From £42,1407
Impressive SUV is made all the more appealing by the promise of low bills
20 August 2020

What is it?

No-one can accuse BMW of failing to offering sufficient choice. Not with the X3, at least.

With the addition of the X3 xDrive30e to its line-up, the German brand now provides buyers with four different types of powertrain for its third-generation SUV: petrol, diesel, electric and, as seen here, a combination of petrol and electric.

It’s an impressive achievement that has been made possible through the inherent versatility of the CLAR platform – a structure developed from the outset to support all four types of propulsion. It also brings the X3 into line with the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, both of which offer the same number of drivetrain choices when you count the related E-tron and EQC electric models within their respective line-ups.

The latest plug-in hybrid BMW is based around the X3 xDrive20i petrol. However, some significant engineering changes have taken place to allow it to offer electric-only running capability for up to 32 miles, together with combined consumption on the WLTP test cycle of between 117.7 and 134.5mpg – figures that qualify it for BIK-tax-busting average CO2 emissions of between 49 and 54g/km.

Up front, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine delivers the same 181bhp as it does in the conventional X3 xDrive20i, albeit with an additional 7lb ft of torque at 221lb ft. It’s supported by an electric motor, mounted within the front of the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, giving 107bhp and 195lb ft. This makes for a total system output of 288bhp and 310lb ft, which is channelled to each wheel via BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system.

To put this into perspective, the rival Q5 55 TFSIe delivers quite a bit more power (362bhp) but less torque (273lb ft), while the GLC 300e offers 316bhp and 516lb ft. Nevertheless, these outputs are sufficient, claims BMW, to provide the 1990kg X3 xDrive30e with a rather pacey 0-62mph time of 6.1sec and a top speed of 131mph, including a maximum of 84mph on the motor alone.

The electrical energy used to run the motor is sourced from a 12.0kWh lithium ion battery running at 354V and mounted underneath the rear seats, with the petrol tank relocated to a position beneath the luggage compartment at the rear. This means that boot capacity is put at 450 litres – some 50 litres less than that offered by conventionally powered X3 models.

Recharging, via a plug mounted under a flap in the front-left wing, is claimed to take 2 hours 36 minutes using regular 230V mains power.

Back to top

What's it like?

Inside, the X3’s elevated driving position affords excellent visibility and comfort. The multifaceted digital instrument display, infotainment screen and the optional head-up display of our test car provide it with an air of modernity, while the overall perception of quality is quite high.

With the motor able to provide propulsion on its own, the X3 xDrive30e sets off in a pleasingly smooth and near-silent manner in Comfort mode. Response is excellent, as is refinement. On light throttle loads at city speeds, the car remains under electric power, provided there’s sufficient battery charge, without having cause to rouse the engine.

Request further performance, though, and the petrol-burner is quick to engage. However, the transition process isn’t entirely seamless, as we’ve witnessed in rival plug-in hybrid SUVs.

With the two power sources working together in Sport mode, the X3 xDrive30e delivers convincing accelerative ability in its lower gears, as hinted at by its 0-62mph time, which is more than 2.0sec inside that quoted for the X3 xDrive20i. However, refinement takes a hit as a result. The engine is willing on a loaded throttle, but it’s also quite vocal at anything above 4000rpm. As such, the X3 xDrive30e is better suited to cruising in taller gears at lower revs.

You can choose to run on electric power alone by pressing a button on the centre console. To do so, though, is to accept that the battery charge will quickly be depleted at anything more than typical urban speed limits. There’s also a battery save mode that lets you preserve electrical energy for later by favouring the engine.

The added weight brought on by the motor and battery means the X3 xDrive30e isn’t quite as dynamically adept as its conventional petrol and diesel siblings. While its handling remains tidy, its body rolls more during cornering in spite of its firmer damping, and the overall ride isn’t quite as finely matched. BMW’s efforts to maximise energy regeneration also gives the brake pedal an overservoed feel.

This four-wheel-drive hybrid does, however, deliver outstanding traction and all-season appeal. It’s hardly a bargain at £48,505 but, by offering average CO2 emissions below the politically sensitive 50g/km mark, the X3 xDrive30e promises to provide company car drivers significant savings in taxes compared with its petrol and diesel siblings.

Back to top

Should I buy one?

Looking beyond this aspect, it’s also an excellent all-rounder, combining impressive real-world economy with solid performance, relaxed cruising qualities, secure handling and a driving range that can’t be matched by its electric sibling, the recently unveiled iX3.

If you can live with small the compromise in versatility brought on by its reduction in boot space and have easy access to electricity for regular charging of its battery, whether that’s at home or at work, it could just be the SUV for you.

Back to top

Join the debate

Comments
9
Add a comment…
Ski Kid 21 August 2020

Ghastly

Why can't Merc, BMW and Audi do half decent looking suv's bar the Macan which is the only decent German design. Saw an X7 the other day and had to laugh at it's level of pure ugliness.

harf 20 August 2020

Fuel tank behind rear axle ????

Be interesting to know what their fuel tank is made of and what protection has been required to locate it behind the rear axle.

I've noticed a few manufacturers having to do this to package the hybrid gubbins. And I think Alpine actually locate it in front of the dash, don't they.

I imagine a fair few hours and pounds of development have been spent to sign them off

The Apprentice 20 August 2020

Just spotted the boot shot,

Just spotted the boot shot, what a mess, big metal box sat on the floor, destroys the ease of loading with a huge step. When are some brands going to stop cutting corners with 'conversion jobs' on ICE cars and starting spending some cash on developing chassis meant for different powertrains. I am surprised they didn't try to get away with putting the battery in trailer and fitting the car with a free tow hook or in a roof box!

jason_recliner 21 August 2020

The Apprentice wrote:

The Apprentice wrote:

Just spotted the boot shot, what a mess, big metal box sat on the floor, destroys the ease of loading with a huge step. When are some brands going to stop cutting corners with 'conversion jobs' on ICE cars and starting spending some cash on developing chassis meant for different powertrains. I am surprised they didn't try to get away with putting the battery in trailer and fitting the car with a free tow hook or in a roof box!

This car was almost certainly developed to be compatbile with several energy storage and propulsion systems.  I doubt BMW didn't identify growth in EVs until a couple of years ago. 

The Apprentice 21 August 2020

jason_recliner wrote:

jason_recliner wrote:

The Apprentice wrote:

Just spotted the boot shot, what a mess, big metal box sat on the floor, destroys the ease of loading with a huge step. When are some brands going to stop cutting corners with 'conversion jobs' on ICE cars and starting spending some cash on developing chassis meant for different powertrains. I am surprised they didn't try to get away with putting the battery in trailer and fitting the car with a free tow hook or in a roof box!

This car was almost certainly developed to be compatbile with several energy storage and propulsion systems.  I doubt BMW didn't identify growth in EVs until a couple of years ago. 

I refer you to the pictures, apparently not.