The addition of a full electric vehicle across the lineup of BMW models is upon us. With the release of the new iX3, the Bavarians make a U-turn when it comes to availability of their EV cars to dealers and customers across the globe. No longer are their models like the i3 and i8 specifically developed for a single purpose. Instead, the BMW i technology is utilized for the very first time in a purely electric powered model, positioned within an existing model series, which is part of the BMW core brand lineup.
Based on the third-generation X3, the electric SUV is positioned above the i3 and introduces what BMW describes as its fifth-generation eDrive system. With the addition of the iX3 to the model series, the X3 has become the first BMW to be available with a petrol or diesel engine, plug-in hybrid drive system or all-electric drive system. It is also the brand’s first model to be produced for export at the Shenyang manufacturing facility in China.
A Highly Advanced Powertrain
The packaging of the iX3 features an electric motor, power electronics and transmission arranged in a central housing. The single electric motor positioned on the rear axle produces a maximum output of 210 kW/286 hp and peak torque of 400 Nm/295 lb-ft. This allows the iX3 to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h or 62 mph in 6.8 seconds up to an electronically limited top speed of 180 km/h or 112 mph. The motor is connected to a 80 kWh 400V lithium ion battery, which enables an operating range of up to 460 kilometers or 285 miles.
The main competitors in the electric SUV space are currently the Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQC, which offer an identical range of 285 miles. The Jaguar I-Pace is another option in the market offering 292 miles on a single charge. Next to these, there is of course the option to go for the Tesla Model Y and in some markets you can choose for the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8. Without going into too much depth comparing it to the competitors in this space, let’s first touch on the our initial miles inside the new EV.
Subtle Design Differences From The Conventional X3
While approaching the new iX3 you notice the small details that distinguish the EV from its family members without the single electric motor. The little blue details on the body work, the blanked-off kidney grilles and the aero-optimized rear fascia without an exhaust are just a few points to note next to the aero-optimized 20-inch wheels, which BMW says contribute significantly to a sleeker drag coefficient of 0.29 Cd. Other than these design pointers you see a standard X3 offering a similar profile in length, width and height.
The interior offers the same treatment as the exterior. Dashboard trims, seats, positioning and switchgear are all familiar from the X3 and nothing we haven’t seen before. Small little details such as the blue highlights, blue starter button, the iX3 logo and the B mode on the gear selector reveal that you are driving a full electric vehicle. In front of the driver, you will find the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster next to the 10.25-inch central display which can be controlled either through touch or via the usual iDrive rotary controller.
The iDrive software offers voice control, support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and many of the standard features known from the “normal” X3. There are however a few interesting functions which we need to touch on in a few. In the rear of the SUV, you will have a familiar level of space and in the boot space you have lost about 40 liters under the floor due to the placement of the rear electric motor. Total space is now 510 liters.
Sounds By Hans Zimmer
Starting up the BMW iX3 is accompanied by a lovely little sound tune, one of many sounds composed by famous film composer Hans Zimmer. Driving off requires putting the gear selector in the center console in D-mode. You can also flick it left and you are in B-mode, which is nothing other than a setting in which the electric motor offers extensive recuperation of braking and coasting energy. The B-mode offers an interesting feature called adaptive recuperation, which includes a coasting function and the option to choose one of four different stages via the iDrive menu. The adaptive system is also linked to the satnav and driver assistance systems and adapts to the road situation.
An additional opportunity to “tune” the vehicle is via the BMW Iconic Sounds Electric setting also available in the iDrive menu. A new series of Zimmer sounds specifically developed for electrically powered BMW models makes their debut in the BMW iX3. You can via the menu choose your preferred sound via one of the four settings.
In the first few miles behind the wheel you will notice the character of the single electric motor and the ability to catapult you forward with a lovely delivery of linear torque, which is signature for EVs. The heavy batteries are fitted between the four wheels and under the floor of the cabin and the center of gravity is considerably lower than its direct family members because of this. It allows the iX3 to disguise its rather immense weight of 2185kg.
The ride via the adaptive suspension (fitted as standard) offers a lovely balance between long distance cruising, daily driving characteristics and dealing with the structural set up of having the majority of the weight right under your seat. The vehicle’s suspension is quite soft in comfort and finds it sweet spot in Sport mode. The steering however feels the best in Comfort mode with the drivetrain offering it best characteristics in comfort, D-mode and with adaptive recuperation enabled.
The iX3 is nippy and fun to drive, but never really excels. It is a relatively soleless vehicle capable of bringing you from A to B with ease and comfort. The 43-57% weight distribution means a slight RWD bias and the option to slide around a bit, but no owner will ever commence those. Instead the long-distance cruising abilities of the EV, something BMW raved about, are more in tune with the nature of this X3. Those are definitely a noticeable feature of the package that is lighter and offers more energy dense battery results and possibly greater energy efficiency on the move.
The Bavarians suggest that on longer trips with plenty of motorway driving, the range of the iX3 will hold up better than heavier rivals from other German manufacturers. In the short time we had with the SUV, we weren’t able to confirm this statement. Further long term testing will show the true nature of the battery consumption, and we are up for a test to confirm its abilities.
Recharging the iX3 is possible via a number of options, such as the 150KW DC rapid charging offering 80% charge in 34 minutes. A 10-minute charge adds 100 kilometers. AC single-phase and on-board three-phase charging at 11KW is standard-fit. Local based charging plans will be available for future owners allowing a top-up of the battery pack.
Should I Buy One?
The new BMW iX3 is the first in a series of new upcoming electric vehicle carrying the fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology and the first model positioned among a range of family members offering the same size, feature set and a range of different powertrain options. Combine this with a decent and enjoyable, but non-flamboyant driving experience and you have gained yourself access to a SUV that is able to bring you from A to B in a silent, environmental friendly and sustainable way. It also allows you to experience every single benefit of the X3 range and we believe that is exactly what makes this SUV stand out among many of its competitors. The iX3 is an X3 with an electric motor and a battery pack, and that is exactly what we hoped it would be.
Click below to see our video review as well: