In being brutally frank about the new all-electric version of BMW’s latest X3 SUV model, Iain Robertson discovered that BMW’s attitude is gauged more towards name-dropping and status-enhancing, as the primary means to justify sky-high pricing.
It does appear that some carmakers are determined to gain some ground through being more transparent than they have been, with their potential customers. I am referring to Polestar in this comment, the intriguing offshoot from Chinese-owned Volvo, which is behaving a little like the British government at present. While it tells as many people as might be mildly interested of its future plans and (naturally) how great they are, it sneaks a few EV ‘boo-boos’ through the back door, in the hope that nobody of any consequence will notice. In my book, that is more of an opaque manoeuvre than one that can be seen through.
We all recognise that the majority of carmakers are investing in an electrified future. While there exists plenty of reasons for buyers steered into EVs not to be so enamoured by them, the main one being stupidly steep price-tagging that seeks to place a 30% minimal premium on battery technology that is not just old-fashioned but that is likely to be superseded by fresher developments the closer we get to the notional shut-off day for the sales of fossil-fuelled machinery. That could be a truth, by the way.
However, just take a look at how similar the available technology is; apart from Tesla, which is treading its own unique path, every brand and its dog is aiming at a (Tesla-promoted) 250-miles range, with an 80% charge replenishment taking around 30-minutes duration, when plugged into a public ‘super-charger’, or a 100% replenishment demanding a lengthy overnighter hooked-up to the proprietary wallbox in the domestic driveway. Apps that almost work and non-availability of working charging posts are common faults in the system. The performance aspects are largely the same, which means that the only real difference will lie in how each brand is styled, or perceived, and very few of them can meet their posted ranges, often falling shy by around 20%. There are several truths in that list.
Do those same carmakers believe genuinely that, even with a symposed sound quality foisted on their customers’ ears, through the stereo system, an other-worldly but samey ‘silence’ is going to manipulate future sales, in ways that a choice of four, or six (or more) cylinders and their well-timed musical accompaniment does today? Oh, sure, some buyers/renters might love bathing in little more than road noise but the car brands more renowned for their multi-cylinder cacophony, like BMW, will endure a substantial loss of interest, when they produce nothing, zero, nada, zilch…apart from a distant whirring, or whining.
The new BMW iX3 is listed from £61,900 in Premier Edition trim (from £64,900 for the Pro suffixed alternative of the two launch variants). While ‘Premier’ hints at US-originated ‘Premium’, perhaps ‘Pro’, which is an abbreviation for ‘Professional’, will appeal to the lofty ambitions that BMW has for its customer base? It is not the only application of the descriptive term used by BMW for its electrified X3, as the Driving Assistant Professional and BMW Live Cockpit Professional are highlighted features of the Premier Edition model that beg the question, ‘Why?’.
Standard features are good, when BMW provides them, even though a weighty catalogue of optional extras (at weighted optional costs) can lift the spec several steps higher, even though they carry very little value into subsequent residual ratings, at switch-over time. Twenty-inch diameter aerodynamic alloy wheels, auto tailgate, adaptive suspenders and a panoramic sunroof complete the ‘basic’ package. However, the ‘Pro’ version benefits from additional HUD, gesture control for the Harman-Kardon high-end stereo, park assist, auto headlamps and the Hans Zimmer developed sound effects.
As far as the electric bits are concerned, BMW plays clever, as the electric drive motor contains no rare earth materials, even though the lithium-ion battery pack is reliant on heaps of them. Still, it generates a BMW-familiar 286bhp and a whopping 295lbs ft of torque, which is accessible unusually across its entire performance range. In fact, its 0-60mph time is virtually identical to that of the petrol-fuelled X3 at 6.5s, although the iX3’s top speed is restricted to a notional 112mph, which allows the company to boast about its car’s up to 279-miles of range (truth, or dare?) that you can take for granted is somewhat closer to 230-miles, before the range anxiety weighs in! The recharge times are as stated earlier, although an emergency ‘shot’ can enable up to 62-miles in a mere 10-minutes…apparently.
Interestingly, the intensity of the Brake Energy Regeneration system employed by BMW is adapted to specific road situations using data from the Cloud-based sat-nav and the driver assistance sensors. When approaching a junction, or a vehicle ahead, recuperation is fully exercised but, on the open road, a coasting function is activated the instant the driver removes his foot from the throttle. As an alternative to adaptive recuperation, having selected ‘D’, a choice is flagged-up for high, medium, or low regeneration settings. Selecting ‘B’ provides a ‘one pedal’ driving experience, which becomes less unnerving with every use.
Potential acquirers can register their interest now, with BMW, although deliveries will not commence until summer next year, as long as we are not all locked-down by then and BMW has come to some form of mutually agreeable import arrangement with post-Brexit UK. As long as the profitable Bavarian giant can deliver reliable wheels (not its usual practice, it needs to be stated), there are sure to be some EV-motivated souls prepared to take the risk but unlikely to spend hard ackers on what might be their first EV, as a lease (rental) programme is likely to be the finance option of choice.
Conclusion: Bear in mind that a plug-in hybrid version of the X3, as well as both petrol and diesel alternatives, are available and might be the ‘safe’ option, until fresh developments are made in EV technology. You can rest assured that the ‘gnomes of Munich’ will be working on that, as you read this.