Automotive

Review: 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid – a plug gets added to the popular SAV

Review: 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid – a...
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid has only one trim level and starts at $49,600, but justifying the "hybrid premium" may not be easy for everyone
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid has only one trim level and starts at $49,600, but justifying the "hybrid premium" may not be easy for everyone
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The full lineup of 2020 BMW X3 models, with the X3 Hybrid in white
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The full lineup of 2020 BMW X3 models, with the X3 Hybrid in white
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid's 12-kWh battery pack is good for about 18 miles of all-electric driving
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The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid's 12-kWh battery pack is good for about 18 miles of all-electric driving
Our returns at high altitude and in-city driving were very good, closing in on that 60 MPGe EPA estimate with a daily plug-in of the X3 Hybrid
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Our returns at high altitude and in-city driving were very good, closing in on that 60 MPGe EPA estimate with a daily plug-in of the X3 Hybrid
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid, like all X3 models, has some light off-road and all-weather credibility
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The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid, like all X3 models, has some light off-road and all-weather credibility
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid adds about 40 horsepower to the total output of the standard X3 model
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The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid adds about 40 horsepower to the total output of the standard X3 model
The X3 Hybrid builds on the well-done X3 "sport activity vehicle" (SAV) models, which have spacious interiors, good performance, and eye-catching good looks
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The X3 Hybrid builds on the well-done X3 "sport activity vehicle" (SAV) models, which have spacious interiors, good performance, and eye-catching good looks
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid's fuel efficiency returns can be a mixed bag, depending on whether a lot of highway use is the norm
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The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid's fuel efficiency returns can be a mixed bag, depending on whether a lot of highway use is the norm
The wheel and instrument cluster in the 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid are essentially the same as the standard X3 models, with the exception of an added battery charge state meter at the far right
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The wheel and instrument cluster in the 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid are essentially the same as the standard X3 models, with the exception of an added battery charge state meter at the far right
This 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid cutaway shows the full powertrain, including electronics highlighted in orange
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This 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid cutaway shows the full powertrain, including electronics highlighted in orange
Another cutaway view of the 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid, to show its powertrain
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Another cutaway view of the 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid, to show its powertrain
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BMW has been slowly electrifying all of its vehicles. The small X3 crossover has been a popular staple in the automaker's lineup for a few years, offering family-sized luxury with BMW’s signature driver’s focus. Now the X3 has a plug-in option, the X3 Hybrid.

The vehicle builds on the well-done X3 "sport activity vehicle" (SAV) models, which have spacious interiors, good performance, and eye-catching good looks. The standard X3 (the sDrive30i) is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel drive. Its xDrive30i twin is the same, but adds all-wheel drive. Both have 248 peak horsepower (185 kW). Then there’s the M series for the X3, starting with the M40i and going to the M and the M Competition, all of which use a 3.0-liter six-cylinder with an eight-speed automatic. Power outputs range from 382 to 503 horsepower (285-375 kW).

The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid, also known as the xDrive30e, adds about 40 horsepower to the total output of the standard X3 model (boosting it to 288), which more than makes up for the added weight of the battery and electronics that come with the plug. The added electronics give the X3 Hybrid about 18 miles (29 km) of all-electric driving (EPA estimated), but the xDrive30e then becomes less fuel-efficient under gasoline power than its standard gasoline counterpart. So the efficiency return is a mixed bag.

The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid adds about 40 horsepower to the total output of the standard X3 model
The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid adds about 40 horsepower to the total output of the standard X3 model

The comparable BMW X3 xDrive30i, the "base model" all-wheel drive option, is EPA-rated at 27 mpg combined (8.7 l/100km), with 25 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The xDrive30e plug-in hybrid has a total combined rating of 60 MPG-equivalent (3.9 l/100km). Assuming a standard daily commute of 15 miles (24 km), most X3 Hybrid owners would be able to do most of their driving without using any gas. Reality, of course, interferes, adding things like cold weather, in-cabin electronics use, and deviations from the regularly scheduled drive pattern ... never mind the "I forgot to plug in" problem.

That’s where fuel economy gets a little sketchier. The EPA says that the hybrid receives 24 mpg (9.8 l/100km) when running on its gas engine. That’s significantly lower than the 27 that the standard gas model uses. Noted during our time with the X3 xDrive30e was that cold weather and highway driving significantly affect the efficiencies listed. With a full charge and a roundtrip freeway run of 22 miles (35 km) at 75 mph (121 km/h), we achieved only 25.3 mpg (9.3 l/100km). We noted that on freeway onramps, the engine started up (even with a full battery) and would run during much of the higher-speed driving. In everyday driving, the engine would run intermittently to power cabin heating (it is winter in Wyoming, after all) and so forth.

This 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid cutaway shows the full powertrain, including electronics highlighted in orange
This 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid cutaway shows the full powertrain, including electronics highlighted in orange

Yet for all of that, the plug-in hybrid X3 and its 12-kWh battery are a great option. When driving on the daily and not at freeway speeds, the X3 returned excellent fuel economy results. While more difficult to measure, our returns at high altitude and in-city driving were very good, closing in on that 60 MPGe EPA estimate with a daily plug-in. Charging the X3 requires about 12 hours on a standard 120V household outlet and about 3.5 hours at a level 2 charging station. That’s assuming the battery is empty. Most of our charge times were significantly lower than those, as we rarely used all of the battery’s range in normal daily driving around town.

The 2020 BMW X3 Hybrid has only one trim level, but comes packed with standard features for its US$49,600 price tag. Sporting premium amenities like three-zone climate control, BMW sport seating for the driver and front passenger, a 10.25-inch infotainment display, 12-speaker audio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus forward collision warning with emergency braking, the X3 Hybrid starts out pretty fine. With nearly all options added, though, our test model rang in at $63,000 and change.

Having driven the X3 before in its gasoline model, our assessment here is that adding the plug will probably be a good thing for most drivers. The roughly $6,000 premium paid to get that plug and battery may not always make sense, but many drivers may see enough of a boost in drive quality and (maybe) efficiency to make up for it.

Product Page: 2020 BMW X3

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3 comments
3 comments
WB
It's a bit pathetic seeing those old school legacy auto makers building one more dinosaur after another... meanwhile Tesla is worth more than all automakers COMBINED.... no typo.. combined. It's like the dinosaurs throwing a party while the meteorite hits. Take a Tesla Model Y, it simply is better than this ICE BMW on every aspect. Way faster than even the M versions, a fraction of the price, much much more safe (safest vehicle ever in fact), comes with full on autopilot, vehicle constantly improves itself, every morning full tank of gas, monthly auto updates that make your car better, and most importantly it drives with electricity.. clean air for you and your kids, rather than spending the rest of your life sending money to the middle east, which they then use to cut up Americans with bone saws. Tesla is all American made, oh and maintenance is about a third of of the ICE vehicle and gas cost is also about a third, if you take electricity cost and convert to money. Anyway how on earth BMW and the others keep cranking out these massively inferior vehicles is beyond me. Have they not looked at the stock price and the a$$ whupping they have received up until now...
Robert in Vancouver
I can't see the benefit of a hybrid car. You pay a lot more for it but still have all the maintenance costs and problems of keeping a regular gas powered car going.
Luis
Fully agree with WB.
Traditional auto makers are repeating the errors of other large companies when faced with a revolutionary (no evolutionary) change: they attempt to estend the life of the only techology they know - while the new guy in the block changes the game rules.
If VW, Toyota and Ford et al. do no act innovatively, will go the way of Kodak, Xerox, Western Electric, Motorola and so many other respected giants.