We got our hands on a 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e and put it to the test to see just how "electric" this PHEV is. After driving it for a week and adding 500 miles to the odometer, we have to admit, it was actually better than we expected.
The X3 xDrive30e is the plug-in hybrid version of the very popular BMW X3. How popular is the BMW X3? Well, in 2019 BMW sold more than 70,000 X3's in the US, so it's a pretty important vehicle in BMW's lineup. While BMW has offered a PHEV version of their larger full-size SUV, the X5, this is the first PHEV version of the smaller, compact X3.
Price and Specifications
The X3 xDrive30e has a base MSRP of $48,550 (plus $995 for destination and handling). As with all BMW's you can also tack on an additional $20,000 in options ranging from the M Sport package ($5,000) to the Executive Package ($4,000) as well as two different driving assist packages costing $1,700 and $500.
The Base X3 Drive costs $4,600 less, with a starting MSRP of $43,950 (plus d & h). However, the X3 xDrive30e qualifies for a $5,836.00 federal tax credit (for those that qualify), making it less expensive than its non-plug-in xDrive sibling. Additionally, many states now offer incentives for plug-in hybrids as well as pure EVs, which can increase the savings even more.
BMW paired a 181 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 107 hp electric motor for a combined 288 hp and 310 lb-ft torque. The power routes to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The X3 xDrive30e’s price and power output put it right between the xDrive30i, which has 248 hp, and the X3 M40i that produces 392 hp.
Because the high voltage battery is located under the rear seats, the fuel tank is moved back a bit and is positioned over the rear axle. That causes the rear cargo area to be slightly compromised and higher than it is on the non-plug-in X3s. There's a visible four-inch raised shelf when the hatch is opened to accommodate the higher position of the fuel tank.
The X3 xDrive30e has a 12 kWh battery, of which 10.8 kWh is usable and a 13.2 gallon fuel tank. The X3 xDrive30e doesn't have an official range rating yet, but BMW expects it to be rated at 20 miles per charge, a figure I agree with after driving it for the week. I averaged between 19-20 miles per charge and my personal best was 23 miles.
On The Road and Charging Up
BMW claims a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds when the car is in blended mode (Auto eDrive), using power from both the electric motor and the ICE powerplant and that feels about right. However, while driving on battery alone, in "Max eDrive" mode, the X3 xDrive30e is substantially less responsive, which is to be expected, considering the electric motor only has 107 hp and the vehicle weighs 4,586 lbs.
My informal 0-60 tests came up with times somewhere between 12 and 13 seconds. The top speed is 130 mph. I drove up to 80 mph in Max eDrive mode and the ICE didn't turn on, but I haven't been able to confirm at what speed that will happen. I'll update the post once I get that clear from BMW.
However, this vehicle wasn't made for the racetrack and I'd advise getting an X3 M40i if that's really what you're looking for. It was made to comfortably haul the family around in style, and to do so efficiently, burning less fuel. And it succeeds in that quest. The cabin is very quiet and the double-pivot front strut suspension and five-link independent rear suspension works wonderfully, offering a smooth driving experience over road irregularities at all speeds.
The standard iDrive 6.0 infotainment system is an improvement over the previous version that I had in my i3s, and it also includes Apple CarPlay. There's also a nifty hand gesture control feature that works pretty well once you get used to it.
The X3 xDrive30e's regenerative braking isn't adjustable, just like other BMW EVs. It's not too aggressive, but you can definitely feel it. You can also see the energy that regeneration adds back into the battery on the battery percentage gauge on the lower right corner of the driver's display. When you've fully drained the battery and the vehicle slips into blended driving mode (Auto eDrive), once you've recuperated enough energy the ICE engine will turn off for a while and you'll drive on battery until you've used up what was previously recuperated.
The X3 xDrive30e charges at 3.7 kW on a 240v level 2 EVSE and fully charges in a little over 3 hours. Using the 120-volt occasional use cable provided with the vehicle, the X3 xDrive30e will take 11.5 hours to fully recharge. As will all BMW plug-in hybrids, there is no DC fast charge option. In fact, the only plug-in hybrid available today that has DC fast-charging capability is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
The X3 xDrive30e's advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) worked very well. As with my Tesla Model 3, the active lane-keep assistant does not allow the driver to let go of the steering wheel for too long, and will quickly remind you to grab the wheel, and shuts off if that request isn't met.
Driving Modes and Efficiency
Here's where it gets a little complicated. There are three operating modes; Battery Control, Auto eDrive, and Max eDrive. In Battery Control mode, you select a certain level of battery state of charge and the vehicle will only use the battery down to that level and hold the SOC there. This feature would ideally be used when you want to hold the battery to use later, for instance, if you were traveling to a European Low Emission Zone, and wanted to drive fully on the battery when you arrived there.
The next operating mode is Max eDrive. While in Max eDrive, the vehicle will drive exclusively on battery until it's depleted, unless the driver fully depresses the accelerator. While depressing the accelerator, there's a hard "wall" that you can feel when the pedal is about 90% depressed. It's easy to stay in Max eDrive because you really have to press the pedal hard to push past the wall after which the gasoline engine kicks in and adds full power. If you do that, the vehicle instantly lunges ahead, because chances are, if the driver is asking for more power, they need it for a quick burst of acceleration. Perhaps to merge onto a fast-moving highway, or to clear an intersection.
The final operating mode is Auto eDrive. In Auto drive, the vehicle decides if driving in pure battery or blended mode is most efficient. Depending on the speed and driving conditions, the vehicle will switch back and forth seamlessly from all-electric to a blend of electric and ICE, with most of the low-speed driving on battery alone.
The driver can select what operating mode the vehicle defaults to upon startup. I appreciate the ability to do that, as some other vehicles we've tested always default to a specific mode, and don't allow for customization. I selected Max eDrive, so I always started out in battery-only mode, as long as the battery was sufficiently charged to do so.
In addition to the three operating modes, there are also four driving modes; Sport, Sport Plus, Comfort, and Eco Pro. The vehicle defaults to Comfort, and that's what I drove in for the vast majority of the time. I used Sport Plus mode a few times just to see if there was much of a difference, and you can feel the quicker steering and sharper powertrain response.
The vehicle carved up the twisty country roads where I was driving with ease, but it also has the $1,400 Dynamic Handling Package as well as the 20" M Sport Wheel package ($950). I'm not sure how well the base model would do in comparison.
Over the course of my week with the X3 xDrive30e I drove the vehicle about 500 miles. Roughly 200 miles were on battery alone, and 300 were in the blended Auto eDrive mode. Over the week I averaged a combined 46.7 mpg, driving my usual mix of roughly 60% city and 40% highway. For comparison, the 2019 BMW X3 sDrive30i gets a combined 26 mpg, so you can easily see how significant the fuel savings will be.
I plugged the vehicle whenever I returned home but didn't use public charging stations at all. If I had sought out public stations, I'm sure I could have increased my average MPG. However, I don't think many X3 xDrive30e owners will use public charging infrastructure much because by simply charging up exclusively at home the vehicle already gets great gas mileage. Paying the extra premium to charge on a public charger probably isn't worth the extra effort for a PHEV like this, especially with the extremely low gas prices today.
Gallery: 2020 BMW X3 xDrive30e
Do I wish I was driving a fully-electric BMW iX3 instead? Yes, absolutely. Do I wish the X3 xDrive30e had 40 or 50 miles of electric range instead fo 20? Yes, absolutely. However, I also won't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and the X3 xDrive30e is a darn good PHEV.
It's 10-way adjustable power seats are extremely comfortable, the interior is beautifully appointed and luxurious, and there's plenty of rear seating room and cargo space for a compact SUV. However, the best thing about the X3 xDrive30e may be that it is the least expensive X3 xDrive in the lineup when you factor in the federal tax credit, and can be even less expensive if you live in a state that has additional EV incentives. Plus, the fuel savings are going to continue to add up the more miles you drive.
I suspect that most of the people that end up in an X3 xDrive30e didn't set out to get one. They found themselves at a BMW dealer looking for an X3, and the salesperson explained they could save money on the purchase as well as on fuel and they ended up driving one home. That's fine by me because it's going to get more people comfortable with plug-in vehicles, because most people still haven't entirely warmed up to EVs yet. I suspect that most X3 xDrive30e owners are going to love it, and that will open the door for them to upgrade to a full electric somewhere down the road.