Five Takeaways from BMW Group's Electrified Drive

James Wong
23 Dec 2021
 

As we assessed the current EV fleet of BMW Group over the day, we also had a chance to do something meaningful along the way by shopping for items to donate to Food from the Heart.

OneShift was invited to sample BMW Group’s entire range of electrified vehicles - the Mini Electric, the BMW i3S, the iX3 and the newest iX - at its Electrified Drive event. The iX was the star of the show being the latest ground-up EV to come from BMW, and we got some decent drive time behind the wheel to share with you some first impressions. 

 
It’s quite a milestone, since the last ‘proper’ BMW EV was the i3 that came to the market circa 2013. Since then, it has taken almost an entire model life cycle (~8 years) for the iX to arrive, no doubt spurred by the rush of interest in EVs in the last 1-2 years. 
 

As we assessed the current EV fleet of BMW Group over the day, we also had a chance to do something meaningful along the way by shopping for items to donate to Food from the Heart. Initially, I wasn’t looking forward to it (grocery shopping scares me) but having been through the process I was really grateful we did it. 
 

In the interest of keeping your attention span livewired, here are our five quick takeaways: 

1. The iX heralds in a new era in BMW. 

Built with a high proportion of recycled materials (secondary aluminium, recycled plastic) using locally sourced renewable energy, the iX is BMW’s peace offering to Greta Thunberg. Conceived from the ground up as a purely electric vehicle, it introduces several BMW firsts: BMW Curved Display, Shy Tech, a self-healing kidney grille and new iDrive with OS8, among others. Expect these innovations to filter down to the rest of the BMW i range in time to come.  

2. Even though the iX3 is not built on a bespoke EV platform, it can hold its own extremely well. 

Being built on a platform that is also used for internal combustion engine (ICE) drivetrains means the iX3 can’t boast about the benefits of a bespoke EV chassis - like having a frunk (awkwardly, the iX doesn’t have one either). But it is only 0.7 seconds slower to the iX xDrive40 despite having one less electric motor, manages a very usable 460 km WLTP range and has looks that will draw appreciative, rather than quizzical, glances. Driving both the iX and iX3 back-to-back, it’s astounding what BMW has achieved with the iX3, which may also explain why it’s OneShift’s Car Of The Year 2021.  

3. The best drivers’ car of the range? The i3S. It’s aged well. 

I didn’t expect this either. But when I took it for a spin I was immediately brought back to that pivotal moment in 2014 when I first tried the i3. It had a clarity to its controls that’s spellbindingly precise, surprising turn of speed and an exterior and interior that still looks modern 8 years on. Now there’s more range, but it’s still at the low end of what’s expected these days. The ride is also giggly and could do with more composure. Still, a drive along 99 bends confirmed that those narrow tyres are no indicator of what the i3S is capable of. Agile, responsive and beautifully balanced, it’s the best drivers’ car here pipping even the smaller Mini Electric. 

4. Mini suits electric, who would’ve thought? 

The Mini Electric borrows its drivetrain from the i3, so suffers the similar below average range. But it’s refreshingly fun, being perhaps a little less thrilling than an ICE Cooper S in a straight line but retaining all those magical touch points like the meaty steering feel, the go-kart like handling and a funky interior. The panoramic roof is a huge ambience lifter, too. The comparatively old-school technology inside is actually a plus as the car feels familiar and approachable. 

5. A thorny issue: the iX is attracting more than its fair share of tax.

BMW rates the iX xDrive40 at 240 kW from its two electric motors, but the LTA added the power produced from each motor (front: 200 kW, rear: 190 kW) together to derive 390 kW. The obvious problem here is the iX attracts $4,888/year in annual road tax which is $2,346/year more than it should, according to BMW. All car manufacturers offering cars with dual motors are facing this issue right now, which is a shame. For reference, an equivalent ICE car like the X5 xDrive40i producing 250 kW is being taxed at only $2,384/year.

Bonus: quick drive impressions of the BMW iX.

The iX looks like nothing else on the road, not even a BMW. There’s an unfamiliarity to it that further extends into the interior, which overwhelms with its technology. Simple tasks like checking the odometer readout fumbled both my drive partner and I, now both officially classified as neanderthals. Setting up Android Auto also seemed to take a fair bit more time than usual, and the buttons for the sunroof’s electrochromic shading aren’t intuitive. 
 

But appreciate it in its entirety, and it is a rather beautiful place to be in. The seats are plush and have just the right amount of softness, while the cabin seems intentionally spread sideways to give more elbow and shoulder room. The driving position is high and the view out is great, but it can feel like being on the car rather than in it. There are some interesting details if you search for them, like the ambient lighting strips where the doors meet the windows, the jewel-like seat adjustment controls and buttons integrated into a wood panel. They all add up to make the iX feel like it has been set apart from a typical BMW project, but it can feel slightly superfluous. 
 

On the road, the iX actually feels fairly familiar, apart from the squarish steering wheel. Its electrically excited synchronous motor (ESM) technology means power is delivered in a linear, predictable fashion, in stark contrast to some EVs where the throttle is just an on/off switch. It feels fast, but never rapid, and frankly the supposedly lesser iX3 doesn’t seem that far off. A highlight is the ride comfort; it was so serene that I was convinced the car rode on air suspension, but it wasn’t. Noise suppression was also impressive - it is simply whisper quiet although some distant sounds do get let in occasionally, presumably due to the frameless windows. 

 
When the i3 first came out it really deserved a “wow” for being a truly groundbreaking car. The iX isn’t really like that, feeling far more conventional than its outlandish looks would suggest. That may be a good thing, for the i3 was so odd it just became a niche car for a select few. The iX should be able to convince many more buyers with its vogue SUV form and agreeable manners.  

 


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