BMW Debuts iX3: iNext, Please

BMW revealed the production version of the iX3 crossover this week, adhering as closely to the 2018 concept as possible. More aerodynamic than your standard X3 and adorned with visual cues hinting at its status as a zero-emissions vehicle, Bavaria’s newest electric seems adequate transportation for those with modest expectations.

But this is supposed to be the first vehicle in the brand’s upcoming product offensive, a strategy aimed at helping it transition into the next Tesla or whatever fantasy scenario corporate leadership has deluded themselves into. Forget the i3 — this is what it looks like when BMW gets serious about electrification. That’s the marketing line being used to stir interest, at least. However, it starts to unravel a bit when you look at the vehicle’s capabilities and planned trajectory.

The iX3 will launch in the Chinese market first, with Europe not seeing deliveries until 2021. It uses the company’s flexible vehicle architecture, allowing it to be manufactured alongside hybrid and internal-combustion X3s in Shenyang as part of its joint venture with Brilliance Automotive. That likewise makes the model a swell opportunity to prove BMW’s commitment to the region, allowing it continued access China’s vast consumer market and affordable labor force.

That said, the rear-drive crossover isn’t worth writing home about. The standard four-cylinder or inline-six motors found in the X3 have been supplanted by an electric unit outputting 210 kW/286 hp, with peak torque coming in around 400 Nm (295 lb-ft). BMW estimates a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds with a range of 285 miles (based on the European WLTP test cycle) and an electronically limited top speed of 112 mph.

On paper, this makes the iX3 a worse performer than Hyundai’s all-electric Kona — which starts at $37,000. The BMW is said to retail around €69,000 when it drops in Europe.

Granted, it’s a larger vehicle and comes with a fancier emblem. But it doesn’t break away from other EVs in its own segment and will certainly be outclassed when Ford’s Mach-E goes on sale. The competition isn’t likely to weaken after that.

The iX3’s 80 kWh battery can be recharged swiftly, however. BMW estimated it takes just 34 minutes to regain 80 percent of its maximum charge if a DC fast-charging station can be found to utilize its 150 kW capacity. While not groundbreaking, it will help to make the model more livable as a daily conveyance.

If that doesn’t endear you to the car, you probably won’t have to confront it in person unless you’re a frequent traveler. While BMW wants to export the car globally from China, there are no plans in place to send it to North America at present. Even if that changes, we don’t imagine seeing more than a handful milling around select Californian cities before it’s replaced with something better (iNext perhaps) or just pulled off the market.

[Images: BMW]

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