Circuiting into the City: Driving the all-electric BMW G08 iX3

There’s no denying it, the automotive landscape is undergoing a strong undercurrent of change that is at once hopeful, intriguing and exciting. Building on their years of research and development since the i3, the iX3’s launch in Singapore also heralds the arrival of BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology.

With these rapidly evolving technological breakthroughs, we are finally entering an era where fully electric vehicles can be considered serious and viable mainstream alternatives to those running on internal combustion and thanks to BMW Asia’s kind invitation, we were presented the keys to their brand new iX3 for some early impressions with quick charge around town.

With the drive done, here are 5 reasons why we think you’ll want one.

1: The latest BMW i cars are no longer experiments and bring with them real-world usable range

There’s a lot of clever electrical wizardry going on underneath that familiar sheet metal all fizzing together to present to you a very useful effective driving range of 450-459kms. While I fully understand range on EVs are highly dependant on several factors (speed, weather, number of passengers), even if we discounted a sizeable 50kms off the official number, the iX3 can still make a run-up to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore on one single charge.

What this means in our local context is that for most drivers, you’ll only need to plug your car in once a week and depending on the facility, currently ranges between 1.5 hours on a 50kW DC public charger to 20 hours on a 3.7kW AC (16A) wall socket for a full 100% charge from 0%. With the supplied BMW wallbox, a full charge from nought takes 10 hours on a 7.4kW single-phase charger and 7.5 hours on its 11kW three-phase equivalent. With more powerful 100kW and 150kW chargers planned, the BMW iX3 will eventually be capable of hitting 80% of its battery capacity from zero in 50 and 35 minutes respectively, juicing you up for an approximate 350kms of driving.

While some of these numbers might sound daunting and even slightly discouraging, do also take note that in the context of real-world driving, it’s very unlikely you’ll be plugging in at such a low level of charge and even a quick 15 minutes splash of high powered 50kW premium electricity should be sufficient to send you on your way home. In the future, an even quicker 10 minutes of plug-in time into a 150kW charger will be capable of injecting an extra 100kms to your driving range, further soothing any anxieties you might have had.

2: The BMW iX3 is full of BMW’s latest tech

Being the first to feature BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology comes with it a number of other “firsts”. The iX3 is the first to use an Electrically-excited synchronous motor in its drivetrain, doing away with the usage of magnets. This highly power-dense and efficient motor (up to 93 per cent, in comparison to under 40 per cent for combustion engines) sits within a single unit housing also the transmission and power electronics. An innovative design that entirely avoids the use of rare earths in its manufacturing.

Mated to this integrated power unit is also BMW’s latest in battery tech, a modular system featuring 188 prismatic cells. Allowing for an Increased storage capacity of the battery relative to the installation space required and its weight. The cells themselves have a 20% improvement in energy to density over the batteries used in other vehicles within the BMW group up to now and contain 62% less cobalt per kWh while their modular structure allows for an easy exchange of modules in the case of repair or recycling.

The iX3 is also the first BMW to introduce Adaptive recuperation, an adaptive brake regeneration feature that comes on top of a selectable regenerative braking function. The Adaptive recuperation system varies the strength of the iX3’s braking force using live data from the navigation system and the driver assistance system sensors/cameras. Shrouding those brakes are a set of 20″ lightweight wheels which through the magic of aerodynamics, provide 5% less drag, adding an extra 10kms of range overall.

3. The iX3 comes (very) highly equipped

In addition to the aforementioned drivetrain and technological breakthroughs, the “Impressive” trim on all iX3s sold in Singapore come with an impressive list of standard kit.

BMW’s semi-autonomous driving aid Driving Assistant Professional, Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus with Surround View, their very well-calibrated voice-activated Intelligent Personal Assistant, Operating System 7 running on a 10.3in display with gesture control capable of pumping out 464W of music through a 9-channel 16 speakers Harman Kardon surround sound system, BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional with a heads-up display, Adaptive suspension, Adaptive LED Headlights, acoustically glazed front door windows, a panoramic sunroof and Vernasca leather trim just to name a few.

Yes, the iX3 comes rather well specced.

4 – It is everyday usable

Unlike certain EVs built on existing platforms, the iX3’s innovative packaging means it retains all the usability features associated with its rather accomplished petrol-drinking siblings with little drawbacks. Interior cabin space remains unchanged but there is a slight reduction of 40 litres in terms of boot space with the hidden storage under the boot floor no longer available (510 litres with the seats up, 1560 with them down). No, there is no frunk.

Building on the G01 X3’s platform also means the iX3 maintains the X3’s fantastic ride quality and, surprisingly, even though the iX3 has a lower ground clearance for better driving dynamics (179 mm compared to the ICE’s 204 mm) it still manages to retain the standard car’s 500mm water fording depth.

5. It has the “BMW” drive

Having quite a lot of seat time behind the wheel of a few G01 X3s, we’re happy to report that the iX3 retains the petrol variant’s sure-footedness and dynamic capabilities, and adding on top of that, its electrical drivetrain’s smooth unceasing flow of 400Nm. Unfortunately, AWD is no longer an option here but having power channelled out fully through the rear wheels on a BMW is not something we’re complaining about.

While 100km/h does come up in a respectable 6.8 seconds, there is a noticeable increase in weight that can be felt holding the car down (2260kg vs the xDrive20i/xDrive30i’s 1790kg) when hustling the car through long winding sections of tarmac. It isn’t shockingly fast like how some other modern EVs tend to be, rapid progress in the iX3 is instead exceedingly smooth and almost uneventful with an interesting low-pitched whir emanating in place of a more common high-pitched whine, surely thanks to that new electrical motor.

Engage sports mode though and Sci-fi fans will be in for a treat as Hans Zimmer’s Starship Enterprise-like soundtrack will fully come on song. While my fellow journalist pilot likens the tone to a vintage racing game, I thougt it resembled closer to how the engines in Star Trek sounded as they powered up just before hitting warp. The first time I heard the car accelerate with its Hans Zimmer voice, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I’m a fan.

With the plus points done, here are 3 reasons which I think might cause potential buyers some hesitance…

1. Residual values and future taxes

That payback comes duly in the form of a reduced ARF (Additional Registration Fee) value due to the EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI) and removal of the $5,000 minimum ARF fee, and the future lump sum EV tax to offset a (minimal) reduction in road tax.

With the ARF reduction taken into account, the iX3’s ARF drops to a potentially low range between S$30,000-S$33,000 (compared to the xDrive20i’s approximate S$50,000-S$55,000 ARF value). This significantly lower ARF on the iX3 will, unfortunately, have an impact on the rebates you will receive should you choose to deregister the car much later on in its life, while the aptly named lump sum tax will be introduced as a six-monthly tax for EVs beginning from 2021, starting at $100, then $200 in 2022, and $350 from 2023 onwards will reduce the road tax savings you might have enjoyed.

2. The local charging network is still not up to par (yet)
While there has been much championing and planning for an increased charging network, the fact remains that all these promises are still for the future and as it stands, currently, even with the iX3’s fantastic range, if you cannot plug-in at home, there just isn’t enough charging stations around the island (Easties beware) to avoid having to eventually plan your day around a charger. While this situation is still one that’s constantly evolving, I think it is worth noting.

Also, with multiple players now battling it out in the EV charging scene, the learning curve with having to deal with each and every energy provider’s charging network can be quite steep for those less technologically inclined. This process ideally needs to be streamlined across the board to make juicing up an EV as easy as topping up fuel.

3. It’s feels, almost ordinary
I know I’m pushing it a little but because the iX3 is built onto an existing platform that has been around since 2017, it perhaps doesn’t quite have the same amount of futuristic pizazz which other current EVs built of bespoke platforms might offer. While the iX3 is in no way an offensive looking vehicle, it does tend to look a little too familiar both outside and in. While this might actually be a plus point for some who prefer a less flashy aesthetic, it does feel a little less special than its high tech underpinnings suggest it should be.

That said, there is 1 important reason why you should consider buying an iX3…

1. The Price.
Yes, the price. The BMW iX3 with 6 years worth of servicing, a 5-year vehicle warranty, 8-year battery warranty and a BMW wallbox charger complete with installation fees thrown in, comes in (as of point of writing) at S$251,888. This not only significantly undercuts its main rival from Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz EQC, which starts at S$303,888, but also makes it the cheapest X3 you can buy right now, sliding under the less equipped xDrive20i xLine’s S$253,888.

Even after taking into account its lower ARF values and forthcoming taxes, the extremely well equipped technological showcase that is the BMW iX3 represents a very attractive proposition indeed and even a no-brainer when it comes to selecting a vehicle in this segment, not just an EV. While the incentives to get into an EV aren’t perfect yet, It does finally seem that being an early adopter finally has its rewards. The question now is, are you ready?

If you’re ready to take the plunge, head over to Performance Motors.

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