Updated: Apr 1
Regular readers 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 a home or public charging station. After that range is used, the vehicles switch to a hybrid gasoline/electric powerplant, 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 gasoline 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 gasoline. Examples of both: Our review this month of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, where if I lived one mile closer to work, I would have been able to do all my driving in EV mode, and our summer, 2019 review on the old TireKicker site of the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, in which the family took a spur-of-the-moment 346 mile trip to the beach and back.
For 2020, BMW expands the X3 SUV lineup with its own plug-in hybrid, the X3 xDrive30e. But while the RAV4 delivers 39 miles of all-electric driving on a charge and the Pacifica 32, the X3 xDrive30e only manages 17.
Unless you have a very short commute or have and use a charger both at home and at work, that's a pretty short all-electric capability. And when you use that up, the hybrid, rated at 180 horsepower, returns an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon combined, which is less than the gasoline-powered X3 xDrive30i, which does a combined 27 (24 city/29 highway). And that's very unusual for a PHEV.
Beyond that, the 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e is a BMW X3 with all-wheel drive. Which is to say---an exceptionally well-built, well-appointed luxury SUV. The base price is $48,550. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but 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 $5,000 for the M Sport design package, $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, $500 for the Driving Assistance Package, $1,700 for the Driving Assistance Plus package, $1,400 for the Dynamic Handling Package, $4,500 for the Executive Package (gesture control, head-up display, Parking Assistance Plus, Active Park Distance Control, Surround View with 3-D View, panoramic moonroof, adaptive full LED lights, automatic high beams, ambient lighting, keyless access, heated steering wheel and lumbar support) and $875 for an upgraded Harman Kardon surround sound system.
With $995 destination and handling, the as-tested price for the 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e is $65,020.
So, why should you buy this instead of the gasoline-powered X3 xDrive30i? Well, if you do have a short commute and ready access to charging---or live in a small enough town that 17 miles is all you need, 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, they need to at least double that pure EV range.