New BMW iX vs new BMW iX3
The BMW iX takes a clean-sheet approach to facing the future, but does that make it a better electric SUV than the less radical iX3?...
NEW BMW iX xDrive 40 Sport
List price £69,905
Target price £69,905
This entry-level version of BMW’s electric flagship gives you a seriously plush interior and all the latest tech that BMW has to offer
NEW BMW iX3 M Sport Pro
List price £63,970
Target price £63,970
The iX3 is based on a combustion-engined model, but it shines as an electric car and has just been updated inside and out
In the fictional Pokémon realm, Mewtwo is a creature that has been genetically engineered to be the best – a species designed from the ground up to specialise in fighting. Conversely, most other species in the realm weren’t born to fight; they evolved and became moulded by their trainers, becoming fighters over time.
A niche reference, but relevant here, because the BMW iX and BMW iX3 have a similar relationship. One was designed from scratch to be the very best electric SUV, while the other is an evolution of a fossil-fuel drinking large SUV, its traditional engine replaced by a battery and an electric motor.
It stands to reason that the iX’s conception as an electric car should be an advantage; it isn’t held back by the compromises baked into the less specialised iX3. But that laser focus doesn’t come cheap, and even in this entry-level Sport trim, the iX will set you back more than the top-spec iX3 M Sport Pro that we have here.
So, what will it be? The cutting-edge bespoke electric car or the cheaper but potentially just as capable reborn old-timer?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
When it comes to straight-line speed, it’s hard to distinguish between the pair without a stopwatch; both feel mightily quick from behind the wheel. That’s hardly surprising when you consider that the iX has 322bhp to play with and the iX3 282bhp.
This, of course, gives the iX a 40bhp advantage, plus it has the benefit of four-wheel-drive traction, unlike the rear-wheel-drive iX3. So why, you might ask, is the iX just 0.4sec quicker to 60mph than the iX3 (6.0sec versus 6.4sec)? Well, the answer is simple: weight. While the iX boasts a supposedly lightweight carbonfibre-reinforced plastic and aluminium structure, it still weighs 110kg more than the iX3.
The weight difference also has a small but significant impact on efficiency. After charging both cars to 90%, we drove a route that included simulated motorway, country roads and town driving (at our test track so traffic wouldn’t influence the results), and the iX’s trip computer showed that it had covered 2.6 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh), versus 2.7 miles/kWh for the iX3. That might seem like a tiny difference, but it becomes more significant when you factor in that the iX has to make do with a smaller battery than the iX3 (71kWh versus 74kWh).
That means the iX’s theoretical range, on a mild day like the one of our test, is just 184 miles – around 15 miles less than you’ll manage in the iX3. Of course, we’d expect those numbers to be slightly higher in the summer, but they’re still fairly disappointing, especially in the case of the iX.
Better news is that both cars are a pleasure to drive. Dive into a corner and they grip tightly. The iX3 has a trump card, though: adaptive suspension. This automatically adjusts itself to suit the road surface and the way you’re driving, meaning the car can, in effect, prepare for quick changes of direction. This helps it to stay more upright than the iX through tight twists and turns. However, BMW insists there’s no way to manually stiffen or soften the iX3’s suspension, like there is in the majority of its other models with an adaptive set-up.
And when you drive more calmly, the BMW iX3 remains the better of the two. Regardless of whether you’re in town or on the motorway, the BMW iX feels less settled; its firmer suspension causes it to shuffle around a little more over bumps and undulations. Don’t get us wrong, it’s far from uncomfortable, but it’s outclassed against the more controlled iX3. It’s a real shame air suspension isn’t an option on the xDrive40; the more expensive xDrive50, which gets air as standard, is one of the comfiest EVs you can buy.
It’s an even more disappointing omission given that the iX is much quieter than the iX3 on a long drive; it almost totally insulates you from wind and road noise, even at motorway speeds. That’s not to say that the iX3 is loud; its only weakness is a little wind noise from around the door mirrors. It’s just that the iX is one of the quietest EVs we’ve ever tested.
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