The BMW iX3, a worthy competitor?

Written by: Mats-André Buraas

BMW had a brilliant platform 8 years ago with the i3, it was lightweight and cleverly packaged, but then they found out that it was cheaper to just keep building cars as they always did and never followed it up. Does the electric X3 improve on what they had before?

It is important to note that the i3 was a full carbon fiber monocoque which was the first testbed for mass production of carbon fiber composite cars. Since then, BMW after the 2017 model year, had changed to a more standard FRP. Following up with the iNEXT series of cars is this brand new all-electric X3 sized vehicle called the iX3.

Et bilde som inneholder tekst, bil, utendørs, bakke

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Photo: Mats-André Buraas

First Impressions

We had sunshine all week (in Norway), great spring weather, but here we are, around 6 degrees and rain, and complete with new strict covid restrictions.

Getting the keys are a sad experience with Sulland BMW Moss almost closed down and everything roped off.

Starting off with the key, it’s a simple cheap plastic fob with a BMW logo on it, thankfully rather fat and not too clunky, and the car looks like BMW both on the inside and out. The room in the front is plenty for anyone, and looking at that nose, this might just be the last decent-looking Beemer for some time seeing as they have lost all sense of elegance and style lately hehe.

The seats are very comfortable, not too sporty but they just get better and better the more time you spend in them, and the doors have a typical German thud to them sounding giving a good first impression, so with an indicated 330km range with an 80kWh gross capacity (460km WLTP) this could be interesting.

It’s a quiet car, around town with the rain falling and standing water, you only hear a bit of tyre noise and a bit of rain, no one really does sound proofing like the Germans, it almost has the same noise in the interior in 50km/h as in 150. As a result, you often end up going to fast on a country road, not because you want to, but because the car is so quiet and tricks you into thinking your speed is lower than it is.

The interior feels very cramped, not helped by it being black, they still stick to the piano-black centre console and stick it full of gear leavers and i-drive controllers, pushing the cup holders too far forward. This of course is a problem.

The Platform

I haven’t driven a BMW in a good while now, and the interior is just like BMW has looked in forever, particularly the last 20 years or so. Being carried over, some parts of it really begin to look a bit long in the tooth now, but at the end of the day it is an X3 with an electric motor and we know they have more modern things in the pipeline, but it would have been nice to see BMW give a solid effort and build the car from the ground up, as an EV that is.  

“The iX3 is the first EV from BMW based on one of the automaker’s core models, in this case, the X3. Making this possible is the flexible CLAR modular platform that underpins the latest generation of BMW’s popular SUV. The platform supports internal-combustion powertrains in addition to plug-in hybrid and battery-electric setups.”

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The i-Drive system is very effective to use, and even though the screen is a touchscreen, it is too far away from you to actually function as one, so why bother. They have hidden some strange things in menus though, like the re-gen strength and reset of trip computers, but mostly it’s a decent system, and with wireless car play it’s all just happy days anyway.

As this car is built to contain a combustion engine and a four-wheel-drive system with axles and stuff, the rear seats are cramped and have a tunnel running through, and under that big bonnet is just full of plastic, all that wasted space, the boot in the back is roomy and a practical square with no lips and edges, 510/1560 liters depending on the rear seats, and that’s a bit less actually than the combustion engine version (which is very strange in my opinion).

Interior Quality

As for interior quality, I was less impressed, the door cards felt okay, but the center console feels cheap and the plastics in the storage under the armrest are awful. In comparison, my own Tesla feels much better than this in almost any place and this is a car that competes with the Ford I just drove they cost around the same at around 5-600,000NOK or $5-60,000).

Sound System

The sound system, Harman Kardon of course, is very well balanced, and here the advantage of a quiet cabin comes to the foreground, less background noise is always good.

The bass fills the cabin without being boomy, and the midrange and tweeter also come through very clear. The experience is less neutral than in a Burmeister setup, but it gives life to the music while being clear and consistent, it can also be cranked up to a lot without breaking up for your favorite tune out there.

Instrument Cluster

I mentioned the i3 earlier, and it solved the instrument binnacle much better than this, speed in big numbers, range and battery percentage, everything easy to read and uncluttered.

This is the exact opposite, it isn’t terrible, but they have tried to merge their classical clear dials with a bit of digital, but not too much mind you. And the result is a big display of which 25% is just a waste of space. The battery icon is down in a corner and without a readout, the range is very precise, 250km is easily achievable on a day like today.

I don’t need a digital representation of analog dials when I have the same readout in number just beside it, if it is digital, please stop trying to pretend it is something else.

The Drive

As for the ride itself, it is firm but never too stiff and works with the road and flows over speedbumps and broken roads with very few complaints. The steering wheel is relatively narrow-rimed and feels good in the hand, but it doesn’t carry much feel for what the car is actually doing.

Unlike a traditional X3, this is a rear-wheel-drive model only, 320hp and 400NM, so not a slouch, even weighing in at 2.2 tonnes.

It is not much fun though, and that was a surprise given this should be “the ultimate driving machine”. What it is, is very effective, it never really involves you as a driver, it just goes through a windy country road like a knife, very competent and quick without bothering to give you much feedback. The car’s electronic overlords can be turned off, so in theory, you can drive this thing, but I never tried, it sticks to the ground and requires a big hard slam of power to even get moving, and that just feels bad, but they give you the choice.

The Headlights

This time I had a chance to test the headlights, and this is my first experience with LED matrix, and it is brilliant most of the time. The lights have decent range and good spread to the sides even on a soaking wet road and do a good job of not getting in the way of ongoing traffic, this stuff should be mandatory on all cars, giving you the security of a full-beam without bothering anyone.

To sum up, if you really like BMW, and you think an electric X3 is for you, and you don’t care about the terrible packaging of the car or the bland interior then this is the car for you.

If you want something with a four-wheel drive, a more progressive or modern feel then you have other choices out there (check out some of our other articles on this).

The Battery

The battery is at 80kWh, but only around 74 usable, so a big buffer somewhere, and that becomes clear when charging the thing on a high-powered charger staying between 100-140kWh to the high 50% range and steadily dropping, without any surprises, probably just getting better as the outside temperature rises.

For the battery-electric setup, the battery is stored on the floor. Just one battery has been announced for the iX3, an 80-kilowatt-hour unit that should deliver a range of over 200 miles when rated by the EPA. For the more lenient WLTP standard used overseas, BMW quotes a range of 285 miles.

BMW describes the battery as a fifth-generation design. The battery is both smaller and more efficient on a per kWh basis compared to BMW’s earlier batteries. It also supports charging at up to 150kW, which means 60 miles of range can be added in about 10 minutes of charging. A 0-80% charge in 34 minutes is also possible, according to BMW that is.

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As always thank you for reading our article and we are really excited to bring more and more information as we can especially during our inclement situations with Covid. We will continue to provide the quality of articles to our up-most ability and make sure each and every piece of content I as best as we can.

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