Is the plug-in hybrid version of the X3 Sports Activity Vehicle good enough to compete with a similarly priced conventional version?
The recently introduced BMW X3 xDrive30e, locally made in the U.S., is another choice in the plug-in hybrid crossover/SUV segment.
According to the Driven Car Reviews' Tom Voelk, the X3 PHEV offers a taste of electric driving, and it's quite the right word, as the all-electric range is just 17 miles (27 km) EPA.
On the positive side, the X3 xDrive30e is comfortable, quiet, fun to drive and less expensive than the comparable internal combustion engine, when accounting for the federal tax credit (effective: $43,709).
During the tests, the EPA range seemed conservative, but the problem is that even a few more miles in the real world will be not enough to cover the daily needs of many potential customers.
The other not so great thing is that the cargo area is slightly compromised by the battery - it's smaller and the load floor is higher.
The list of negatives includes no spare tire, which may be difficult on trails and that in the case of BMW, the options quickly inflate the base price (especially since many safety features are optional).
The X3 PHEV seems to be kind of contradictory - as a Sports Activity Vehicle, it's supposed to drive long distances from time to time, to take you on hikes for example. However, its EPA fuel economy is lower outside of the EV mode than the conventional ICE and the total range is significantly lower. The trunk is slightly smaller.
So, the X3 PHEV will be the best suited for daily commuting or city driving within the 17 miles of EV mode.
It could be better if only BMW would put more love into the PHEV version and, for example, use an electric motor on the rear axle for all-wheel drive (instead of the mechanical link). The battery might then be repositioned and maybe even enlarged. On the other hand, the flexible approach allowed for a lower price.