The current pandemic has changed how many of us use our cars. The need to drive to the office has diminished (for now), and commutes have become shorter and more purposeful. For local and short distances, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) like the 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e makes a lot of sense. By allowing the electric motor to be plugged in and charged, PHEVs can be driven a short distance on electric power, completing these new shortened commutes without the need to use any gasoline. For extended trips, the car can seamlessly switch over to the gasoline engine to avoid running out of range.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase of PHEV offerings from almost every automaker in just about every category. Among the latest to arrive in the market are the BMW X3 and X5 PHEVs, bringing the convenience and environmental friendliness to the most popular models in BMW’s portfolio. We borrowed the all-new 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e from BMW Canada to evaluate its effectiveness with our new routines.
Gone are the days where PHEVs and EVs have to look quirky to stand out. For the X3 xDrive30e, it is indistinguishable from the gasoline powered models save for the charging port on the driver’s side front fender, and the dedicated badging on the rear hatch. Even though the current X3 is now entering its third model year, its styling still looks fresh and modern, and remains one of our favourites in its segment. The optional M Sport Package worn by our tester sharpens up the look with sportier styling, blue M Sport brake calipers, and a gorgeous set of 20-inch M alloy wheels.
By pairing BMW’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with an electric motor, the X3 xDrive30e has a total system output of 292 horsepower, and maximum torque of 420Nm (approx. 310 lb-ft.) Like most EVs, acceleration is not a problem with the X3 xDrive30e, as the electric motor helps get off the line in an instant, with the potent engine picking up the slack after the initial surge on electric power. The 0 to 100 km/h sprint is achieved in merely 6.1 seconds, so it is certainly no slouch, and it will continue on to its 210 km/h top speed.
Now if you are not in a hurry, and would like to drive on electric power only, there is a MAX eDrive mode that is activated through the eDrive button on the centre console. Once engaged, the X3 xDrive30e will move along silently up to a top speed of 135 km/h and BMW states that it has a maximum eDrive range of 51 to 55 kilometres. In our real-world testing, we observed only about 30 kilometres of range with a full charge, shy of estimates but is more than what we observed in the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e 4MATIC (reviewed here) and Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design.
The combined fuel rating for the 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e is listed at 9.2L/100km, substantially worse than our 7.2L/100km observed consumption over our week with the sporty crossover. Premium fuel is required for the 50 litre fuel tank, and its lithium-ion battery has a 12-kilowatt-hour capacity.
There is sufficient interior space in the X3. We observed ample head and legroom in both rows, with the only visible space taken up by the battery causing a higher floor in the cargo area. The 450-litre capacity space is acceptable for most, and it can open up to 1,500 litres with the rear seats folded down. The front and rear seats are heated as part of the Premium Package Enhanced, wrapped in upgraded Vernasca leather that feels more premium than the standard leatherette.
Infotainment uses the standard BMW iDrive unit atop the centre console, with commands accepted using a rotary dial below the shifter. The iDrive system is easy to use, and there are shortcut keys that can be customized for quick access to any commonly used features. We particularly like the SiriusXM radio interface; the stations are nicely sorted for easy browsing and the rewind feature is readily accessible. Apple CarPlay is supported, but Android Auto is not. Sound quality is about average, and music lovers should opt for the optional Harman/Kardon surround sound system would improve quality significantly.
Driver assist features equipped here include Approach control warning with city braking function, lane departure warning with rear cross-traffic warning, Lane Change Warning and Prevention of rear collision. To make parking easier, our tester was equipped with the optional Parking Assistant Plus with a Surround View system that works well in helping to monitor the X3’s surroundings.
The 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e carries a starting price of $59,990, and our tester came with a host of optional equipment including the $6,000 Premium Package Enhanced (Head-up Display, Ambient Lighting, Panorama Sunroof, Comfort Access, etc.) and the $3,500 M Sport package, bringing the as-tested total to $72,840. This price tag is about equivalent to the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e 4MATIC, and cheaper than the Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design. The X3 comes with sportier dynamics and is more driver oriented, and the XC60 has more upscale interior appointments for those who do not mind the price premium.
At the end of the test week, we enjoyed taking these new routines with the 2021 BMW X3 xDrive30e. There is always a small satisfaction felt when completing a commute without using any gas, and the X3 is able to provide that without much detriment to the driving pleasure and performance. The dire situation we are in is unfortunate, but as a glass half-full kind of guy, there are always silver linings and one of them could just be the broader adoption rate for PHEVs and green vehicles.