First drive: all-electric BMW iX3

  • First drive of the all-electric the BMW X3
  • A promised range of 285 miles
  • Priced from £61,900, but genuinely excellent

BMW iX3 (2021) front view

The new BMW iX3 might effectively be an EV version of the popular X3 SUV, but it's a much-anticipated addition to the ranks of electric cars – as it's targeted at the heart of the SUV market. However, you're going to pay handsomely for one – the starting price is a cool £61,900.

However, the iX3 looks like you're getting a lot for the money. It packs cutting-edge technology, with the fifth generation of what BMW calls its eDrive system under a slightly modified X3 body. If you count the iX3 as an X3, then its introduction marks the first time a BMW will be offered as an EV and PHEV as well as petrol and diesel versions. To differentiate itself from the X3, the iX3 wears a different bodykit with a closed grille and flashes of blue.

It hits a market surprisingly lacking in compact electric SUVs (many are coming, though). Rivals will include the forthcoming Tesla Model Y, Audi Q4/Q3 E-Tron and Volvo XC40 Recharge. Expect smaller Mercedes-Benz EQ models to come along in the next year or so, too.

New iX3: the facts

The iX3 builds on EV technology that originally debuted in the BMW i3 – battery density has increased and charging capacity has improved. It's moved on significantly from the groundbreaking small BMW electric car, having benefited from seven years of further development.

Its motor powers the rear wheels and BMW says that it uses no rare metals in it, unlike other e-motors. The system is 30% more efficient (denser battery packs mean more charge stored in any given space) than in the company's existing EVs. The new style of dense battery pack will be used also in the forthcoming iX5 and i4.

Maximum power is 285hp and BMW claims a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 112mph. When combined with an 80KWh battery – of which 74kWh is used – the iX3 has a claimed 285-mile range. That range depends on a variety of factors, but can be increased by making liberal use of the regenerative brakes (which harvest energy when slowing down).

What's it like to drive?

This is the heaviest BMW X3, but it also boasts the best roadholding since the massive battery pack lowers the centre of gravity. At the same time, the deletion of the petrol or diesel engine and eight-speed transmission shifts the weight rearwards, thereby amending traction and handling.

The lighter front end transforms the steering which is full of feel and is extremely accurate, depending on speed, driving style and ambition. When driving quickly, the iX3 can be massively fun. 

BMW iX3 (2021) side view, driving

The braking system is excellent. While other systems are optimised for maximum recuperation, the iX3 puts a short stopping distance at the very top of its priorities. The pedal gives early and positive feedback, and repeat action won´t be punished with premature fading. This transparent no-compromise attitude extends to the drive mode calibrations.

Pricing and spec details

The Chinese-built iX3 is the second fully electric BMW, and is available to pre-order now. It's expensive though. Two versions will be offered at launch - the Premier Edition and Premier Edition Pro, which will be priced from £61,900 and £64,900.

The Premier Edition gets adaptive suspension, panoramic sunroof and adaptive suspension. Other goodies include electric front seats, wireless smartphone charging and 20-inch alloys. Equipment is generous, but it needs to be at this price.

What this means for you

The good news is that the BMW iX3 is efficient and dynamically up to scratch. So what exactly it is that enables this car to challenge - or perhaps even eclipse - its premium rivals? At the end of a long day, three assets stand out proud: superb handling that generate plenty of old-school emotions, a long range, and the low running and taxation costs that come with an electric car.

Further reading:

The Parkers guide to electric cars
The best electric SUVs 2020

BMW iX3 (2020) rear view