Regular readers of my reviews know that I’m a fan of plug-in hybrids.
For people not yet ready to make the leap to pure electrics, they offer a set amount of pure electric range, which can be recharged at home or at a public charging station. After that range is used, the vehicles switch to a hybrid gasoline/electric power plant, which still delivers better mileage and lower pollution than a purely gasoline vehicle.
With enough pure electric range, you could, in theory, go months without using a drop of gas or putting a particle of pollution into the air, yet still be able to spontaneously jump in the car and drive hundreds of miles without stopping for anything other than fuel.
For 2020, BMW expands the X3 SUV lineup with its own plug-in hybrid, the X3 xDrive30e. But while the Toyota RAV4 Prime delivers 39 miles of all-electric driving on a charge and the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV 32, the X3 xDrive30e manages only 17.
Unless you have a short commute or have and use a charger both at home and at work, that’s a rather meager all-electric capability. And when you use that up, the hybrid, rated at 180 horsepower, returns an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 24 mpg combined, which is less than the gasoline-powered X3 xDrive30i, which does a combined 27 (24 city/29 highway). That’s extremely unusual for a PHEV.
Beyond that, the new BMW X3 xDrive30e is a BMW X3 with all-wheel drive. Which is to say that it’s an exceptionally well-built, well-appointed luxury SUV. The base price is $48,550. Among the highlights of the standard equipment at that price are 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, separate rear air conditioning, fog lights, heated mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers and navigation.
As with most European brands, the real money comes in the extra-cost options. In the case of our tester, that included the M Sport Design Package ($5,000), the Driving Assistance Package ($500), the Driving Assistance Plus Package ($1,700), the Dynamic Handling Package ($1,400) and the Executive Package ($4,500) featuring gesture control, head-up display, Parking Assistance Plus, Active Park Distance Control, Surround View with 3D View, panoramic moonroof, adaptive full LED lights, automatic high beams, ambient lighting, keyless access, heated steering wheel and lumbar support. Then add $550 for the Dark Graphite Metallic paint, $950 for an upgrade to 20-inch M double-spoke bi-color wheels with performance run-flat tires and $875 for an upgraded Harman Kardon surround-sound system.
With $995 destination and handling, the as-tested price for the BMW X3 xDrive30e is $65,020.
So, why should you buy this instead of the gas-powered X3 xDrive30i? Well, if you do have a short commute and ready access to charging – or limit your driving to such short runs on the Peninsula – there is a lot to be said for not using fuel and not polluting. But if BMW really wants to make a mark with PHEVs, it needs to at least double that pure EV range.
Mike Hagerty, vice president of membership for Western Automotive Journalists (waj.org), has been writing about cars since 1997. Read more of his reviews at MikeHagertyCars.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikehagertycars and on Facebook at facebook.com/mikehagertywritesaboutcars.