BMW NZ wired for iX3

The iX3 points to the next BMW-badged electric car the brand hopes to release in New Zealand.

ONLY the extremely slim potential that it might yet be restricted to left-hand-drive or that production timings might change is keeping BMW New Zealand from absolutely confirming that an all-electric edition of its X3 revealed to the world yesterday will be on-sale here within 18 months.

This from the brand’s local spokesman, who today acknowledged that the iX3, though revealed to the world yesterday as a concept at the Auto China motorshow in Beijing is essentially the car that the Auckland-centred national distributor very much wants.

The logic for having it is strong: This next chapter in the ‘i’ car story is the one that could present much stronger retail opportunity than the i3 city car and i8 sports coupe already here.

With SUVs now outselling all other car types in the NZ market, might also be expected to run hotter than BMW’s other impending wholly EV initiatives, a new Mini model arriving next year and the iNext, which will likely be badged the i5, that is expected to hit the world’s roads in 2021.

To have a technology that remains of rising importance to New Zealanders contained in a car that places in the hottest new vehicle sales sector – and is destined, in orthodox form, to perhaps become the local franchise’s best-seller – “well, we’d be mad not to” said Paul Sherley when asked for comment on the iX3.

A driving range of 400km and ability to recharge in as little as 30 minutes will give the iX3 good standing in the EV sphere. It also makes brand history as being the first fully electric version of a BMW car also designed to run fossil-fuelled powerplants.

Until now, BMW has restricted to providing such product with hybrid drivetrains, these being designated by the ‘e’ badging regime: The 3-, 5-, 7- and X5- series product already offers with ‘e’ editions here.

It is not known if BMW will develop a X3e, Sherley says.

iX3 is the next step in BMW’s plan to produce flexible vehicle architectures allowing front-, rear- and all-wheel drive as well as internal combustion, plug-in hybrid and battery EV on any models.

BMW NZ has put its hand up to being an early adopter, with Sherley reminding that it has committed intensively already to low-emission vehicle tech.

“We’ve committed to launching all electrified models that become available to us, and especially in a vehicle such as X3, we are incredibly keen to have this model locally.”

Munich has confirmed that the SUV’s drivetrain is the same that will go into the iNext. It also says it uses the fifth generation of its eDrive electric drive system with a motor producing more than 200kW.

The company says the electric drive technology groups the electric motor, transmission and power electronics in a new separate drive component. The new tech is claimed to improve performance characteristics, weight, packaging space and flexibility.

The energy storage system has a new charging control unit that can be connected to fast-charging stations that generate up to 150kW, allowing for a 30-minute charge.

The high-voltage battery has a net capacity of more than 70kWh, ensuring a driving range of more than 400km on a new testing cycle about to enabled. This is the so-called World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test, which supplants and improves upon the New European Driving Cycle, mainly because the testing regime is less lab-based than real world. By comparison, i3 BEV has a range of 235-255km on the WLTP cycle.

This is pretty much all the technical detail Munich intends to provide at this stage – there’s not even a hint as to the transmission type, whether the iX3 is driven by two wheels or four, or if it has any off-seal aptitude.

BMW is not discussing where the production edition will place, price-wise, or what rivals it will be challenging, though the Tesla Model X that is already on sale here and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQ, Audi e-tron quattro and Jaguar i-Pace would all seem probable competitors.

The car’s debut in Beijing is logical; China is the world’s fastest-growing EV market and BMW has also announced that Chinese joint-venture partnership BMW Brilliance Automotive will build the production edition at its Shenyang, China, plant. It is unlikely this will be the sole production source.

To distinguish from the fossil fuel-dedicated X3 editions, the iX3 has i-car design hallmarks, notably a closed double-kidney grille with blue accents surrounding the grille and BMW logo, as well as running along the side skirts and rear apron. It also features unique aerodynamic light-alloy wheels.

BMW has not revealed any interior images.