BMW has spent the last few years seemingly playing around at the edges of electrical propulsion. While Tesla took the headlines with Model S and Model X, BMW set about the task of quiet transformation. The i3 is the firm’s only pure EV, with a fairly ho-hum range while the i8 is a completely bonkers sports car.
Recent additions to the range have also seemed a bit half-hearted. Not because they were bad – not at all. The 330e had a handy 30km range to go with its 2.0-litre turbo and the X5e the same. But still the company, always priding itself on technology, didn’t seem convinced enough to make electric mainstream – until now.
The i5 has been in the works for a while, but it looks like BMW has either kept its secrets well or reordered things. The recent Beijing Motor Show saw the release of BMW’s first full EV based on its mainstream model range – the iX3.
BMW iX3 Specs
The new X3 is barely a year old, but it’s another year before we’ll see the final production-ready iX3 before its 2020 launch.
Acceleration: under 6 seconds.
Battery capacity: over 70kWh
Claimed Range: 403km (WLTP)
Fast charging: yes (80 percent in 30 mins)
Power: 194kW (see below).
BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive forms the basis of the drivetrain. eDrive 5 groups the electric motor, transmission and electronics into a single unit capable of producing 194kW. Given the iX3 is an SUV, it’s highly likely there will be two of these bad boys for a whopping 388kW system. That ought to deliver Model X 75D/I-Pace/e-tron performance of a sub-six second dash to 100km/h.
BMW also says its new batteries are more dense meaning a lighter kerb weight and less space. That also flags (to me, anyway) a higher capacity battery pack than the initial, slightly vague “over 70kWh” of the concept car.
The quoted range is pretty close to the forthcoming Audi e-tron SUV and will probably outdo the Tesla Model X 75D’s claimed NEDC range of 435km. WLTP is tougher and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the BMW is substantially lighter than the Model X. The iX3 probably can’t carry seven people, though.
BMW iX3 Exterior
The X3 has never been much of a looker – the first generation was awkward and was born at a relatively tumultuous time in the company’s design history. This third-generation machine looks a lot like its second-generation predecessor, but muscled up by BMW’s Australian-born designer Calvin Luk and his team.
To make it an i car, BMW went to work on the front and rear ends. To a certain extent, the matt-effect paint makes the X3 look quite different, but the bigger snout with the i-style kidney grille is the most obvious change. The rear is barely changed apart from the blue garnishes on the lower bumper, replacing the exhaust tips.
Access to the charge point is via a fender-mounted flap, similar to the 330e’s placement.
BMW iX3 Interior
BMW isn’t quite ready to show us the interior yet, but let me suggest it’s going to be as unadventurous as the exterior. While the X3 will be ready for its LCI (lifecycle impulse, or mid-life freshen up) in 2020, wholesale interior changes aren’t part of the deal, generally speaking.
The i3’s interior is delightfully wacky while the i8’s is depressingly not, so the iX3 will likely slot in closer to the i8’s and will have be built on the X3’s interior architecture. Changes will likely focus on the dashboard for the obvious reasons and the centre console may be relieved of the shifter in favour of the i3-style dash-mounted rocker switch.
The rest of the cabin will stay basically the same, but with lots of blue accents.
The reason the design is conservative is because, like any car appealing to the mainstream, it has to be. Nothing wrong with that.
The usual standard domestic charging and wallbox offering will get you going on the home front. While the iX3 will be 150kW fast charge-ready (the usual 80 percent in around half an hour applies), we don’t have much of that going on here in Australia.
BMW will have to do something about charging – relying on Chargepoint isn’t going to cut it in the long term unless that network bulks up to cater for customers’ usage patterns. BMW will sell you a wall box for home charging, but out on the go will be the trick. Hopefully motoring associations like NRMA and RACV will get their charging network underway.
Chargepoint is also a legacy network using Type 1 chargers and there is no OEM Type 1 to Type 2 charger available. A BMW spokesperson I had a chat to told me that the company is looking into what the deal is with Type 2 chargers. Of course, BMW’s need for Type 2 chargers is immediate – the i3 LCI uses this new type of plug.
Jaguar is building its own charging network which, while unlikely to be vast, is a key selling point.
Model Range and Pricing
As a general rule, BMW EVs that aren’t i-badged cars will follow similar naming as the conventionally-engined models. Expect to see model names like iX3 30e/40e/50e with price and specification jumps.
If BMW wants this car to be a local success, it’s going to have to meet Jaguar’s I-Pace pricing. While those two brands are generally separated by a few grand, this is a new game and Jag’s bold move has scattered the birdlife somewhat.