By Peter Perrotta
There was a time – before cell phones and the internet – when making choices in life was a whole lot simpler.
When it came to car shopping and available models, there weren’t three different versions of the same model. And, more specifically, there weren’t even that many models to chose from to begin with.
Take BMW, for example. Back in the 1970s, BMW offered up a few basic sedans in its model lineup and no SUVs.
A good friend of mine had a BMW 2002 in 1973, which was a very staid looking, boxy, four-door sedan that was known for its superior build quality and longevity.
He piled several hundred thousand miles on that car – a stick shift – and marveled at its superior craftsmanship and simplicity.
Of course, almost 50 years later, much has changed.
These days, BMW offers up a dizzying array of more than 15 different models of sedans, SUVs and coupes. What once was a simple choice now can get quite confusing.
Moreover, within those 15 different models there are varying versions of each.
So why stop now? This year, BMW introduced a plug-in hybrid version of one its most popular models the X3 five seat SUV.
Last year alone, BMW sold more than 70,000 X3s in the United States alone.
So for 2020, enter the 2020 X3 xdrive 30e, the first plug-in hybrid version of this popular SUV in the BMW lineup.
I recently road tested this new plug-in hybrid for one week and came away quite impressed with this version of what has been a highly successful model for the German automaker.
The plug-in hybrid X3 rides much like the traditional gas-powered version, but with a lot smoother and quieter vibe to it.
My tester was powered by a 2.0 liter BMW, 4 cylinder twin turbo gas engine that puts out 181 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 258 pound feet of torque. The gas engine is complemented by an electric traction motor, mounted within the transmission housing, that puts out an additional 107 horsepower at 3,140 rpms and 77 pound feet of torque.
The combined power outlet is 288 horsepower and 310 pound feet of torque.
In addition to the two motors – electric and gas – a high voltage (12 kwh) lithium-ion battery is located underneath the rear seats. This battery provides additional storage capacity for the electric only and hybrid driving mode.
In the hybrid driving mode, this new X3 can operate at speeds of up to 68 miles per hour on electric power alone. Moreover, in the electric mode – with no gas engine assistance – this X3e version has a limited driving range of anywhere from 20 to 30 miles.
Truth be told, I found this vehicle to be much more effective as a hybrid.
The hybrid version of this vehicle offers very low emissions capabilities and up to 60 miles per gallon gas mileage depending on what version of the hybrid mode you choose to drive it in.
If you select the aggressive “sports plus” mode, you will get a much more aggressive performance-oriented drive, but sacrifice the 60 miles per gallon gas mileage possibility.
The comfort mode affords a good balance of sportiness and performance with better gas mileage performance.
The 2020 X3 xdrive 30e I drove for one week carried an overall MSRP price tag of $65,020.
The stripped down base price is $48,550.
However, my tested added: an M Sport package for $5,000; $550 for dark graphite metallic paint; $950 for upgraded 20-inch wheels; $500 for driver assistance package; $1,700 for driver assistance plus; $1,400 for a dynamic handling package; $4,500 for an executive package; and $875 for a Harman Kardon surround sound system.
The driver assistance package includes lane departure warning and active blind spot detection systems, which help the driver to guide the car back into the correct path with a steering input. It also includes rear cross traffic alert, thereby reducing the risk of a collision when reversing into roads that are obstructed from the driver’s view.
Moreover, the driver’s assistance plus package offers the full complement of advanced systems including active cruise control with stop and go, traffic jam assistant, active lane keeping assistant with side collision avoidance, evasion aid and front cross traffic alert.
Overall, at the end of the day, you are pretty much getting the same exact look, feel and drive of the ever popular traditional gas X3 with the added advantage of the plug-in hybrid feature.
For me, this combination is a win-win power punch.
This all wheel drive SUV handles like a charm in all kinds of weather. It is peppy enough to maintain an aggressive performance-like drive and feel to it and is attractively appointed inside and out.
This BMW features a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display and a 10.25-inch digital touch screen display with navigation, BMW intelligent personal assistant and wireless Apple carplay compatibility.
For the most part, I found the BMW infotainment system to be above average in its ability to perform the everyday most used functions like navigation, phone and music operations.
This infotainment system can be a bit confusing at first, but once you get used to it works like a charm.
Where this infotainment excels, head and shoulders above all of the competition, is in the voice activated command system. It doesn’t skip a beat. It easily picks up your commands to call someone, change the music selection of find a navigation destination without much confusion. There aren’t too many other voice systems that work as well as this one.
Overall, I must say, I was quite impressed with this new version of a very popular SUV in the BMW lineup. It’s worth checking out.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments and suggestions are welcomed. He can be contacted at email@example.com