The BMW iX3 combines a high quality, rewarding and very comfortable BMW driving experience with an all-electric powertrain.
BMW set itself up as a leader in electric cars with the i3 (launched in 2013 and available as all-electric or range-extended, although the latter was discontinued in 2018) and the i8 (launched in 2014). However the brand hasn’t had any other battery electric cars on sale apart from the i3, so it has fallen behind other manufacturers. That is now changing, and the arrival of the iX3 is the start of this change.
The iX3 is all-electric but it shares the same platform with the petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid X3s, and it looks like a regular X3. However there’s no engine, but instead a 80kWh battery and a 289PS electric motor.
The iX3 is an SUV so you might imagine that it’s all-wheel drive, but no – it’s only available with rear-wheel drive; BMW says that this is because they didn’t want to add the extra weight of all-wheel drive. In our view we’d like to see it offered with rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, so the buyer can choose.
The interior space is almost identical to a petrol X3; at 510 litres with the rear seats up and 1,560 litres with them folded down, the boot is only 40 litres less than the standard X3 and is actually better than the X3 plug-in hybrid (which has 450 and 1,500 litres of space respectively).
As well as the interior space, the iX3 dashboard is also almost identical to a petrol X3. This means a thick-rimmed BMW M-Sport steering wheel, a traditional gear selector (hooray), a good driving position, and excellent BMW technology and controls – more on that later.
The good points about the iX3 start to become evident as soon as you set off. Firstly, the low-speed response from the accelerator pedal is well modulated – which isn’t the case with all EVs, and certainly isn’t the case with lots of PHEVs. Acceleration from that point is linear and responsive, like most EVs. Performance is very good, and there’s even a synthesised soundtrack to accompany the acceleration and provide some audible ICE-type engagement – the noise is evident in Comfort drive mode, and a lot more obvious in Sport (there’s also an Eco Pro drive mode).
Steering is responsive, although it’s tuned for comfort rather than for a sports car-like feel. The rear-wheel drive handling is rewarding, with minimal body roll due to the low centre of gravity, which is a result of the battery being located in the floor – although the kerb weight of 2,260kg means that you can’t describe the iX3 as agile.
And then there’s the ride quality. The iX3 was tested in Manchester and in the Lake District, with both locations throwing a huge range of challenges at the suspension of any car, and the iX3 offered amazingly comfortable ride quality in all environments. And this was also the case on the motorway, when progress was incredibly refined. The iX3 manages to effectively insulate its occupants from testing external environments such as potholes and bumps, yet it’s also rewarding to drive. The car makes NVH – noise, vibration, harshness – a thing of the past.
You can select D or B (stronger brake regeneration) via the gear selector, or you can go searching in the menus on the touchscreen for three levels of brake regen – low, medium or high – and there’s also an adaptive mode where the iX3 decides for the driver which level of braking to use.
The iX3 was tested in the Lake District during the week that the region had the UK’s heaviest rainfall and worst flooding. Imagery on the news showed petrol cars killed off by foot-deep water – however the iX3 drove through flooded roads for a week and had no problems – proving that, despite frequent coverage in the media, electric cars still work in the rain…
So the driving experience is excellent, but there’s another really, really good thing about the iX3 – it has a BMW interior. Yes, this looks nice, but the key thing is that it works beautifully. The main secret to a BMW interior is the iDrive system, in other words there’s a rotary dial and shortcut buttons between the two front seats to control the infotainment system. This is so much better than having to press buttons on a touchscreen to control all of a car’s functions. You also have buttons for the radio, and for the heating and ventilation – with a rotary dial for the temperature – which is again so much better than having to delve into a touchscreen to change ventilation and fan settings when you’re driving.
And then there’s the navigation. You’ve got a map in the central touchscreen with excellent graphics (and you can easily zoom in and out by using the rotary dial), there’s another map giving directions in the instrument display, and then a head-up display that gives you simple, clear directions; you really can’t get lost. The iX3 will even tell you how far ahead it will rain. Amazing.
So overall the driving experience is excellent, however one thing you shouldn’t try at home is driving through a muddy field – or through snow – in the iX3, as there’s virtually zero tread going across the tyres – not great for an SUV.
The BMW iX3 official combined electric driving range, in Premier Edition Pro spec, is 280 miles. In real-world driving we averaged between 200-250 miles depending on driving style.
The iX3 should be able to charge from 0 to 80% at a 150kW rapid charger in just 34 minutes. At a home wallbox it should take 7.5 hours for a full charge.
BMW iX3 Premier Edition Pro costs £60,945, or £61,770 including delivery. The standard equipment list is extensive. There’s also the Premier Edition at the slightly less expensive price of £58,850.
The X3 is the first ever BMW to be available with a full choice of electric, plug-in hybrid and traditional petrol or diesel engines.
The BMW iX3 can’t be described as affordable, it has a sub-300 mile electric range, and it’s not even all-wheel drive. However it offers an excellent driving experience, with amazing levels of refinement and ride comfort. There’s also the ‘traditional’ BMW interior, which looks good, but, crucially, works really well. The iX3 successfully combines a rewarding BMW driving experience with an all-electric powertrain. And the iX3 is based on a petrol car, so it should be a compromise. Imagine what future BMWs on dedicated electric platforms will be like to drive. Despite a few shortcomings, the BMW iX3 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10.