What is it?
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.