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First Drive Review: BMW iX3


  • BMW iX3
  • Price range: $114,900 to $124,900
  • Powertrain: Single rear-axle-mounted electric motor and an 80kWh battery with 210kW/400Nm, RWD
  • Body style: Five-door SUV
  • On sale: TBC (before the end of the year)

The BMW iX3 is the latest addition to the popular X3 SUV line up. It comes with an all-electric powertrain, fully charged it offers 460km of real world range, and it will be in New Zealand before the end of this year.

Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?

BMW has electrified its popular X3, with the iX3 on its way to our shores.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

BMW has electrified its popular X3, with the iX3 on its way to our shores.

The iX3 is fresh out of BMW’s Shenyang manufacturing facility in China and joins both the brand’s increasing range of EV only products and their X3 line up too. Obviously it’s made for those that desire a medium-sized SUV and have an environmental conscience, but it’s also for those that don’t want to shout about it.

Compared to the X3, aside from the powertrain, much of the iX3’s differences are subtle. The BMW kidney grilles are big and bold (but not as big as the new M3 or iX), but are filled in with sculpted patterned plastic, and the LED lights are 10mm slimmer than before. Meanwhile, the LED lights at rear are very three-dimensional and eye-catching.

There are a number of BMW ‘i’ blue accents in areas such as the BMW badge surround, lower front wings and on the tailgate, but the major ‘i’ difference came by way of the wheels, as the top-spec iX3 rides on big 20-inch gloss-black aerodynamic ‘i’ feet that are a real stand out.

The interior is very much business as usual for an X3.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

The interior is very much business as usual for an X3.

The interior is very BMW X3 too, with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen and as usual, connectivity is simple. Again there are a number of blue accents to let you know you’re in something a little different, these were found on the gear lever, steering wheel and on the start/stop button.

Oddly, unlike other marque’s EVs, the iX3 has no “frunk” (front trunk, to use an Americanism), which is rather surprising as all the electrical gubbins are on the rear axle.

The iX3 is powered by BMW’s 5th generation electric drive system, which by all accounts reduces space and weight, and maximises ‘Efficient Dynamics’. The actual drive system is made up of a sustainably-manufactured electric motor, transmission and electronics which are all in a single housing located in the rear axle subframe.

Nothing to see here. Like, literally nothing – not even cargo space under the bonnet!

Dave McLeod/Stuff

Nothing to see here. Like, literally nothing – not even cargo space under the bonnet!

According to BMW, the power density of the electric drive system has increased by 30 per cent over the company’s existing fully electric vehicles; with the gravimetric energy density of the high-voltage battery at cell level being increased by 20 per cent.

It offers up 210kW of power and 400Nm of torque which, unlike its ICE X3 siblings, is sent solely to the rear wheels and means that this electrified UV accelerates from 0 to 100kmh in 6.8 seconds (which is similar to the BMW X3 30i).

Where did you drive it?

The iX3 does do ‘black-on-black’ particularly well. Shame the bright yellow UK rear plates ruin the look...

Dave McLeod/Stuff

The iX3 does do ‘black-on-black’ particularly well. Shame the bright yellow UK rear plates ruin the look…

From BMW’s office in Farnborough (North East Hampshire) to Swindon, which of course meant that I had an immediate couple of hours drive through the idyllic UK country roads. Bliss.

Aside from the lack of start-up sound, the iX3 drives like a regular BMW SUV. The seating position is high (just a little too high for me personally) and all round visibility is great. Despite being 2,725kg in gross weight (over 700kg more than the X3), it shifts well off the mark and feels well poised on the roads, even the narrow English country ones.

Thanks to great NVH and acoustic glass, you feel quite isolated from the road below and all the outside noise that comes with it, and in ‘comfort’ the ride absorbs the lumps and bumps with aplomb, but the Adaptive suspension (fitted as standard) does become firmer when you switch things up to Sport.

While on the subject of ‘Sport’, not only does the iX3 assume a more responsive and exciting drive, but it also awakens the BMW Iconic Sounds Electric sound system (designed in collaboration with Hans Zimmer) which offers up a powerful electric soundtrack to accompany your heavy right foot – it really makes a big difference to the way you drive and feel, but beware, keen driving in Sport does eat up the range…

From a distance it could be an ordinary ICE X3. Even the grille isn’t all that big...

Dave McLeod/Stuff

From a distance it could be an ordinary ICE X3. Even the grille isn’t all that big…

BMW reports that the iX3 consumes power at 18.9kWh/100km and is ‘exceptionally efficient’ with a range of up to 460 kilometres in the WLTP test cycle (up to 520km in the NEDC test cycle). But in all honesty I didn’t range-watch and to me that’s a good thing as it means that I didn’t feel any range anxiety at all.

Swapping the drive mode to Eco and flicking the gear lever over to B turns the iX3 into an efficient machine that, although less responsive, just eats up the tarmac while being miserly with energy. B offers the best recuperation in terms of braking and coasting while D gives more adaptive recuperation and a more natural drive. The recuperation level can be adjusted through three stages.

Back in sunny Swindon the iX3 took on more suburban driving, where it becomes very aware of its surroundings and proximity alerts and alarms pop up a little too often. However, its treats and aids, like 360-degree camera views and reverse and parking assistant, came in handy in the narrow car parks and tight side streets.

What’s the pick of the range?

The iX3 doesn’t shout ‘I’m an EV’, but it does whisper it with a number of blue ‘i’ highlights.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

The iX3 doesn’t shout ‘I’m an EV’, but it does whisper it with a number of blue ‘i’ highlights.

For now all we get in New Zealand is the iX3 in two different spec levels (‘Impressive’ and ‘Inspiring’), with the mechanicals being the same, so it really just comes down to how much kit you want. But the big question is probably more whether the iX3 is a good alternative to an ICE of PHEV X3 of the same price.

The BMW X3 range is reasonably extensive with powertrains that cover petrol, diesel, a PHEV model, and now BEV, but the iX3 would be my pick of the bunch from the standard range. The mad M version is a different story altogether…

Not only does it come with all the luxury and refinement that the models have on offer right now but its rear-wheel drive makes it a more predictable and enjoyable drive. BMW’s 5th Generation electric driving system makes it as quick off the line as the BMW X3 30i and the electric sound system is just so Blade Runner cool.

Blue highlights and some i badging hint at the iX3’s different powertrain inside as well.

Dave McLeod/Stuff

Blue highlights and some i badging hint at the iX3’s different powertrain inside as well.

Why would I buy it?

Quite simply because you like everything about the current BMW X3, size, shape, design, space and interior but want an incredibly efficient, environmentally-aware electric heart.

Why wouldn’t I buy it?

Because you want to tow gear that weighs more than your electric bike (Braked Towing Weight 750 kg), want something that yells ‘I’m an EV’, or you are impressed with huge tablet style screens and want to wait and see what the bigger, pricier BMW iX has to offer.



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