BMW steps up electric vehicle assault with new iX3

Luxury car maker charges into SUV market.

BMW has fired a shot across the bow of its prestige vehicle rivals with the world premiere of its all-new iX3, the first fully electric SUV from the Bavarian luxury car maker.

In a hint of what’s to come from BMW, the iX3 will join the company’s existing X3 mid-sized SUV range, adding an electric drive option to its established petrol and diesel engine variants. 

In this regard at least, the iX3 will be different from rivals like the Mercedes Benz EQC 400, Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X, which are all standalone electric vehicles (EVs), with no internal combustion engine (ICE) options available. 

BMW says the iX3 showcases its fifth-generation eDrive technology, which arranges the electric motor, transmission and power electronics in a single housing and uses a current-excited synchronous electric motor that does not require magnets. The company claims this design allows rare earths to be avoided entirely in the manufacturing of the motor.

BMW also says the power density of the iX3’s new electric motor is 30% greater than that of existing fully electric vehicles like the i3, with efficiency of up to 93% compared with the 40% efficiency of its combustion engines.

Despite the ix3’s SUV-like looks, the new system drives the rear wheels only, generating maximum output of 210kW and peak torque of 400Nm, enabling the iX3 to cover the 0-100km/h dash in 6.8 seconds, equal with the conventionally powered BMW X3 xDrive30i.

BMW iX3 EV

The company is claiming substantially increased battery capacity relative to battery dimensions and weight for the iX3, with energy density that’s about 20% higher than comparable current BMW Group EV batteries.

With a total available energy output of 74kWh BMW says the iX3 will offer a range of up to 460km in the WLTP test cycle. The battery is capable of taking high-voltage DC fast-charging outputs of up to 150kW, meaning it can add up to 100ko of range in just 10 minutes, or an 80% in 34 minutes. 

The fifth-generation eDrive technology uses adaptive energy recuperation tools to enhance efficiency during journeys, automatically adapting the intensity of the brake energy regeneration system using data from the navigation system and driver assistance system sensors. 

When approaching a junction, a speed-restricted stretch of road or a vehicle on the road ahead, for example, recuperation is fully utilised, while on the open road, the coasting function is activated whenever the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. The driver can also manually choose high, medium or low regeneration settings.

BMW claims the iX3 boasts excellent handling dynamics, thanks in part to its slimline battery being integrated low into the vehicle structure, lowering the centre of gravity by around 7.5cm compared with its conventionally powered X3 siblings.  

Adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers is standard, while a new engine-computer-controlled wheel slip regulation system promises excellent traction in adverse weather and on loose surfaces, despite the iX3 being rear-wheel drive.  

BMW iX3 EV

On the connectivity front, the iX3 is equipped with BMW’s Operating System 7.0, allowing every line of software code in the car to be updated over the air.

The company says its new cloud-based navigation system, BMW Maps, enables route and arrival times to be calculated with even greater speed and precision.

A new the E-Route function offers improved recommendations for mid-journey stops to charge the battery. 

It also provides useful information on charging stations, such as availability, connector type, rate of charging and authentication method required. 

Stylistically, the new iX3 retains the proportions of an SUV, or sport activity vehicle (SAV) as BMW prefers to call it.

Specific design touches designed to enhance the electric model’s aerodynamic efficiency include a largely enclosed front apron and kidney grille, and sculpted rear end designed reduce air resistance.

Aerodynamically designed light-alloy wheels also help control the flow of air around the vehicle, resulting in a slippery drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.29.  

A new feature for BMW which makes its debut in the iX3 is something called BMW IconicSounds Electric, which the company says “provides acoustic feedback to enrich the electric driving experience, lending it emotional depth”. 

Every driving state is accompanied by a matching acoustic pattern, so that when the start/stop button is pressed, for instance, a short sound composition sets the scene.

BMW iX3 EV

Engine load changes are signalled by a smoothly modulated sound, while recuperations during overrun and braking are marked by a gently filtered acoustic response. 

The drive sound is an original work by BMW’s sound designers and acoustic engineers, the first sound originating from the collaboration between Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer and BMW sound designer Renzo Vitale to feature in a production vehicle. 

Due here in mid-2021, the iX3 will be BMW’s first model built for export at the Shenyang plant in China, operated by joint venture BMW Brilliance Automotive.

Pricing has not been announced but the current mainstream X3 range spans a price range from $68,900 to $109,900, excluding the high-performance X3 M Competition at $157,900. 

The closest all-electric model to the iX3’s stated range and performance figures is the recently released Audi e-tron quattro 50, which features twin electric motors and all-wheel drive and is priced at $137,700.