BMW X3 hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||29 miles||135mpg||48g/km|
BMW's drive to electrify almost every model it sells continues with this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of its popular X3 family SUV – a direct rival for the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrids. Once the iX3 arrives in 2021, the X3 will become BMW's first model to offer a choice of pure-electric, plug-in hybrid, petrol and diesel power.
The 'xDrive30e' plug-in hybrid drivetrain – basically the same as that found in the BMW 530e hybrid saloon – is obviously good news for the X3's CO2 emissions and fuel-economy. It returns 135mpg economy and puts out 48g/km of CO2 in official testing, thanks to a potential pure-electric range of a shade under 30 miles.
Those figures are impressive when laid against the X3 hybrid's total power output of 288bhp, courtesy of its 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine working in concert with a 108bhp electric motor, fed by a 12kWh battery. Four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are standard.
Like all BMW hybrids, the X3 xDrive30e defaults to electric power on start-up. Left to its own devices, it will run in 'Auto eDrive' mode, with the car deciding on the best combination of electric and petrol power to use in order to deliver the most efficient progress.
If you'd prefer to retain electric power for use later in your journey (for example, in an urban area after a long motorway drive), 'Battery Control' mode lets you specify a certain level of battery charge to retain until you tell it otherwise. There's also 'Max eDrive' which keeps the car in electric mode (as long as there's charge in the battery) unless you accelerate particularly hard.
You may find yourself using that mode a lot, as it allows you to truly appreciate just how quiet and refined the X3 is. This is already the case in the petrol and diesel-engined versions of the car, but the absence of engine noise doesn't mean you're suddenly subjected to rattles, clatters and wind or tyre roar you couldn't hear before. The suspension is extremely good at ironing out harsh bumps, too.
When you do have to call on the petrol engine, you'll be disappointed. Not because it lacks grunt, but only because this 2.0-litre petrol unit is a bit harsher and noisier than the equivalent 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel in the xDrive30d. Performance is strong thanks to those combined power sources: 0-62mph is over and done with in a tenth over six seconds and the engine, motor and gearbox work together to deliver a seamless surge of power when called upon.
The car also impresses on a twisty road, despite its already-hefty weight having been added to by the hybrid system and its batteries. It feels solid, grippy and planted unless you really push your look, so all but the most demanding drivers will be satisfied.
The hybrid system has more of an impact on practicality, unfortunately: boot space is 100 litres down on non-plug-in X3s, to 450 litres, while there's also an awkward 'step up' in the boot floor and nowhere specific to keep your charging cables. Elsewhere, the interior is as impressive as in any other X3, with a smart layout, faultless build quality and class-leading infotainment technology. Space is not in short supply, either, whether you're in the front or back seats.
Unlike some plug-in hybrids, the X3 xDrive30e doesn't demand a big premium over its purely fossil-fuelled brethren; in fact, it only costs £390 more than the xDrive30d diesel model. But that's only half the story – when it comes to running costs, particularly for company-car drivers, the hybrid is the clear winner.
Benefit-in-Kind tax of 12%, compared to 37% for the diesel, translates to around a £5,000 annual saving for a 40% taxpayer. Both company and private buyers, meanwhile, should enjoy greatly reduced fuel bills – particularly if they do a lot of short journeys regularly, negating the need to use the petrol engine at all. It all adds up to a very convincing package.