New 2021 BMW iX3 SUV plugs in with 285 miles of electric power

BMW has revealed the production ready version of its first all-electric SUV: the iX3. It goes on sale in the UK next summer as a rival for the Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC and the Tesla Model X. 

As the name suggests the iX3 is an all-electric variant of the popular X3 SUV. While electric versions of pre-existing cars are nothing new, for BMW the iX3 represents an important step. It’s not just the company’s first electric SUV, but also the first BMW to be available with either pure combustion, plug-in hybrid or pure electric power. 

It’s also the first BMW to feature the brand’s “fifth-generation” electric drivetrain technology, which will be applied on upcoming EVs like the i4 saloon and the range-topping iNEXT SUV.

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The X3’s platform has been adapted with a new rear sub-frame that can house an electric motor and an 80Wh battery pack. While that’s a capacity comparable with rivals, BMW says that the pack in the iX3 is 20 per cent more energy dense than any battery it has used before. That’s a big advantage when it comes to packaging and weight, as the 80kWh battery is claimed to be particularly slim and compact for its size. 

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Combined with a 282bhp electric motor driving the rear axle, BMW claims a maximum range of 285 miles on a single charge, 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 112mph. 

Charging can be handled at up to 150kW at a suitable direct-current (DC) rapid charger station, enabling a 0-80 per cent top up in 34 minutes. Alternating current (AC) single-phase and on-board three-phase charging at 11kW is also standard. 

BMW makes a lot of noise about the iX3’s long-distance cruising abilities. The lighter, more energy dense battery results in greater energy efficiency on the move, and BMW suggests that on longer trips with plenty of motorway driving, the range of the iX3 will hold up better than heavier rivals. 

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Allied to this is the iX3’s adaptive energy recuperation system, which the brand claims automatically enhances efficiency on longer drives. Using location data from BMW’s latest cloud based navigation system, the iX3 can autonomously change the level of braking recuperation on the move and according to the road ahead. For instance, if the car recognises that a stop sign is ahead, full recuperation will be deployed without any need for the driver to select it, while on open roads the system will allow for normal coasting. 

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Alternatively, the driver can take manual control of the regenerative braking via the drive selector. Selecting D summons three recuperation levels – high, medium and low, while moving the drive selector to the B position enables high enough energy recovery for one-pedal driving around town. 

The iX3 gets a unique tune for its standard adaptive suspension system with electronically controlled dampers. Alternatively, buyers will be able to specify a sportier Adaptive M suspension setup. 

Design and interior 

The front grilles are closed off for aerodynamic purposes and the front bumper has been reprofiled. A set of aerodynamic wheels reduce drag coefficient by around 5 per cent compared with regular X3 wheels – BMW says they’re worth an extra six miles of range on a full charge. At the back, the rear bumper has been redesigned to reduce air resistance, but it’s broadly familiar side by side with a petrol version of the car. 

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No interior shots have been revealed yet but it’s highly likely that the design goes unchanged from the regular X3, featuring the same dashboard, switchgear and centre console but trimmed with blue elements, in a nod to the iX3’s electric drivetrain. Passenger space is unaffected, but maximum boot capacity with all seats in place is 510 litres – 40 litres down over a regular X3. 

BMW has confirmed that a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is standard, while a 10.25-inch central display can be controlled through touch inputs or a rotary controller. The iX3 arrives with the most recent version of iDrive 7, featuring over-the-air software updates and the latest version of BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Smartphone integration is handled by wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

The iX3 also debuts BMW IconicSounds Electric – a system of subtle, synthesized noises pumped into the cabin to match acceleration and braking inputs. The sounds have been created in collaboration with famed film composer Hans Zimmer. 

UK prices and specifications for the iX3 will be revealed this autumn, but sales will commence in summer 2021. A flagship Premier edition of the iX3 will be available from launch, with the rest of the lineup due to follow. The range should kick off from around £60,000. 

Take a look at the 10 best electric SUVs that you can buy now…

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