As the premium brands electrify their SUV ranges almost weekly, some are going down the all-new platform route – Jaguar I Pace, whilst others, notably Mercedes with the EQC, are tagging a battery onto an existing petrol/diesel design. And that’s what BMW have done with their electric iX3. Whilst the iX3 is new, it’s based on the petrol, diesel & plug-in hybrid X3 which has been around for a while. This though, as we found out, isn’t actually a hinderance.
Model range, prices & specs
The Premier Edition Pro that we drove, has a limited release, so moving forward, customers can choose from the M Sport or M Sport Pro. M Sport costs from £59,730 & spec includes 19″ alloys, automatic air con, an electric sunroof & parking sensors. M Sport Pro, adds 20″ alloys, a head-up display, a Harman-Kardon stereo, parking assistance & auto high beam.
Rather than give their EV a ‘Gerry Anderson’ makeover, BMW have sensibly made the iX3 SUV, look very much like a normal X3. Electric iX3 M Sport features slightly slimmer headlights, the wheels are black alloy & the kidney grille is also black & that’s about that.
We’ve driven almost all of the competition & although the BMW’s interior may not offer quite the X Factor of a Model 3, or even the Ford Mustang Mach E, it’s brilliantly put together & finished in top quality plastics & leather. BMW’s infotainment system is excellent, coming as it does with a super clear screen & intuitive menus, all operated by the iDrive controller located on the centre console. Separate heating controls sit underneath & overall, it’s definitely a more conventional set up than found elsewhere.
Practicality & space
Front seat passengers sit quite high & are cosseted in comfortable leather seats. Rear seat passengers have plenty of head & legroom, their own climate controls, an armrest with two cup holders & twin C USB inputs.
The boot is 40 litres smaller than in the standard X3, but still offers a useful 510 litres, whilst folding the rear seats flat increases this to 1,560 litres. The boot floor is flat & can be lifted to reveal storage for the cars two electric charging cables.
In cabin storage includes a good sized glove box, front door pockets, a cubby in the centre consoles & under armrest storage.
Battery & range
The iX3 features an 80kWh battery & 282 bhp electric motor. Range is claimed to be 280 miles.
Charging at home via a 7kW wall box, such as our own Rolec, takes 12 hours from empty to full. Those with three-phase electrics can take advantage of the BMW’s faster 11kW on-board charger & if you plug in to a 150kW ultra rapid charger, the iX3 will charge from 10-80% full, in only 30 minutes.
Driving modes & brake regeneration
To retain your iX3’s battery range the car defaults to Eco Pro mode from take off. This setting works well especially on the motorway. Comfort mode is a happy compromise, is best for most situations. Sport mode sharpens the senses of the iX3 as well as the fun factor, but be warned, the ride gets much, much harsher.
The iX3’s regenerative braking system, features three different regen settings. Low, medium & high. They’re not as easy to find as you’d think & with a bit of fiddling, are located within the infotainment system menu. By far the easiest way to select regen, is to simply push the gear lever across to B mode, which acts as a rapid shortcut to the highest regeneration mode.
BMW have also added a fourth ‘Adaptive’ setting, whereby the SatNav & radar automatically decides which level of braking to use depending on the road and traffic conditions. BMW clams that by selecting this option, almost all reducing speed scenarios can be handled without using the brake pedal.
The iX3 is rear wheel drive, which helps it feel lighter than many competitors, with the battery mounted along the floor. Indeed, it doesn’t feel like other large battery electric cars, it’s definitely more enjoyable & handles winding roads & sharp turns with aplomb.
The ride is a little firm, but the damping is good, so pot holes & rough surfaces don’t intrude too much into the cars ride. The steering is well judged & reacts splendidly to the drivers wishes. With a full 282bhp on tap, the iX3 will go from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds & does feel quick, as well as nimble.
There’s little road or wind noise entering the cabin & with easy Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay connectivity, you can wile away a long motorway drive to your hearts content.
In town, the iX3 is aided by a one pedal regeneration braking system, allowing you to drive using just one pedal. Even in maximum regeneration, it’s not too strong & definitely helps increase the battery range. We were averaging 3.3 miles a kWh & reckon that 250 miles is achievable in the iX3, if you avoid Sport mode & keep to motorway speed limits.
Good to drive, brilliantly built, conventional looks, 1% BIK, it’s a BMW.
In common with all large battery EV’s, it takes a while to charge the iX3. As a retail offering it’s not cheap & in our opinion works best currently, as a company car.
Knowing that BMW are always looking to make their cars drivable, it came as no surprise to us that the iX3 is, alongside the Jaguar I Pace, the most enjoyable electric SUV we’ve driven yet. Where other premium EV’s ride quality suffer’s from the extra battery weight, the iX3 makes an excellent fist of making you forget the battery is even there. The power on offer & the torque only add to the fun factor.
Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find abetter built electric car, with no noticeable short cuts taken on the materials used, for the door pockets, glove box or lower down plastics, to keep costs down.
We’d also expect existing X3 corporate customers, to be tempted by the full electric versions 250 mile + range, which makes the iX3 very desirable indeed.
Model we tested: BMW iX3 Premier Edition Pro
Engine: 80Wh battery coupled to an electric motor
Range: 280 miles
Transmission: Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Range: 280 miles