For better or worse, it's increasingly impossible to separate the software experience from the overall ownership experience of a modern car. Especially electric ones. This enables incredible things, but clumsy coding has sidelined many an otherwise solid car, including stymying the Volkswagen ID.4 and completely sidelining the Chevrolet Blazer EV.

Some manufacturers are doing it right. And I'm happy to say that after living with our BMW iX for more than six months now, the frustrations have been few and minor. By and large, this has been a seamless software experience.

2024 BMW iX Long Term Update

But that's not to say that it's been perfect.

The Primary Interface

The BMW iX is a large SUV, so there's a lot of room in that interior. However, far and away, the most notable feature of the inside space of the car is the sweeping touchscreen. 

It curves gracefully, forming both a 12.3-inch gauge cluster and a 14.9-inch infotainment experience. It sits high above the dashboard on the iX, which is pushed back, helping it feel open and airy in there.

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (3)

To support this, the touchscreen is supported on a set of cathedral-like supports. Flying buttresses may have gone out of style in the Renaissance, but even after a few years on the market, they certainly look fresh and modern here. 

This display is well-positioned for both driver and passenger, with the only cause for concern being the extreme amount of heat that radiates out of the top. It's a little worrying when tapping away at menus, but then my 4K TV at home certainly pumps out some heat, and that's been working fine for years. 

2024 BMW iX Long Term Update 1 025
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This display forms the playfield for the primary interface of the iX. It's not the biggest display on the market, and its ultra widescreen ratio may be falling out of fashion given the increasing number of tall or portrait displays appearing on dashboards, but it's bright and crisp and a joy to look at.

The Infotainment Experience

Not long before we purchased our iX, BMW rolled out OS 8.5 to the SUV, which retooled the layout and added a raft of new features. I read some misgivings from iX owners at the time that the initial upgrade was problematic, but since that update was applied before we picked up the thing, it's been mostly seamless.

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (6)

The primary, static user interface elements live along the bottom of the display, including a home button in the middle, plus icons on either side for climate control, navigation, media, and phone, also for bringing up a massive grid of icons through which you can try, and probably fail, to find the setting you're looking for.

There's an endless amount of configurability here, which I appreciate, but much of it is buried where you wouldn't expect it. While you can speak to the BMW virtual assistant and ask for help, she often doesn't know what you're looking for. 

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (1)

For example, I wanted to reduce the regenerative braking settings in a snowstorm this winter, but she didn't know what "regenerative braking" was. However, when I asked for "energy recovery," she brought me to the relevant setting.

When you connect Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the UI helpfully adds a dedicated button for that, making it easy to jump in and out of that interface like any other page. You can even pull up a full view of Google Maps navigation in the gauge cluster, which is miles better than the limited turn prompts you get in most cars. 

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (7)

A swipe down from the top of the interface gives you a grid of eight handy shortcuts that can be assigned to damn near anything. For example, I added a shortcut to that Energy Recovery setting since I can never find it. On my wife's account, she has a shortcut to navigate home. 

(Speaking of navigation, we had an issue last month where navigation took ages to calculate, upwards of two minutes before it would find a route. That's since fixed itself, and I have no idea what was the cause. Directions are now available within a few seconds again.)

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (4)

When creating shortcuts, you can also assign features to one of two configurable gestures: two fingers at the display (an ode to Steve McQueen, surely) or a double flash of five fingers (called "five-o-five" by BMW). You can assign these to whatever you want, but I recommend you use one for pausing media. Of all the buttons scattered around the user interface and center console, there's no play/pause button anywhere.

The Smartphone App

While BMW OS 8.5 is the most important software in the car from a usability standpoint, the smartphone app interface is an increasingly crucial piece of the puzzle. The My BMW app is generally good, but far from perfect. Let's file it under "needs improvement."

The first issue actually has nothing to do with the app itself. Even when the BMW has seemingly good cellular connectivity, according to the dashboard display, it often struggles to connect to the app.

2024 BMW iX Gauge Cluster (5)

Parking garages, even our own garage, are a particular issue, even when the SUV has a full signal. This has left me swearing at the app on multiple occasions as my plane taxis to the gate and the My BMW app can't enable the preconditioning my travel-weary body so desperately needs. Sometimes it'll work after a third or fourth attempt, but I'm usually deplaned and approaching my still-cold car by then.

Preconditioning is among the most important features of an app like this, and the implementation of My BMW is lackluster. While you can turn on the car's HVAC system, you cannot configure it. If I drove to the airport at 4 a.m. on a chilly morning with the seat heaters on, I might instead want the AC blasting and seat ventilation on when I return a few days later on a sunny afternoon. This, sadly, can't be done.

Likewise, you can't open or close windows from the app unless you're within Bluetooth range, which isn't particularly useful. 

Those are some fundamental missing pieces, but the app almost makes up for it with a suite of advanced stuff, including the ability to take a 3D image of the outside of the SUV or get a live stream from the inside. This is a boon for me. I confess to being a bit of a paranoid parker whenever I'm visiting somewhere unfamiliar. Through the app, I can make sure everything is copacetic between courses at dinner—assuming the app will connect.

sm-app

This would also be a great way to keep an eye on pups left inside the cabin, but since the iX lacks a proper dog mode, that's not really an option. 

The app also includes a wealth of statistics covering everything from charging rates to vehicle efficiency. It tracks charging performance for different locations, singling out home charging vs. remote, and gives you month-over-month trends. 

The app can even generate monthly driving trends telling you how efficient you were compared to other iX drivers, taking more than a little inspiration from Spotify's incessant "Wrapped" reports that overwhelm the socials at the end of every year.

You also have access to tire pressures (which I was watching like a hawk after last month's incident), plus the ability to schedule service and maintenance. 

And, crucially, you can set up Digital Key Plus in the app as well, which means your car will unlock itself as you approach—if you have a compatible phone with Ultra Wideband tech. If you don't, you can still use your phone as a key, but you'll need to tap it against the door every time to unlock it.

Highs And Lows

So, on the software side, it's not all perfect, but the positives outweigh the negatives. The in-car infotainment experience is generally top-shelf, and though the app lacks some basic stuff, the depth of tracking of metrics is a real boon for a numbers hound like myself. Add in more comprehensive preconditioning, plus a dog mode, and I'd be a very happy camper.

2024 BMW iX Long Term Report 2 (5)

When it comes to numbers, over 6,765 miles of driving we're averaging an efficiency of 2.9 mi/kWh. That continues to far exceed EPA estimates. Given that many of those miles were put on during the winter, I'm looking forward to seeing whether things improve as temperatures continue to shift in a more temperate direction.

Tim Stevens is a veteran editor, analyst, and expert in the tech and automotive industries. He helmed CNET's automotive coverage for nine years and acted as Vice President of Content. Prior to that, Tim served as Editor-in-Chief at Engadget and even led a previous life as an Enterprise Software Architect. Follow Tim on Twitter at @tim_stevens and catch his Substack.

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