BMW iX3 review: how to be Impressive without being extreme
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BMW iX3 Impressive
- Understated in every way
- Impressive regen/range
- Fast 150kW charging (on a suitable station)
- Terrible name
- No AWD option
- Familar X3 shape doesn't say 'high tech'
BMW embraced the coming EV revolution with cartoonish enthusiasm back in 2013, by launching its i-brand with two bespoke models: the i3 city car and i8 coupe. Both were avant garde to say the least.
Maybe it was just too soon or maybe BMW was too brave, but neither sold as well as expected and for the next few years the company kind of forgot about Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) technology while everybody else caught up… and then hit the overtaking lane.
No matter, BMW is back in the BEV business, and arguably in a more considered fashion. It’s still brave: consider the flagship iX SUV, which is polarising in the extreme. But BMW is embracing a gentler, less-threatening side at the same time. The i4 simply looks like a 4-series with pure-electric power, for example.
Then there’s this, the iX3. If it looks like a petrol or diesel X3 with the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) whipped out and a BEV powertrain in its place, that’s pretty much what it is. A zero-emissions BMW SUV for those who don’t need to advertise their green credentials.
The Chinese-built iX3 might be essentially a conversion job, but it’s beautifully executed. Okay, so the X3 architecture means you don’t get a “frunk” up front and BMW has saved on electric motors by making this RWD; the battery is “only” 80kWh and ground clearance is reduced slightly compared with an ICE X3 because it has to hang a bit lower.
But the BEV setup uses BMW’s latest technology (“fifth-generation eDrive” if you must know) and the company has achieved a very impressive 460km WLTP range, with 150kW charging capability (meaning 10-80 per cent in 30 minutes on a suitable DC station).
The iX3 comes in two models with terrible names: the $114,900 Inspiring or the more luxurious $124,900 Impressive. Same powertrain for both, though.
The driving experience is smooth in the extreme. Prod the throttle and you’ll get a little jolt at low speed, but otherwise there are no comedy-BEV acceleration antics to be had. It’s brisk, not fast, and the power delivery is linear and measured. Same goes for the steering and chassis; to be honest, you’d be hard pressed to pick this as RWD, thanks to a high level of mechanical grip and a very effective traction control system. Our car did have a little help from the optional $1000 Adaptive M Suspension.
The regen system is very clever. It must be, to extract such good range out of one of the smaller batteries in this segment. But again, it’s unobtrusive. You can choose how strong it is via a menu on the main screen, but there’s also an Adaptive mode that varies it according to the driving situation, with help from the car’s exterior sensors and sat-nav. Told you it was clever.
The interior is standard X3, which is to say full of luxury and technology, including BMW’s intelligent voice assistant. But standard X3 nonetheless, with BEV-specific instrumentation kept very low-key. Going for the top Impressive model means you get a fantastic Harman Kardon audio system and the IconicSounds Electric soundtrack designed by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer to make BEV driving a bit more aurally satisfying. It’s actually quite subtle and if you’re the silent type you can still switch it off.
The iX3 occupies its own little market niche. Being clearly based on an ICE model and sticking with RWD sets it apart from similar-size BEVs like the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC – but they’re also a good $25k more expensive than our iX3 Impressive. Beside, that’s really the new BMW iX’s territory.
The iX3’s true rivals are probably more the X3 30i petrol and X3 30e PHEV – $5-10k cheaper than the entry BEV, but with similar performance and bringing AWD back into the equation. If you want pure-electric though, the iX3 is still pretty compelling.
Being a BMW-i product, the iX3 is not completely low-key of course. There’s the blanked-off grille with prominent i-badge, special M “Bicolour” 20-inch wheels and on our test vehicle, lots of detailing that signature i bright blue.
BMW iX3 IMPRESSIVE
ENGINE: 80kWh lithium-ion battery, single electric motor
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD
0-100KM/H: 6.8 seconds
CONSUMPTION: 21.6-18.9kWh/100km, range 505-440km