strong push towards more sustainable renewable energy sources via wind farms. The iX1 was a perfect fit to help us take it all in.

Can Electric Roadtrip?

First things first, this is a roadtrip, and the question is always can you drive a BEV cross-country? The answer is a resounding, yes. With a range of close to 400 kms on a full charge, there was plenty of mileage to be had for a day of driving and little to worry about. And if for any reason there was a need for more range quickly, the current battery and charging specs on the iX1 can go from 10% to 80% battery in less than 30-minutes via rapid public chargers, not at all unusual in more developed EV-markets like Europe. Something which we are working towards in here at home.

The iX1 is BMW’s EV take on it’s next generation X1 compact SAV, or Sport Activity Vehicle. The new X1 is a handsome ride with a great design evolution from it’s previous iteration. It has crisp design updates particularly the more modern headlights and taillights and a more upright nose crowned by a redesigned kidney grill and an agressive power-bulge on the hood. At first glance you’d be hard pressed to pick the EV model from the ICE model with just a subtle difference in the grill design and the clue of the “i” badging on the electric model. While it is the gateway model to BMW’s SAV lineup, it doesn’t scrimp on any of the luxury you’d expect from BMW along with some fantastic interior details like the panoramic instrument display/infotainment unit. Touchscreen of course running BMW’s latest iDrive system, notably sans the control knob on the center console for a simplified interface with the driver and a cleaner interior look. Another standout cockpit feature is the phone holder/wireless charging dock, depending of course on the trim and features that come with specific variants

The iX1’s spec-sheet is pretty impressive, boasting 313hp via a dual-motor drivetrain powering all four wheels, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. We all know the characteristic abundance of torque that EV’s have and being able to access loads of it particularly on highway driving can be quite addictive paired with the sensation of superior road-holding due to the low-slung center of gravity, a happy by-product of carrying it’s batteries low on the chassis. All of this makes for an engaging drive that keeps you smiling.

The Power of Choice

In coming up with a BEV version of it’s popular X1, the key takeaway for me is BMW has managed to still give us a compact do-it-all electric SAV (sports activity vehicle), that will take you on any adventure you want and take you there in style, wether it be in the city or beyond. But more importantly, this electric version of the X1 does it without sacrificing any of the qualities and driving characteristics that BMW is known for. In fact it may very well improve the driving experience. Despite being a gateway model with a utility focus, it remains a driver-centric experience. It’s an engaging car to drive with handling and acceleration you only find in EV’s that puts even more joy and thrill into each drive.

With the iX1 as an option alongside the new X1, which despite being a traditional ICE has never been as efficient as it is now, by the way, we now have the power of choice. The power to choose how we want to take on our adventures. The power to continue to take to the road sustainably as we continue to explore. And the power to choose our joy.

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