What Is It?
The X3 is BMW’s compact 5-passenger crossover which also happens to be the best-selling model in the BMW lineup. The X3 offers great performance in a stylish, usable package with a range of powertrains, and for the first time the German automaker offers this popular premium crossover as a plug-in hybrid. The 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e provides great fuel efficiency without sacrificing expected BMW performance.
BMW provided a 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e painted in Dark Graphite Metallic. The base price for this model is $48,550; our test vehicle came well equipped with options including an M Sport package, Executive Package, Dynamic Handling Package, Driving Assistance Package, Harman Kardon sound system and 20-inch M Double-spoke wheels for a total MSP of $65,020. This plug-in X3 is also eligible for up to $5,836 in federal tax credits. Competitors to the X3 30e include the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e, Audi Q5 TF Si e, Volvo X60 PHEV and Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring.
The 2020 BMW X3 carries the familiar styling found on all BMW X models — in fact, one could say the X3 looks like a miniature X5. With its bold kidney grille, sculpted hood and LED headlights up front along with dual exhaust at the rear, the hybrid X3 has the look of a premium performance crossover. The xDrive30e doesn’t look much different than the non-hybrid X3 — the only telltales are the charging port on the left front fender and the xDrive 30e badging at the rear. In fact, aside from these items there’s nothing to indicate the X3 is a hybrid.
Our test vehicle featured the M Sport option, which gives the X3 a sportier appearance with an aerodynamic kit and high-gloss Shadow Line roof rails. Optional 20-inch M Double-spoke bi-color wheels and M Sport brakes with blue calipers add to the overall look.
The X3 may be on the entry-level end of the BMW lineup, but the interior is like that of a premium automobile. A 10.25-inch touchscreen display is standard, as is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Both provide a high-tech feeling to this compact crossover. Over the years BMW has improved the iDrive interface dramatically, and the latest version is intuitive with physical buttons providing easy navigation.
Seats and doors of the 2020 BMW X3 in our possession for testing were trimmed in Cognac Vernasca leather, which contrasts well with the darker colors and matte wood trim. Front seats are comfortable, offering great support with heating and cooling available as well as multiple adjustments.
For a small crossover, the 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e has a surprisingly roomy rear seat. The second row has plenty of legroom even for taller adults, and headroom is expansive. Common for a vehicle this size the X3’s middle seat is slightly more cramped, although three could fit for short trips as needed. Rear climate controls as well as dual USB-C ports are a nice plus, and a panoramic sunroof eliminates any chance of claustrophobia.
The X3 offers plenty of cargo space, providing more utility than expected in a compact crossover. The floor is raised a few inches compared to the standard X3 — creating space for the batteries — and in most cases this shouldn’t cause incredible storage dilemmas. Fold-flat rear seatbacks can be released via levers in the cargo area, adding considerably more space.
Under the Hood
Powering the X3 xDrive30e is a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder engine producing 181 horsepower paired with an electric motor for a combine output of 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque — a 40-horsepower boost over the non-hybrid X3. The electric motor is integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission which sends power to all four wheels. The plug-in hybrid X3 has all-wheel drive as standard equipment.
According to the U.S. EPA, the electric-only range for the 2020 BMW X3 xDrive 30e is 18 miles; however, we found the crossover’s regen braking allows travel up to 25 miles without using the gas engine. The xDrive30e is rated at 60 MPGe when running on batteries alone, and 24 mpg as a hybrid. During our time with the X3 we averaged more than 50 mpg overall — a combination of hybrid and electric-only driving starting each day with a full charge. When the X3’s batteries were completely depleted, we were able to recharge with a standard 110-volt household outlet in about 14 hours — definitely an overnight task.
BMW gives the X3 driver the ability to exercise some control over how the hybrid system functions. When left in the default Hybrid mode, the X3 will only use the electric motor for motivation until the battery gets depleted or the driver’s right foot demands more power. Electric Mode will use only the electric motor, while Save mode keeps the gas engine running, which preserves and charges the battery for use in EV mode later.
On the Road
We’ve driven plenty of electric vehicles, but it’s still remarkable to drive a BMW crossover in complete silence. With a full battery charge the X3 easily stays in electric-only mode. And with some throttle restraint it is possible to accelerate at a reasonable pace. Even cruising at 70 mph on the freeway is possible using only the electric motor.
Without much difficulty we did most of our test driving using the electric motor alone. According to the trip computer, 103 of the 159 miles we drove were without use of the internal combustion engine. When the engine is needed for additional power, the transition to it is almost imperceptible to occupants.
Many car shoppers who opt for a hybrid are seeking improved fuel efficiency; the X3 plug-in does that, and has the added benefit of more power. With the X3 set to Sport mode, both engine and electric motor are engaged, and with its all-wheel-drive traction the crossover launches quickly. Acceleration is strong from a standstill or when passing at highway speeds. Sport mode also has the added benefit of charging the batteries, which provides more electric-only range for later use.
Although most X3s will never leave pavement, we ventured into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains with the X3 xDrive30e. The X3 feels surefooted on slippery gravel, and the ride remains relatively smooth and comfortable, even over washboard surfaces. Throughout much of the drive the X3 stayed on electric-only power — a wonderful experience of driving through the woods with the only perceptible sound being the satisfying crunch of tires on gravel.
Thanks to the plug-in hybrid powertrain, the X3 can now offer excellent efficiency to complement the impressive performance expected of a BMW. Add to this stylish design and a premium interior and the X3 xDrive30e makes a great option in the competitive premium crossover market. With the added benefit of a federal tax credit, the X3 xDrive30e makes a lot more sense than the non-hybrid X3; they cost about the same but the X3 plug-in brings more performance and better fuel efficiency. And for those who are looking to buy American made, the X3 gets manufactured alongside the rest of the BMW X lineup in Spartanburg, South Carolina.