BMW iX3 review
|Car type||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||285 miles||11hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||27mins (10-80%, 120kW)|
BMW was one of the first mainstream manufacturers to embrace electrification in the modern era, with its i3 and i8 models offering buyers alternative-fuelled vehicles long before most other premium brands had hopped on the bandwagon.
However, while those models were designed to capture the imagination of customers with futuristic styling to match their novel powertrains, BMW has since adopted a more conservative approach as more of its models turn to electrification.
The BMW iX3 is the latest pure-electric offering from the German brand and is an example of how customer tastes have changed. Lots of buyers want their electric car to resemble something they're used to – and that's exactly what BMW has done here. The BMW iX3 is simply an X3 SUV with electric power, built on the same platform and with broadly similar aesthetics save for some aerodynamic alloys and some subtle exterior detailing.
Power comes from a 283bhp electric motor fed by an 80kWh battery (74kWh of that is useable), with power sent to the rear wheels only. A claimed range of up to 285 miles is competitive with rivals from Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar, although the 6.8-second 0-62mph time means it trails them slightly in the on-paper performance stakes.
Charging is bang up-to-date for a modern electric car, with support for 150kW rapid charging for a speedy 34-minute 80% charge when out and about. Use a home wallbox and the iX3 can charge at a maximum of 11kW – a time estimate isn't given by BMW yet, but something in the region of eight hours is likely. On a more conventional 7.4kW wallbox feed, that time will probably increase.
Inside, the iX3 feels much like any other X3 save for some coloured trim – not a bad thing, but not especially exciting either. Build quality is excellent and the infotainment system is among the best available anywhere, but some buyers may prefer the more fashion-forward layouts available in the Jaguar I-Pace or Audi e-tron. Those looking for a more minimalist approach will be better suited to a Tesla or Polestar product instead.
Practicality isn't quite as good as you'll get in an internal-combustion-powered X3, with the iX3's boot space reduced by 40 litres to 510 litres – but there's actually 60 litres more than you'll find in the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e model. Rear-seat space is unchanged; there's plenty for adults and children alike.
Regardless of power source, a BMW should always be good to drive and that's generally the case here. Early impressions are of a quite firm setup that's presumably been implemented to keep the car's considerable 2,185kg weight in check; the iX3 feels much like its internal-combustion siblings from behind the wheel, just with a firmer edge.
The resulting composed body control, paired with quick steering and a low centre of gravity, means the iX3 is perhaps a little more engaging than a Mercedes EQC or Audi e-tron – but sadly, that stiffness means it's also a less comfortable car. It's quiet on the move, however, so should be a relaxing companion on longer drives.
Most people don't buy SUVs for their fun factor, however, so it's good news that the iX3 is smooth and refined the rest of the time – save for its slightly busy suspension. Performance is good despite not being quite as punchy as that in an I-Pace; the motor is quiet operation (unless you choose to amplify its noise for a sportier feel) and there's more than enough 'shove' for most drivers.
A highlight of the iX3 driving experience – and one that'll pay dividends around town where most are likely to be used – is its regenerative braking system. Like other systems this lets you operate the car using just the accelerator pedal, lifting off to slow down at a preselected rate. However, the iX3's system can automatically figure out how much retardation to apply to maintain a suitable distance to the car in front. The sensation is of a cruise control system for braking; it works very well and is a great addition.
BMW has also added an interesting system that lets iPhone users install a 'digital key' on their device in place of an actual car key. These digital keys can be shared with friends and even loaded with restrictions on the car's speed, power or maximum music volume level – perfect for a parent lending their car to a young driver in the family.