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BMW iX3 AND i4

The future is electric, and BMW is ushering us into the new world order with the electrifying i4 and iX3 models.

When BMW announced the BMW i8, the design and engineering were impressive, to say the least, but the car left several people baffled as to what its purpose was. While it looked the part, it was not remarkably quick compared to its internal combustion engine (ICE) siblings, and the hybrid benefits were lost on most of us. However, it was a vehicle well ahead of its time. Fast forward a decade and a bit later, and it becomes clear that BMW’s experiment with the idea of hybrid electric propulsion has matured to a point where they are confident enough to go fully electric. Enter the new BMW i4 and the iX3, the newest offerings from BMW’s full electric range. 

EVs That Don’t Look Like Concept Art

The new models represent BMW’s first foray into the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market. However, with numerous other manufacturers having entered the BEV market, it was imperative for BMW to create vehicles that retained their trademark qualities to make them stand out from the rest and keep BMW loyalists happy. This is evident in the design language of the new models. While the iX leans more towards the eccentric side, the i4 and the iX3 are decidedly more conventional and familiar, taking its cues from the ICE siblings on which they are based. 

The i4 could easily be mistaken for the 4 series gran coupé on which it is based. Considering how polarising the designs from some of the competitors have been, this represents a wise decision. The same goes for the interior, which is nigh identical to the ICE 4-Series, save for some changes that are more in line with the full-electric nature of the vehicle. The vehicle was designed to be immediately recognisable as a BMW, and BMW was successful in that regard. The same goes for the iX3, which was inspired by the BMW X3.

The iX, on the other hand, has a more adventurous design, perhaps even polarising, adding a prototype feel to the new all-electric SUV.

Reimagined… With a Touch of the Familiar

The familiar designs of the i4 and the iX3 betray the underpinnings of these models, which are based on the same CLAR platform as their ICE counterparts. This is BMW’s flexible platform designed to accommodate ICE, PHEV and BEV powertrains. While this strategy has the benefit of cutting down the production costs of the cars and consequently the selling price of the EVs, it has also proven to be challenging as far as driving dynamics are concerned.

EVs with a bespoke chassis tend to have better driving dynamics. However, BMW assured us that their engineers worked some German witchcraft and managed to retain the traditional BMW dynamics we have grown to love. This remains to be seen when we finally get our hands on review units. It is also crucial to note that these cars will be built at the BMW Rosslyn Factory in Pretoria. 

The First Fully Electric M Model

At launch, there will only be one version of the i4, the M50 performance model from BMW M GmbH, making it the brand’s first fully electric M vehicle. Of course, there is no engine here. Instead, the car makes do with one electric motor at the front axle and another at the rear to deliver a system output of 400 kW and a range of up to 510 km in the WLTP cycle. 

Given that emotive driving and driver engagement have long been the hallmarks of M models, BMW went to great lengths to ensure that the M50 delivers on the M promise of uncompromised performance. The M50’s battery pack has a cell height of only 110 mm and is positioned low in the floor, giving the i4 a centre of gravity that is 53 mm lower than the ICE 4-Series. The M50 also employs a self-levelling air suspension in the rear, lift-related shock absorbers, and adaptive dampers to ensure precise and predictable cornering. 

To those of us who will miss the traditional exhaust soundtrack of the ICE, BMW partnered with renowned Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer to design a soundtrack that matched the vehicle’s sporting characteristics. As movie geeks, we are keen to experience that in the flesh. The BMW i4 M50 is projected to have a starting price of around R1.6 million.

A Model for Non-Petrol Heads

Whereas the i4 M50 is focused more on emotive driving, the iX3 focuses more on easing the ordinary driver into the EV life. This SUV has a highly integrated drive system with the electric motor, transmission and power electronics all in a single housing. The power output is rated at 210 kW with 400 Nm of torque. This is good for a 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 6.8 seconds and a top speed which is electronically limited to 180 km/h. The BMW iX3 will have a starting price of R1,290,000.

Last Word

Humans naturally resist change, which explains why the EV movement has only gained traction at a slow pace. However, with the ever-increasing restrictions on emissions and the inevitable exhaustion of fossil fuels in the future, manufacturers have been left with no option but to adapt and explore alternative propulsion techniques. It is a truly momentous occasion to see a powerhouse such as BMW commit to the EV movement with a target of 50% of its total production to be EVs by 2030. We are also pleased to see the marque invest in retaining its notable driving dynamics, making the brand a popular name among petrol heads. With that said, we wait for the opportunity to get behind the wheels of these two models ourselves to see whether BMW has retained its soul.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © BMW South Africa

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