BMW iX3 driven: perhaps the most sensible premium EV SUV.

With a range of over 450km, the BMW iX3 might well hit the sweet spot for those looking for a premium EV in Singapore.

Singapore has easily one of the toughest and most challenging car markets on the planet. The stratospheric taxation for cars and the resulting eye-watering prices are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg…

If you’re looking to make the switch to an Electric Vehicle (EV), you may be in for a shock when the time comes to renew your car’s road tax. While the road tax for Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars is calculated on the displacement, EVs sold here are taxed on their power outputs. 

This is probably why it will be extremely unlikely that you will see a 761kW (1,020hp) Tesla Model S Plaid on the streets of Singapore any time soon. In case you’re wondering, its owner would be relieved of over $11,000 a year just to pay for the road tax. 

So obviously, the key then, is to shop for an EV with a low-ish output to keep running costs to as reasonable as possible. The problem here, however, is that EVs with more modest outputs tend to be found at the entry end of the spectrum. This means its owner would also have to put up with entry-level infotainment, features, refinement, and possibly even safety. 

just right for Singapore.

This however, is set to change with the BMW iX3 that has just been launched in Singapore, which we were also lucky enough to take out for a test drive one afternoon. For starters, this EV is based on the BMW X3 which has been well established. In fact, it is the German carmaker’s best-selling model worldwide. 

The iX3 completes what BMW calls the “Power of Choice” in that its customers can choose between petrol or diesel ICEs, Plug-in Hybrid Electric, or a full-time Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) which is what this car is. 

This also means that the iX3 offers much of the BMW X3 experience and possibly more…

To give the iX3 some character and also comply with EU safety regulations, BMW commissioned Hollywood soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer to create a signature noise to entertain the occupants and warn pedestrians that an EV is coming their way. 

The result sounds like a combination of a space ship and a bear to this writer’s ears. 

What is also apparent is the way this car effortlessly accelerates. Even with Herr Zimmer’s soundtrack, which thankfully isn’t too intrusive, the iX3 catapults its occupants with 400Nm of torque in an instant. Be careful folks, this car is capable of reaching three-digit speeds all too easily.  

Priced from $251,888 with COE, the BMW iX3 finds itself just below a segment with similar models such as the Audi e-tron 50 quattro, and the Mercedes-Benz EQC.

In the company of the 312hp Audi e-tron, 408hp Mercedes-Benz EQC, and while we’re at it, let’s not forget the 400hp Jaguar i-Pace which easily crosses the $300k price point, the BMW only seems out-gunned on paper. 

In reality, the iX3 has enough power to keep up with its uppity friends and the $50k or so savings makes it easy to look past the lower output, and lack of all-wheel drive. Yes, it might be an SUV, but the iX3 is rear-wheel drive only. Happily, BMW has long since abandoned its 50:50 weight distribution ethos in favor of a rear-biased 43:57 split. This helps the BEV X3 feel a little lighter on its feet than other variants with a heavy engine under their bonnets that sully their steering feel. 

The 286hp BMW iX3 however, falls somewhere between its Continental counterparts and the 201hp Lexus UX 300e which sells for $248,800 with COE.

One car that is impossible to ignore however, is the Tesla Model 3 even if strictly speaking, the American EV is a sedan, rather than SUV. With the Model 3 Standard priced at $80k less than this BMW, it makes for a compelling alternative. 

One thing that the BMW iX3 has in common with the Tesla Model 3, is that they are both made in China. This however would probably hardly matter to all but the most fastidious purists.

The build quality of the iX3 is as good as any X3 that rolls out from BMW’s US assembly lines in Spartanburg, South Carolina so in the long term, I doubt there’s anything to worry about. 

responsible EV practices.

Ever since BMW’s i EV sub-brand was announced more than 10 years ago, its ethos of making zero-emissions sustainable mobility a reality doesn’t just stop at its cars that don’t run on dinosaur juice.

Instead, the carbon footprint of its cars are made as small as possible right from the manufacturing process where its factories run on renewable energy and materials which are sourced from certified suppliers that use ethical practices to produce raw materials needed. So you can take heart knowing that the cobalt in the iX3’s batteries wasn’t mined by child labour for example. 

In this vein, the iX3’s motor does without magnets or rare earths. 

what about the battery?

A 74kWh lithium-ion battery resides beneath the iX3’s floorboards that consists of 188 prismatic battery cells which BMW claims is a more space-efficient shape and features a higher energy density. The 210kW (286hp) electric motor that powers the rear wheels sits somewhere over the rear axle. This flat and compact powertrain means that neither passenger nor cargo space is compromised. 

This is enough for BMW to claim an operating range between 450 to 459km for the iX3. This, incidentally is usefully longer than the Audi e-tron (336km), Mercedes-Benz EQC (423km) or even the Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus (448km). 

Although AC charging is capped at 11kW, which means the iX3 would need 7.5 hours to fully charge its battery from empty, it is capable of DC charging at a rate of up to 150kW. When these charging speeds are available, it would take just 35 minutes to charge its battery from 0 to 80%. For the time being however, 50kW public chargers are more common and would take 1.2-hours for the same charge. If you can find a 100kW charger, the charging time drops to 50 minutes. 

who is the iX3 for?

I have to keep reminding myself that the iX3 is based on a platform that is shared with the other X3s rather than being built from the outset as an EV. This in turn, makes it feel somewhat more car-like than some other EVs we’ve driven. 

This is reflected in the way its drives as well. One of the more polarising aspects of driving EVs is the one-pedal operation. Previously, lifting off the accelerator pedal in an EV would cause it to slow down immediately as the car tries to recuperate as much energy as possible to charge its battery. In the iX3, this function can be adjusted or set to Adaptive mode where the system takes location, driving speed and the proximity of other vehicles into account and varies the level of deceleration accordingly. This results in a more intuitive experience where the driver doesn’t need to change their driving style for a smooth, jerk-free progress.

On one hand, this makes the transition to EVs a lot easier to get used to for some. However, there are others – this writer included – who like their EVs to feel like they’ve stepped into something from the future. BMW’s first production EV, the i3, had that otherworldly ‘wow’ factor which got us excited about EVs. Passersby’s would even whip out their smartphones to take pictures of it. 

They’re unlikely to notice the iX3 in the same way unless they are clued in to the blue accents and stylized grille to recognize that this is a battery-powered BMW. 

Still, perhaps it’s time that we should look at EVs with some normalcy now as they are quickly becoming more prevalent. The BMW iX3 is a sensible choice that brings with it a premium EV experience. Its $2,000 per annum road tax premium is a reflection of what a prudent choice it is compared to its competitors. 

need to know.

BMW iX3.

Power: 210kW (286hp) @ 6,000rpm electric motor

Torque: 400Nm @ 0-5,000rpm

Transmission: Single-speed, RWD

Top Speed: 180km/h (limited)

0-100km/h: 6.8 seconds

Battery: 232Ah, 400v lithium-ion

Capacity: 74kW

Range: 459km

Efficiency: 20.0 kWh per 100km

VES banding: A1

Charging: (10% to 80%)

DC 50kW: 1h 12min

DC 100kW: 50min

DC 150kW: 35min

AC 11kW: 7h 30min

Base Price: $251,888 with COE

Contact: Performance Motors Ltd

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sheldon trollope

Sheldon has a complicated relationship with EVs. He likes driving them, but also thinks diversity in powertrain technology is the best way forward. Oh, and he also enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

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