After the petrol / diesel X3 and hybrid X3, BMW is unveiling a 100% electric version of its SUV which is based on the same platform as the thermal versions. We were able to try it out well in advance of its expected launch in March.
We can say without being mistaken that Bmw is one of the pioneers in electric car. Indeed, the first 100% electric model of the German manufacturer was launched on the market in 2013 with the small Bmw i3, a vehicle which already at the time already had a look ahead of its time and which remains relevant today. Seven years later, the propeller brand relied on the electrification of its ranges, in particular to meet the strict environmental standards imposed by the European Union. The share of electrified vehicles in new car deliveries in Europe is expected to reach 25% this year, before representing half of registrations in 2030.
And when it comes to pure electric cars, BMW is following the current trend by using a common platform for all powertrains. The proof with its first electric SUV which interests us here. The BMW iX3 which therefore looks like two drops of water to thermal modelss (gasoline or diesel), and hybrids (with light hybridization and plug-in hybrid technologies). It is aesthetically characterized by relatively discreet touches of blue, a full grille, not to mention specific shields and rims. The iX3 thus displays unchanged dimensions of 4.70 m long, 1.89 m wide and 1.67 m high.
The same goes for the interior with a dashboard identical to that of the X3. Copy / paste with a few blue inserts near the start button and the gear lever. The presentation as the finish are flawlesss. In addition, BMW has had the good taste to keep certain buttons that are essential for easy and quick access in everyday life (we think in particular of the climate control).
Screens, but not only for the BMW iX3
The instrumentation is provided by a digital screen with an interface that can now be described as classic at the manufacturer. Note that unlike other premium German brands (MBUX at Mercedes or Virtual Cockpit at Audi), BMW does not offer display customization options with direct access to the steering wheel.
Read also: BMW will offer its “Autopilot” and other options to download via a subscription
The infotainment screen is also a continuation of the brand’s other propeller models. Wider than long, it displays a definition and a luminosity which guarantee an excellent readability in all weathers. Navigation is fluid and the interface can be tamed after a little adaptation time, given the richness of the sections. Of course, CarPlay is there for wireless access to your iPhone applications.
During this time, the latter will remain wisely on the wireless charging cradle. BMW was among the first manufacturers to offer wireless CarPlay. With the iX3, the German brand shines once again by integrating a CarPlay reminder display directly in the instrumentation screen. It is thus possible to view information from the Apple system, such as the name of the songs, as can be seen in the photo below.
Still on the subject of smartphones, no one will be harmed aboard the iX3 which offers no less four USB ports to recharge your device. If the USB port next to the induction charger is type A, the one that takes place in the storage space under the armrest and the two at the rear under the air conditioning system are in the format USB Type C.
Another now classic device, a wheel which is surrounded by shortcuts sits right next to the gearshift to interact with the infotainment system. This solution has been proven to provide full functionality while letting your elbow rest comfortably on the center armrest rather than keeping your arm straight towards the screen.
Finally, it is also possible to interact with certain elements of the infotainment system making hand gestures. For example, you can move on to the next song by moving your hand from left to right, or adjust the volume by drawing a circle in the air with your fingertip. All this works perfectly even if in practice, we will probably mainly use the buttons on the steering wheel.
For those who do not have enough of the two screens, BMW also offers a head-up display (HUD). This allows you to keep your eyes on the road while having access to essential information such as speed and navigation. Let’s put it bluntly, BMW has succeeded in offering the best system of this type to date, especially with some of the most successful and comprehensive directions. While the augmented reality of Mercedes’ MBUX system ensures you never get lost again, BMW’s HUD is just as effective.
Finally, a word about the generous space on board, especially in the rear seats and despite the presence of a central tunnel. Designed from the start to accommodate different engines, the iX3 has its battery integrated in under the floor and under the rear seat to preserve livability. The electric SUV thus has a trunk identical to that of the thermal X3 with 510 liters, or 1,560 liters with the seats folded down. Note that in the absence of a double bottom, a space is provided to accommodate the charging cables so as not to encroach on the trunk. However, despite its electric drive, the BMW iX3 does not have a trunk at the front.
A reduced carbon footprint for the BMW iX3
The BMW iX3 is offered in a single version with two trim levels. This is equipped with a synchronous electric motor located on the rear axle, which develops 210 kW (286 hp) and 400 Nm of torque. It is powered by a 80 kWh lithium-ion battery (including 74 kWh of useful capacity) which, as we said above, is located under the floor. This should give the BMW iX3 an announced autonomy of 459 km, but we will come back to this later.
The electric SUV was developed by displaying a 60% reduction in CO2 footprint from supply to recycling compared to the X3 xDrive 20d, which made up the bulk of sales last year. The engine is rare earth free, while the battery required 2/3 less cobalt. The latter contains 188 prismatic elements divided into ten modules. The set was produced withcarbon-free electricity.
The manufacturer did not stop there, since it offers a wound rotor at the synchronous motor which limits the use of magnets. BMW also announces an energy density of the battery which is improved by 30% with regard to the mass of the vehicle, and consequently a yield of 93%. Finally, the brand with the propeller wants to be just as reassuring by announcing an average material recovery rate of 90% against 30% usually.
A sound of Blockbuster
When starting, the vehicle moves in almost silence. Indeed, BMW enlisted the services of famous Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, Interstellar, etc.), in order to offer a BMW Iconic Sounds sound signature with its first electric SUV, just that. Sounds when starting and stopping the vehicle, but also by driving below 30 km / h and during acceleration if desired. The rest of the time, the BMW iX3 allows you to enjoy comfort in silence, in particular thanks to the excellent filtration of aerodynamic noise and the optional sound-absorbing glazing.
The 2,260 kg (including 518 kg of battery) are quickly forgotten and the car accelerates hard when it comes to getting into the motorway, for example. But despite the generous torque and 400 Nm, the electric SUV is less violent than a Tesla Model X or that one Mercedes EQC for example, two models to which we will not fail to compare it although they are both more powerful. Note that the maximum speed is restricted to 180 km / h, which, with a 0 to 100 km / h in 6.8 seconds, is enough to make your driver’s license disappear in no time.
As mentioned above, BMW announces a range of 459 km according to the WLTP cycle, and an average consumption of 19 kWh / 100 km. Our test took place over a course of 170 km, sometimes in built-up areas, sometimes on small roads and the motorway. We have adopted a normal drive, as with any thermal car and without worrying about saving the battery. The heating was on all the time and our pace was strictly adapted to the speed limits.
We noted a consumption of 22 kWh / 100 km, which is pretty decent for an electric SUV over two tons. It must be said that the BMW iX3 is well helped by its coefficient of air penetration of 0.29, and its aerodynamic rims whose weight has been reduced by 16%. It should be possible to exceed the 400 km advertised on some routes, provided, among other things, to limit motorway journeys as is the norm with electric SUVs.
The BMW iX3 benefits from five energy recovery modes. By positioning the gear lever in mode B, it is possible to use the engine brake to slow the vehicle as much as possible, and allow driving with virtually no touching the brake pedal. To enhance the efficiency of the system, mode D also makes it possible to recover kinetic energy by anticipating the topography of the course. Using data from the navigation system, the iX3 will be able to slow down when approaching a roundabout, or coast on flat ground, for example.
A classic, but efficient charging system
If the charging system of the BMW iX3 is classic, the electric SUV nevertheless has the advantage of being on board a three-phase charger that allows an input power of up to 11 kW. Practical detail, the cables for charging at home and on public T2 terminals are provided.
On the other hand, the combo connector allows you to fill up with electricity at the fast charging stations with a power of up to 150 kW. In that case, it is possible to regain 80% of the capacity in 34 minutes or 150 km of autonomy in 10 minutes. Enough to connect the next Ionity terminal on a motorway route well equipped with stations, such as Paris / Marseille for example. By the way, note that BMW is part of the Ionity consortium and as such, iX3 owners benefit from a preferential rate of 0.30 euro / minute. In addition, the BMW Charging card provides access to more than 20,000 charging points in France.
A high price, but …
The BMW iX3 will be marketed from March 2021. The range will be simplified with only two finishes: Inspiring from € 69,950 (or € 695 / month) and Impressive from 76 350 €. Prices that are similar to those of the plug-in hybrid version. The first version is equipped, among other things, with heated electric seats with semi-leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, three-zone air conditioning, the automatically opening tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels and even the Drive Assist Pro for semi-autonomous driving.
The second version adds 20-inch rims, head-up display, acoustic glass, a Harman Kardon Surround sound system and Iconic Sounds signed Hans Zimmer to name a few. Tech enthusiasts will also be able to take advantage of the Park Assist Plus parking aid and the reverse assist which memorizes the last meters traveled in forward gear and automatically reproduces them in reverse. We were able to test this functionality with the BMW M850i.
The price of the BMW iX3 is not cheap, but it is still more affordable than its two main competitors. On the one hand the Audi e-tron, another electric SUV, larger and with less range, on the other hand the Mercedes EQC which nevertheless displays a higher power. Finally, it may be the Tesla Model Y that will overshadow it with an expected price of € 63,000 and above all an unparalleled charging network at present. However, it remains to compare the equipment and especially the finish of the American SUV.