Hit the blue start button and there’s a whooshing electronic startup sound, then the car’s ready to go. Like all BEVs, gentle on and off application of the ‘gas’ pedal is required for smooth progress, but once you’re used to it, you can one-pedal it, and appreciate the refinement.
The silence of some BEVs makes creaks and groans more obvious, but not so with the BMW – even on the highway, the only noises you’ll hear are everyone else’s. Like all luxury SUVs these days, or at least the best ones, the 20-inch wheels deliver impressive ride quality. It’s sporty, but not overly jiggly, and the iX3 disguises its two-tonne plus weight very well.
The 286hp motor only drives the real wheels, the iX3 feels more agile and more fun to drive than comparable all-wheel drive luxury BEVs – BMW’s cleaved to rear-wheel drive throughout its history for a reason.
In Sport mode BMW’s engineered ‘engine’ sound accompanies your right foot. It may be totally artificial, but consider that artificial engine noise has been around for at least a decade. More importantly, when paired with the iX3’s enjoyable driving chops, it makes for an entertaining experience.
There’s an incisiveness to the front end, and the way the iX3 lays on its plentiful torque is also smile-worthy. It’s not laugh-out-loud emotional like a screaming inline six makes you, but as BEV SUVs come, it at least proves that electric cars won’t be a total snorefest for a keen driver.
It’s pleasingly agile up to a point, then physics wakes up and the weight starts to show, and the body roll becomes evident. All of the competition do the same though, and in some cases that point arrives earlier than it does with the BMW.
One quibble we did have is the braking/regeneration. There’s an adaptive mode, which will increase the braking if it detects traffic or upcoming corners, and it can surprise you with sudden, heavy slowdowns. You can manually set three levels of recuperation (low, medium, high), but you have to dig in the menus to do it, rather than the more useful steering-wheel paddle choice of the EQC and E-Tron.
Seven years since the ground-breaking i3 means BMW’s done five-generations of electric drivetrain homework, and the tech really shows. In the iX3 at least, it’s accurate to say BMW has made one of the most efficient electric drivetrains around.
The iX3’s range is exemplary. Our test drive covered 150km, with about 70 percent highway and 30 percent urban conditions, including stationary running on photo shoots. The iX3 did much better than its claimed efficiency of 19.5kWh/100km – we netted 16.3kWh/100km, which computed against the car’s 75kWh usable battery size means 460km on a single charge.
150km might not be a super-long run which is best for real-life accuracy, but it’s worth pointing out that we tested rival BEVs in similar conditions, and none of them were sub-18kWh/100km.
That’s outstanding range for a car in this class, and it means it meets or exceeds its rivals in endurance despite having a smaller battery. That counts for time, too: An I-Pace with its 90kWh battery would take 12 hours to charge on a 7.4kWh ‘slow’ home charger, but the iX3 would take 10 hours.
The luxury electric SUV segment is already crowded, since carmakers have decided on SUVs as the easiest to electrify bodystyle for now, so the iX3 is up against the Audi E-Tron 50, Mercedes-Benz EQC 400, and Jaguar I-Pace.
Objectively, where the iX3 loses a bit of ground is with its 286hp/400Nm peak torque – the I-Pace rockets to 100km/h in only 3.8 seconds as it’s the most expensive and quickest car, and the EQC in 5.1 seconds. But if mega-torque is your aim, then a more expensive Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan would be more up your alley/budget.
The most convincing point for a car buyer? It’s the least expensive luxury electric midsize BEV – at S$251,888 with COE, it’s a good S$50k cheaper than the Mercedes and Audi, and a staggering S$130k less expensive than the Jag.
For seven years since the ground-breaking i3 of 2014, fans of BMW have had to wait to see what Munich could pull out of its electrician’s trousers.
With its strong feature set, superb range, and excellent driving dynamics, the iX3 is very hard to beat and an obvious class leader. We honestly expected just another mid-sized luxury BEV, but the iX3 is a shock to the segment. If every BEV BMW makes is like this, it’ll really be on a charge.
|Electric Motor||286hp, 400Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 75kWh net|
|Charge Type / Time||7.4kW AC wallbox / 10 hours|
|Max Fast Charge Type / Time||150kW DC / 35 mins to 80 percent|
|Electric Range||454km average|
|VES Band||A1/ -S$25,000|
|Agent||Performance Motors Limited|
|Price||S$251,888 with COE and VES|
|Verdict||The first fully-electric X3 is one of the least expensive luxury electric SUVs around, and very likely the best|