BMW has unveiled its first pure electric SUV – and its first new electric vehicle in seven years.
The BMW iX3 midsize SUV is due on sale in Europe later this year before it arrives in Australian showrooms mid-2021.
Unlike previous zero-emissions BMW models, the BMW iX3 shares its underpinnings with the conventional petrol- and diesel-powered X3 that has been on sale in Australia since late 2017.
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 time of 6.8 seconds – about half a second slower than the 185kW, petrol 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 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, despite the fact that all of the BMW iX3’s main competitors – Audi e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model Y – offer all-wheel drive as standard or as an option.
BMW says the iX3 has a driving range of 460 kilometres on Europe’s WLTP (real-world) test cycle. On the more lenient NEDC laboratory test – equivalent to the system used in Australia – the claimed driving range increases to 520km.
Should you run out of power, you’ll be able to recharge the iX3’s sustainably-constructed battery up to 80 per cent capacity in 34 minutes on a 150kW DC fast-charger. Adding 100km of WLTP-rated range takes as little as 10 minutes, the company says.
Also available is an 11kW AC charging via a home wallbox.
As is the norm for modern electric vehicles, three modes of regenerative braking are available to the iX3, 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.
Of note, the showroom version of the BMW iX3 is remarkably similar in design to the Concept iX3 revealed at the 2018 Beijing Motor Show.
As with the concept car, changes compared to the conventional BMW X3 are relatively minor, consisting of a semi-enclosed grille, unique front and rear bumpers, and blue accents to signify its environmentally-friendly intentions.
BMW claims the new model slips through the air with a 0.29Cd drag coefficient, thanks to a closed-off underbody, a 75mm-lower ride height compared to a standard X3, and an innovative set of aerodynamic alloy wheels claimed to reduce drag by 5 per cent and increase total driving range by 10km.
Adaptive suspension is fitted as standard, as is BMW’s wheel slip control system – dubbed ARB, an acronym for the term in German, 'Aktornaher Radschlupfbegrenzung' – which apportions power via the engine control unit, improving traction in low-grip conditions.
Inside the cabin, the iX3 has a near-identical layout to that of conventional BMW X3 models, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch central display running BMW’s iDrive 7 infotainment system. The latter screen has 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 BMW X3, rated at 510 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding second row seat in place, and 1560 litres 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. The company says complete pricing and specification details will be announced closer to launch.