Car enthusiasts are a special breed of whiners. We are perfectly capable of whinging and whining for literal days about the imminent death of the internal-combustion engine, the disappearance of the manual transmission, the dominance of electric power steering, and the list goes on and on.
And within this breed of whiners is an elite group of moaners whom I shall not name, but call them the Bimmer suckers. Some of the common things you will hear them utter in a glum and doleful voice:
“Oh, BMW has lost its way.”
“The E39 was peak BMW, and it all went downhill from there.”
“The new stuff is just ugly.”
Now, before you walk out into the streets with pitchforks and torches ablaze, know that I am a Bimmer sucker myself. A diehard, fanatical one, in fact. I’ve owned quite a few BMWs in my day and still do, but nothing with an F or G at the beginning of the chassis code. No, no, that would make me a heretic. I could not risk being seen in a modern pig-snouted BMW lest I be accused of being a sellout.
As such, car enthusiasts like me should find this all-electric BMW iX3 sacrilegious on two counts. But is it?
As a BMW owner, I hopped into the iX3 for the first time and instantly felt at home. For starters, it smells right. Wafts of leather, a smidge of new plastic, and just a hint of crayons for the top note.
The M Sport steering wheel is satisfyingly girthy as it should be; there’s no flat-bottom or yoke gimmickry here, just a fat round steering wheel with the M badge at the six-o’clock position. There’s still a roller lid over the cupholders, which, if the past is any indication, will most certainly disintegrate into a million pieces within the next 10 years. The same rubber-like coating on the plastic touchpoints is still in use as it has always been in earlier X models from the 2000s.
The eight-bit climate control display, the orange backlighting, the annoyingly unsynchronized dual-zone climate settings, and the BC (board computer) button at the end of the turn signal stalk—they’re all where I expect them to be and do exactly what I expect them to do.
Of course, everything is packaged in a much more modern design. The metal trims are far more premium today than it has ever been, and the addition of wood and piano-black trim around the center console completes the contemporary style of the space.
Being the second-to-the-smallest SAV in BMW’s lineup, this five-seater crossover is meant to be self-driven, and as such provides oodles of front-row space. The second row, however, is a little more cramped, much like the rear amenities of the 3-Series sedan. The electric motor and the battery have nothing to do with it being tight, though. BMW hasn’t altered the car all that much to fit the new drivetrain.
The battery pack is mounted underneath the floor, which probably explains the 25mm difference in declared ground clearance compared to the standard X3. The rear of the iX3 sits slightly lower than the front as well, presumably due to the front end being empty and the single electric motor sitting in between the rear wheels. BMW didn’t bother with a dual-motor AWD variant because, um, who goes off-road in an X3 anyway, right?
But no matter: The electric motor is capable of an electrifying 286hp (210kW) that drives the rear wheels from 0-100km/h in just 6.8 seconds. Okay, it’s not that impressive. An X3 xDrive 30d can do it a full second faster. But how it gets there is what sets the iX3 apart. Just as an electric fan can spin at the set rate with just the click of a button, the electric motor on the iX3 can deliver all 400Nm as soon as the pedal hits the metal. It bursts off the line with an urgency that beggars belief. And it all happens without any sound, vibration, or drama.
Couple that with a stiff and disciplined chassis, and the iX3 is able to provide a fun and exhilarating experience. So much so that it feels like a tall estate car when you start to really throw it around. The car is quite stiffly sprung so it does not ride bumps as gracefully, but again, that’s what you expect of a sporty BMW. The steering is sharp and beautifully weighted in Sport mode, but does lack a bit of feedback.
As for range, BMW claims it can go as much as 460km between visits to the outlet, but I only managed to drive 203km (a combination of city and highway kilometers) and drain 66% with battery regeneration clicked to the max.
At this rate, I would have run the battery dry in just 305km. But that’s me throwing range anxiety out the window and indulging my addiction to instant acceleration every chance I get. I headed for the DC charger at Shell Mamplasan, which charged the batteries from 33% to 83% in just half an hour, giving me an additional range of almost 200km.
A hallmark of luxury these days is the amount of electronic wizardry that a car comes with. In this regard, though, the iX3 M Sport is also quite sparsely equipped. The iDrive system is now capable of integrating smartphones via wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
It can be controlled via the touchscreen or the rotary dial beside the shifter. The gauge cluster is fully digital, too, and is endlessly configurable. The list of driver aids onboard is a little short, though. No blind-spot monitors, no adaptive cruise control, no cross-traffic alerts, no 360° cameras—which could be disappointing to premium buyers, especially considering the P4,990,000 price tag.
I’ve been putting this topic off, but I guess there’s no escaping it now. Let’s talk looks.
The iX3 is based on the X3 LCI or, in simple terms, the face-lifted model. BMW has sharpened the front end, and given it a more aggressive stare. Being an M Sport, it comes with M badges on the fender, M door sills, and of course, shadow line trims (black window trim and roof rails instead of chrome or silver).
Also standard is BMW’s Aerodynamic Package (or Aerodynamik Paket as the Bimmer suckers like to say). Blue accents on the grille, the front bumper, and the rear diffuser identify the iX3 as a BEV. And although the iX3 is made in the Middle Kingdom, build quality is nothing short of immaculate.
The result? Well, it looks quite good, but I have this nagging feeling that BMW has set the bar so low with the ostentatiously large grilles on the M3, the M4, the 2-Series Active Tourer, the 7-Series, the X7, and the XM that we just take what we can get when they make a slightly less laughable front end.
The kidney grille may not be XL-sized here, but is still disproportionately large compared to the rest of the car. The 19-inch BMW Style 842 wheels wrapped in 50-series Yokohama Advan Sport tires aren’t what you would call handsome, too.
Maybe this shape and size are the best for efficiency, but not exactly for aesthetics. The styling is a little dated in my humble opinion, and the gloss black in contrast with the polished edges looks a little tacky to me.
For an electric car, the iX3 is quite simple. No vegan leather made of the finest onion peels sourced from only the most prestigious cruelty-free farms, plastics made with shampoo bottles touched by Arctic seals, or any of those things. Instead, it is a current BMW with an electric motor, and maybe you can fault it for not having a frunk, two motors, or some degree of self-driving capability as most EVs have. But I think it’s better for it. It doesn’t disillusion you into thinking you’re stepping into the future. It’s something you can immediately see yourself in right now, which makes the iX3 so easy to embrace.
And if anything, the iX3 M Sport is proof that BMW and the electrified future are not as bad as we like to believe they are, and it’s about time we stopped talking about them in such dreary, woeful tones.
BMW iX3 M SPORT
|Engine||Three-phase AC synchronous motor|
|Transmission||Single-speed reduction gear|
|Dimensions||4,734mm x 1,891mm x 1,668mm|
|Upside||Still the BMW many people know and love despite the futuristic drivetrain.|
|Downside||Charging stations are expensive at the moment.|