Long Term Test Part One: BMW iX3
At the end of last year BMW launched a plethora of all-electric vehicles. To see what’s on offer Fleet & Leasing has taken delivery of an iX3, the EV version of the X3 mid-size SUV.
To put a few more details on record, ‘our’ iX3 is the Premier Edition Pro launch version which comes loaded with kit for a very competitive price.
BMW iX3 Premier Edition Pro
- £61,850 P11d
- 3.27 miles/kWh (official), 3.2 miles/kWh (actual)
- 2% BIK
Officially the range is 287 miles from a battery with a useable capacity of 74kWh. The electric motor, powering only the rear wheels, produces 286hp which means the car’s good for a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds.
Battery electric vehicles tend to fall into one of two categories, either cars that have been adapted from a diesel or petrol or ones that have been designed as an EV from the outset. The iX3 is in the first category. Often this means compromise as engineers try to fit batteries and motors into a space designed for an engine.
The iX3 is refreshingly uncompromised and normal, and it’s similar to the combustion engined X3 inside too with a big (510 litres) boot and very similar exterior styling. Only the more closed-off grille at the front and blue styling details give away the car’s EV underpinnings.
Dropping the iX3 in at the deep end and within days of the car arriving on fleet, it was treated to a 330 mile trip north.
While the official range may be 287 miles, the real-world range at motorway speeds in near-zero temperatures meant the range was more like 190 miles. Due to a combination of limited 100kW+ charging on route and no charge point at our destination, the trip required two 45 minute stops – rather than the usual single 20 minute stop, had we been in a diesel (or petrol).
With a max charge speed of 150kW, the iX3 can in theory go from 0-80% in 35 mins. On one charging stop we saw the car reach 140kW charging speed. A new ‘personal best’ thanks to Gridserve at Moto Rugby.
It’s worth noting that with the weather now warming up, that indicated range is now more like 230 – even on longer motorway runs.
Long Term Test Part Two: BMW iX3
BMW is on its A-game when it comes to technology and there will be more than one of the iX3 long term reports dedicated to in-car tech. However, what brings it home is the My BMW app that connects your phone to the car.
At a basic level it’s just like many other connected car apps, in that you can pre-heat the car, see the state of charge and, if it’s on charge, see how long it’s got left to get to 100%.
On top of this, there are a few functions that very few other have and some I’ve not seen on any other MyCarBrand app.
Want a detailed record of your charging history, with costs? It can do that (and download to a spreadsheet). Want to lock or unlock the car, it’ll do that.
To top it all off, the app has the ability to remotely activate the parking cameras to see what’s around the car. I love it because someone at BMW has clearly thought ‘they can’ fractionally before asking why.
I’ve yet to find a valid reason to look remotely at the area around your parked BMW, but I use it surprisingly frequently.
Of more use, but less interesting, is the app’s ability to clearly display not just the amount of electricity used but also the cost of electricity used. Most other apps won’t let you set the electricity cost for each charge, but the BMW one does. Very useful.
Long Term Test Part Three: BMW iX3
In the previous report we highlighted the iX3’s sheer volume of technology. Now it’s time to highlight two more really useful functions on the iX3.
The first is the built-in dashcam. The system uses all four of the parking cameras to record what’s going on around the car in the event of an accident.
Within the iDrive control system you can also set how long the recording lasts and, importantly how long before the trigger incident you’d like to record. In the Fleet and Leasing’s iX3 it’s currently set to 10 seconds before and 20 seconds after an incident. On top of this, a long press of the parking camera button also provides a recording.
The second brilliant function is the ability to use your iPhone or Apple Watch as the key for the car. It’s not something you’d use instead of the regular key and keyless entry, but if you were for instance, going for a run and didn’t want to take the BMW key (which is quite bulky), with you then you can use either your phone or watch to get back in the car. The phone can also be used to start the car, so you can leave your keys behind altogether if you want. You have to be a bit brave on the first go of driving off, leaving the key at home, because it feels mildly unnatural, but it’s worked 100% of the time.
Which brings me neatly to one point that’s rarely discussed in car reviews. The BMW has been totally reliable. This may not seem like news, but having run a few other tech-laden EVs from other brands, reliability (particularly of the infotainment systems) is not always a given.
Long Term Test Part Four: BMW iX3
No long term test would be complete, for me, without a full and proper test of the boot space. The reason is that this author has what some may consider too many dogs. And for the record, that’s four (only two pictured).
The on-paper volume is 510 litres behind the rear seats and under the load cover which is a competitive figure. But importantly for this tester, the boot is big enough to take a double dog cage that usually resides in the family 3-series Touring. While the iX3’s boot isn’t quite as long as that in the 3-series, the rear seat backs can be adjusted forwards and back to create a bit of extra boot space. The iX3’s boot is also wider than our estate’s which means you can fit extra dog walking clobber down the side. And to top it off, in the iX3 you can see over the dog cage, something you can’t do in the estate.
Even with the rear seats in their more vertical position, rear seat passengers are both comfortable (I’ve not heard any complaints) and roomy for both head- and leg-room.
Long Term Test Part Five: BMW iX3
We’re now more than 4,000 miles in to our time with the BMW iX3 and have got very used to longer journeys and using the public charging network to ‘refuel’.
We’ve quickly learnt to aim for ultra-rapid charging stations to make use of the BMW’s max charge speed of 150kW. While there are plenty of 50kW charging points around the UK, which are classed as rapid, using these means going from 20% to 80% full in about 45 minutes. However, we’ve seen close to 150kW on a few occasions at ultra-rapid sites which mean 20-80 in about 15 minutes for the 74kW battery.
When you’re on a longer journey, a 15-20minute stop is fine, but a couple of 45 minute stops is a drag.
While we’re talking about charging, it’s great having the charge point at the back (side) of the car so that you reverse into charging bays.
And as every fleet manager knows, this is the safest way to park.
What we haven’t quite worked out is how the official range can be 287miles if the official efficiency is 3.27miles per kW and the battery is 74kWh. If you multiply 74 by 3.27, you get 242 miles – which is roughly what the real-world range is.
Long Term Test Part Six: BMW iX3
Some features in cars you just take for granted right up until you jump into a different car and start to miss that option or technology. In the case of the FleetandLeasing.com long term BMW iX3 this has happened with the head-up display. Displays that beam info such as speed and satnav instructions on the windscreen are very useful and increasingly common. However, the BMW’s tech is noticeably better than many other systems. Mainly this is due to the brightness of the display – it can be viewed clearly even in full sunlight.
It not only provides your speed and satnav details, but also, when appropriate, info on incoming or outgoing phone calls, the current speed limit and information about which music or radio station you’re listening to.
While the head-up display is fantastic, there is also a weak point to the iX3 and that’s the lack of a storage space under the bonnet.
Most EVs have some sort of small stowage area where a combustion engine would have lived, but no the BMW. Pop the bonnet and there’s a large plastic panel. Peer underneath and there’s loads of space and lots of pipework, but no proper storage area. Seems like an oversight, maybe it’s something that could be addressed at a model-year update. Fingers crossed.
Long Term Test Part Seven: BMW iX3
For anyone that’s run a BMW in the recent past this may not come as a surprise, but if you’re not familiar with the brand, this needs to be said; the in-car controls are brilliant.
This obviously needs a bit more explanation. Let’s start with the iDrive control system. As a way of accessing the plethora of controls that are on offer in any EV, let alone one as clever as the iX3, there isn’t a better system. It’s logical, easy to get to grips with and keeps the number of ‘clicks’ to the minimum.
While the main control is a rotary dial (which is also a touchpad on top) you can also give voice commands or use the touchscreen.
As someone who thinks physical buttons still have their place in a car, BMW has kept all the key functions on buttons or dials. Need to turn the volume up; just rotate the dial. Need to turn on heated seats; just press the heated seat button. What’s more, if there’s a function you use regularly then what would normally be called the radio preset buttons can also be set to other functions. For instance, I’ve set button 7 to satnav, destination home. Better still, if you just lightly touch the preset buttons, the screen will tell you the function before you press to confirm your choice.
A neat and, if you’ll forgive the pun, clever touch.
Long Term Test Part Eight: BMW iX3
With Tesla opening up its much-praised network of superchargers to non-Teslas I thought that in the best interests of FleetandLeasing.com readers I’d best take the BMW iX3 to test the system.
Looking to answer questions such as ‘would it be simple?’, ‘would it work?’, ‘how much would it cost?’ and, of course, ‘would I get abuse from Tesla owners?’, I picked the return trip from the CV Show to give it all a go.
First up, I need to point out that with careful driving the BMW would have easily covered the 230 mile round trip on a single charge. In fact, I arrived at the NEC in Birmingham having covered 115 miles with a range of 140 still left.
However, I’d downloaded the Tesla app, registered and given my credit card details, so my initial step was to find a supercharger. It turns out, not all are available to non-Teslas. It seems that at this stage, the motorway sites are not available (probably too busy), but the supercharger in Banbury was and was at just the right point in my trip for a break.
When I arrived there were no Teslas charging and after much tapping of the app, it seemed the chargers were out of order.
I gave up and drove home, knowing I was doing a near identical journey the next day. This time I arrived and found one Tesla charging and about 11 bays empty.
Connecting and gaining electricity was very simple through the app. The only ‘issue’ the Tesla charge point cables are only long enough to reach as far as the rear nearside of a car (or front driver’s side). The BMW’s charge port is on the rear of the driver’s side. As a result I had to park in the bay next door, effectively hogging two spaces.
Chatting to the Tesla owner, he was very relaxed about non-Teslas also using ‘his’ network, so no abuse was forthcoming. Let’s hope this attitude is kept up and that the whole network is open to all soon.
Long Term Test Part Nine: BMW iX3
Well that will teach me to go on about the quality of the FleetandLeasing.com BMW iX3 long termer (see report seven).
Almost immediately after I wrote that update a message popped up on both the infotainment screen and the MyBMW app to let me know the car was subject to a recall.
Seems there was an issue with the software that controlled the aircon and battery cooling system and a trip to the dealer was necessary.
I’d had no obvious issue with the aircon other than noticing that on one occasion – when it was sensibly hot out – the cabin took a little bit longer than usual to cool down.
One phone call to Vines in Guildford – my local dealer – and the car was booked in (with a collect and deliver service) within a week.
The car’s now back, substantially cleaner that when it went in, and a few longer runs in warmer weather and everything is lovely and frosty cold.
Long Term Test Part 10: BMW iX3
When the BMW iX3 arrived it was darkest winter with cold temperatures, wet roads and long nights. All these points had an impact on the car’s efficiency and range – as it does with all electric vehicles.
However, now, in June, it’s the opposite. Warm weather, minimal rain and shorter nights mean the battery and overall efficiency of the car is at its peak.
Six months ago it would take all my eco-driving effort to get an efficiency figure of more than 3.0 miles per kWh (while still keeping the lights and heating on). Now it’s summer, it’s not uncommon to see 4.0 miles per kWh.
This is a seasonal swing you don’t see with petrol and diesels and is something fleets and businesses will have to factor in to their running costs as well as their operational requirements.
That 25% difference in efficiency translates directly into greater range, so rather than seeing 200 miles in winter, the iX3 will now easily cover 250 miles between charges.
Long Term Test Part 11: BMW iX3
Now that we’ve nearly at the point of de-fleeting the BMW iX3, it’s about time we ran through the costs in a little more detail.
First and foremost with an electric car you’ll want to know how efficient it is, because that has a direct impact the range. We’ve already covered off the swing between winter and summer range and efficiency, but what does that mean over the near 6,000 miles we covered in six months?
The trouble here is knowing exactly how much electricity we’ve used. My home wall box is out of its initial period where data is included. And being tight, I’m not paying (yet another) subscription to see this figure because I want to save money running an EV, not spend more. So, I thought I’d use the data from the My BMW connected car app. From which you can download a nice spreadsheet.
However, I seriously doubt its accuracy because using this, the average miles/kWh were just 2.6. The reason for doubt is that with a useable 74kW battery the range would be just 192 miles and I was getting that as a worst case in the winter but more like 250-plus for the majority of the time I ran the car.
It also contradicts the car’s trip computer, which I prefer to believe, at an average of 3.2 miles/kWh.
Doing the maths at this rate shows the cost per mile on 28p/kW home electricity is 8.75 pence a mile. It also meant my average range over the six months was a much more realistic 236 miles.
As for other costs, Gensen Reports has the monthly benefit-in-kind payment at £43, a monthly maintenance figure of £94 a month, class 1A NIC at £12 a month and Intelligent Car Leasing is offering a lease rate of £867 on a 3+36 basis with 10,000 miles a year.
Long Term Test Part 12: BMW iX3
Running the fully electric BMW iX3 on the FleetandLeasing.com fleet for the past six months has taught us that living with a battery electric vehicle is more than possible, it’s easy too. However, we’ve also learnt there are a few essential and desirables features we’d want in any future EV for our fleet.
Firstly, in six months, there was only one journey we opted to switch out of iX3 in favour of a diesel and that was on a 1,200 mile road trip to the north of Scotland and back. However, we did happily complete a 600-mile round trip holiday with the car fully loaded with only minimal extra time recharging over a petrol or diesel car.
And that brings us to the first essential point. The maximum charging speed of a car is vitally important if you’re going to be doing even occasional longer journeys. In the BMW’s case it will charge at up to 155kW if you can find a charge point with that capability. Going from 10-80% in around 30 mins is really useful on longer journeys. To give a reference point, at 100kW, that same charge would take more than 45 mins and at 50kW it would take well over an hour.
The next essential is a range that, even in cold weather, is at least 200 miles (at motorway speeds). In fairness the BMW iX3’s ‘worst case’ was 190 miles, but for us, that was enough for all the business meetings we went to. It meant you could get to your destination without having to worry about filling up on the way and if it really was that far, you’d only have to charge on the return journey when arriving on time was less of a factor.
Moving on to the desirable feature, the one opinion we came away with was that you don’t need (or really want) the super-quick, all-wheel drive, EVs because they’re not as efficient as the single motor cars that drive either the front or, in the iX3’s case, the rear wheels.
The iX3 was still plenty quick enough, but in our growing experience of other similarly sized rivals (with four-wheel drive) the weight saved translated in greater efficiency and more miles.
As for the regular car part of the iX3 it proved an ideal, premium experience for our needs, which were mostly a mix of business trips and dad taxi runs. Would we recommend the iX3? We most certainly would.