BMW has unveiled its first all-new electric vehicle in seven years, the iX3 midsize SUV, ahead of an Australian arrival in mid-2021.
Unlike previous zero-emissions BMW models, the iX3 shares its CLAR platform with the conventional petrol- and diesel-powered X3 that has been on sale in Australia since late 2017.
The iX3 debuts the fifth-generation of BMW’s eDrive electric drivetrain technology, also set to underpin next year’s electric i4 liftback and iNext SUV.
One powertrain configuration will be offered at launch, featuring a lithium-ion battery pack mounted low in the floor with a usable capacity of 74kWh (or 80kWh gross).
It feeds drive to a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle producing 210kW of power and 400Nm of torque. BMW claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds – around half a second slower than the 185kW, petrol-driven X3 xDrive30i – towards an electronically-limited top speed of 180km/h.
The aforementioned electric motor is claimed to be 30 per cent more efficient than any other e-motor produced by the wider BMW Group, and does not feature rare-earth materials in its construction.
There’s no word of a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model in the pipeline, an interesting move considering all of the BMW iX3’s main competitors – namely the Audi e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model Y – all offer all-paw traction either as standard or as an option.
The lack of a front motor leaves a positive mark on the iX3’s range, which is pegged at 460 kilometres on Europe’s WLTP test cycle. On the more lenient NEDC test – equivalent to the system used in Australia – that figure increases to 520km.
Should you run out of juice, you’ll be able to recharge the iX3’s sustainably-constructed battery from 0 to 80 per cent in 34 minutes on a 150kW DC fast-charger. Adding 100km of WLTP-rated range takes as little as 10 minutes.
11kW AC charging via a home wallbox is also available.
As is the norm for modern electric vehicles, three modes of regenerative braking are on offer to iX3 drivers, each recuperating differing levels of energy under deceleration. The system can also be switched off entirely, allowing the iX3 to coast freely at motorway speeds.
On the design front, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the production BMW iX3 apart from the Concept iX3 revealed at the 2018 Beijing motor show. Like the concept, changes compared to the combustion-engined X3 are minor, consisting of semi-enclosed kidney grilles, unique front and rear bumpers and a plethora of blue accents to signify its environmentally-friendly intentions.
BMW claims a 0.29Cd drag coefficient for its first electric SUV, thanks to a raft of tweaks including a closed-off underbody, a 75mm-lower ride height compared to standard X3s and an innovative set of aerodynamic alloy wheels claimed to reduce drag by 5 per cent and increase range by 10km.
Adaptive suspension is fitted as standard, as is BMW’s ARB system (shared with the i3 and 1 Series hatchbacks) that controls wheel slip directly from the engine control unit, improving traction in low-grip conditions.
Inside the cabin, the iX3 sports a near-identical layout to that of conventionally-driven X3 models, featuring a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch central display running BMW’s iDrive 7 infotainment system.
The latter screen features cloud-based satellite navigation capable of altering the route to pass through public fast-charging points on longer drives to keep the battery charged.
Boot space is unchanged from the standard X3, rated at 510 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding second row in place and 1560L with it down.
The BMW iX3 debuts the brand’s ‘IconicSounds Electric’ system, consisting of an array of artificial driving sounds played through the speakers in place of a combustion engine’s exhaust note. They have been composed as part of a partnership between famous film composer Hans Zimmer and BMW sound engineer Renzo Vitale.
An assortment of flexible charging cables and home wall boxes will be available to European customers.
The 2021 BMW iX3 will go on sale in Australia in mid-2021. Full pricing and specification details will be announced closer to launch.