Back to Normality: BMW Previews IX3 SUV Ahead of 2020 Launch

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

It’s been a while since BMW pushed out an all-electric vehicle. The i3 was launched in 2013 and things has been relatively quiet at Bavarian Motor Works ever since. However, the brand maintained that more i-badged vehicles would arrive once it gets EV production costs under control, stating that its next electric would be the iX3 crossover.

Arriving in Beijing this week in concept form, the vehicle looks refreshingly like a production model — with a few stylistic touches separating itself from BMW’s core fleet. You might even mistake it for a refreshed X3, and that’s kind of the point. For the most part, the company’s initial foray into electrification served to test the market’s willingness for such vehicles and act as a bit of a spectacle. That’s not to be the case with the new batch.

BMW wants the upcoming EVs to have more mainstream success than the i3 or i8, and normalizing them is a big part of that. That’s also the reason it chose to base the next one on the high-volume X3.

Due out for 2020, the iX3 looks to be competitive, too. BMW claims at least 270 electric horses and estimates about 250 miles of range (using the WLTP cycle). That effective operating area is slightly better than both the Jaguar I-Pace and base trim Tesla Model X, despite the iX3 possessing a smaller 70 kWh battery pack. It’s also capable of 150 kW fast charging.

Using BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, the electric crossover also obliterates the i3 in every area that doesn’t involve tight parking spaces. Presumably, that hardware will eventually migrate to that vehicle’s successor — which is rumored to be an electrified version of the X1 crossover called the iX1, tentatively slated for production in 2022. The iNext and i4 are also in the mix, although nobody seems to be able to pin down a timetable for either.

BMW is heading in a smart direction with its EVs, even if it’s not leading the charge for electrification. The iX3 retains a lot of the styling that sets the i-brand apart (black and blue trim, unique faux grille, etc.) while taking on the looks of its gas-powered brethren.

Since the vehicle is still a ways away from becoming a reality, BMW hasn’t confirmed price, but we already know they don’t want to slap consumers with a fine for going electric. That was one of its biggest concerns last year and a major reason why it didn’t pursue EVs more aggressively. It’ll definitely be more than the $41,000 X3, though.

Production should commence in China in 2020, with concrete specs arriving beforehand. However, we’re not expecting much change in the interim. BMW appears to have delivered a totally believable automobile with specs that seem totally possible within the next two years.

[Images: BMW Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • PartsUnknown PartsUnknown on Apr 26, 2018

    Let's see - an electric SUV with an auto trans, manufactured in China. This is - quite literally - the complete opposite of one of the best BMWs ever built, the E39 M5. The newest one is only 15 years young. Feels like a lifetime. I don't know, maybe this push for automated electric pods is an inevitability, but good lord...count me out. I agree with @conundrum above, where is the market for these? I live in a fairly wealthy town on the MA coast and not a single person I know even talks about these things. Crikey, they still think the Prius is a little weird.

    • See 2 previous
    • PartsUnknown PartsUnknown on Apr 27, 2018

      @mcs - actually I'm in Marshfield, where the full-sized SUV is still king. We have a Sequoia and an XC90. I guess I look at Tesla as an outlier, almost in a category of its own: they're an expensive, quasi-exotic car. One of my neighbors has a Model S, he loves it. His wife drives a Suburban. But still, when conversation with friends turns to cars, they are thinking about the next great pickup/SUV/crossover. In my post above, I was really referring to the seemingly inevitable electrification of mass market cars. I'm just not feeling it from the people I know. But, small sample size, yadda yadda. I just don't think I'm ready yet.

  • NeilM NeilM on Apr 26, 2018

    The problem is that this, and most other all-electrics, can't make a 2-hour each way highway round trip on a single charge. The first thing to do at your destination would be to find and use a charging station. This makes the whole thing a non-starter for many potential customers. The cost of an all-electric, already not low, becomes even less attractive when the range is essentially limited to a city and its immediate region.

  • THX1136 While reading the article a thought crossed my mind. Does Mexico have a fairly good charging infrastructure in place? Knowing that it is a bit poorer economy than the US relatively speaking, that thought along with who's buying came to mind.
  • Lou_BC Maybe if I ever buy a new car or CUV
  • Lou_BC How about telling China and Mexico, we'll accept 1 EV for every illegal you take off our hands ;)
  • Analoggrotto The original Tassos was likely conceived in one of these.
  • Lorenzo The unspoken killer is that batteries can't be repaired after a fender-bender and the cars are totaled by insurance companies. Very quickly, insurance premiums will be bigger than the the monthly payment, killing all sales. People will be snapping up all the clunkers Tim Healey can find.