BMW iX3: Where's the spark?


ONCE upon a time, it seemed as if BMW was going to lead the way in electric cars, even going to the bother of establishing an 'i' sub-brand.

It started building the bold i3 in 2013, as notable for its cutting-edge construction from carbon fibre and aluminium as its excellent battery-electric drivetrain (there used to be a range extender model, but it was discontinued a couple of years ago).

The i3 was quickly followed by the plug-in hybrid i8, which still looked like it had driven off the set of Blade Runner when BMW ceased production a few months ago.

Since those i cars were launched... well, there's been nothing. In the meantime, Tesla has become synonymous with EVs and a bunch of other manufacturers have multiple EVs of their own. Polestar, Volvo's EV sibling, has made a very strong start, too.

BMW might have a range of plug-in hybrids that catch the attention of company car users but it gives the impression of effectively ceding the EV ground.

That the design of its cars - once an area where BMW was a paragon - now veers between the boring (3 Series), baroque (X7) and terrifying (the front of the new 4 Series...) merely adds to the bewildering state of affairs.

Anyway, the third 'i'-badged BMW will finally reach us from its Chinese factory next year, in the shape of this, the entirely underwhelming iX3.

By then, that shape will be getting on for four years old, for the iX3 is simply an X3 SUV with a battery and electric motor. Hardly in the same mould as the i3 or i8, is it?

The third 'i'-badged BMW will finally reach us from its Chinese factory next year, in the shape of this, the entirely underwhelming iX3 

And while rivals can be had with goodies like twin motors and four-wheel-drive, the iX3 makes do with one motor and rear-wheel-drive.

That bestows the iX3 with maximum power of 282bhp and torque of 217lb.ft. BMW says it can cover the 0-62mph sprint in 6.8 seconds. Range is said to be up to 285 miles on a full charge.

Those are all fairly par-for-the-course figures nowadays. It's hard to see what BMW has done with its early EV advantage.

The most interesting thing about the iX3 is that it debuts something called 'BMW IconicSounds Electric'. This, apparently, "provides acoustic feedback to enrich the electric driving experience by lending it emotional depth".

"Load changes are signalled by a smoothly modulated sound, and recuperation during overrun driving state is accompanied by a matching sound pattern," says BMW.

That's not the exciting bit, though. Hit the start/stop button and you will hear a "short sound composition" created by 'BMW sound designed' Renzo Vitale and none other than Oscar-winning genius Hans Zimmer.

And that, readers, might be the best part of the iX3.

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