BMW launched the i3 and i8 with a ton of marketing around its “born electric” future back in 2013. That created quite a bit of buzz back in the day, but then the BMW i brand lost more or less everything that had been behind it. Electric vehicle hopefuls have seen their enthusiasm for BMW slowly go downhill as a result. Back in 2013, the idea was that BMW would roll out a series of fully electric vehicles. Whether you liked the i3 or not, next was supposed to be the i4, i5, etc. We were supposed to have a fleet of fully electric BMW vehicles to choose from by now.
Slowly, we learned that BMW’s electric team got trashed, BMW’s “born electric” plans had coffee spilled all over them (to the point that no one could tell which end was up), and BMW was intent on launching one boring plug-in hybrid after another. We went from being excited about BMW’s next electric model, to cautiously hopeful it would be coming soon-ish, to getting quite disillusioned with BMW’s delays and change of plans, to seeing BMW as a total failure in the electric transition. The company dropped the electron, big time.
At long last, the brand’s next fully electric vehicle is getting ready to hit the market. That’s the iX3. The question now is, how does the iX3 match up to our dreams? Also, how does it match up to the market in 2020/2021, especially the Tesla Model Y?
A few facts from a news release published this week before we get into that:
- the iX3 is being produced in China by the BMW Brilliance Automotive joint venture for the world (well, for China and Europe)
- commencement of production is on track for late summer
- customer deliveries are supposed to begin at the end of 2020.
“We are right on schedule with our BMW iX3 pre-production vehicles and will launch standard production in late summer, using state-of-the-art technologies such as custom installation of the new high-voltage battery and artificial intelligence for monitoring parts,” said Robert Küssel, BBA Plant Director Dadong. “We are also producing the fully-electric BMW iX3 and the BMW X3 with combustion engine on the same production line. This enables us to achieve high efficiency and flexibility in production.
The iX3, as you may have deduced with some heavy sleuthing, is based on the X3 fossil fuel platform. So, this still isn’t another born-electric-from-the-ground-up vehicle. I don’t see iX3 specs out yet, so let’s just use the X3’s for now, assuming they are similar.
- 186″ L x 74-75″ W x 66″ H.
- Cargo space = 62.7 ft³ with seat area.
Starting MSRP in USA for the X3 is $41,950, and in Germany it’s €46,300. The iX3 will presumably cost several thousand dollars more.
The iX3’s top competitor will most likely be the Tesla Model Y. Let’s have a look at its specs.
- 187″ L x 76″ W x 64″ H.
- Cargo space = 68 ft³ with seat area.
A Model Y Long Range starts at $52,990. Model Y Standard Range Plus production is expected to begin in early 2021. The base price will presumably be something like $44,990, or might go down to $42,990 since the Model 3 Standard Range Plus is now priced at $37,990. Similar pricing for the European market is expected since it should be produced for that market at Giga Berlin. Pricing may be several thousand dollars more than the US option, though, since that’s how things roll in Europe.
The Model Y also presumably has more cargo space than what the iX3 will have, has better infotainment tech, and I think is quicker than what we’ll get from BMW — the Model Y Long Range accelerates from 0–60 mph in 4.8 seconds and the Performance makes that sprint in 3.5 seconds.
And then there’s the matter of driving range on a full charge. The iX3 has a WLTP rating of 440 kilometers (273 miles) at the moment. The Model Y Long Range has a WLTP range of 505 km (314 miles), which is very similar to its EPA range of 316 miles. The Model Y Standard Range Plus will presumably have a range of about 355 km (215 miles)
There are still plenty of BMW fans around the world, especially in Europe and China, so I presume the iX3 will find a decent number of buyers. However, objectively comparing the iX3 to the Model Y on known and expected specs and pricing, it’s a hard case to make. Add in Tesla’s much superior infotainment system (believe me, I had a BMW i3 and now have a Tesla Model 3 — there’s no comparison), over-the-air updates, and Supercharging capability, and the comparison gets even more lopsided.
On the other hand, many people will have BMW dealers nearby who don’t have a Tesla service center within a convenient distance, and the iX3’s range looks more competitive with the Tesla Model Y’s range than I expected. Of course, if it ends up the iX3 costs as much as the Model Y Long Range, I take that back. If the iX3 base price somehow comes in at about the same as the Model Y Standard Range Plus, though, BMW has a competitor on its hands. I’ll admit that I’m pessimistic on this and expect the BMW iX3 to cost at least $50,000, but we’ll see.
The iX3’s powertrain is expected to be used in the i4 and iNEXT models starting in 2021. Let’s see what BMW can do with 2021 technology and a long-delayed attempt at another ground-up electric vehicle.