BMW’s next X3 will gain a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and an M3-sourced straight-six

BMW engineers are secretly developing the next generation of the X3 crossover. Visually, the 2017 X3 will look like a more modern evolution of the current model (pictured) and will borrow styling cues like a tall front end and sharp headlights that stretch into the kidney grille from the X5 and X6. The crossover’s design and dimensions are not expected to drastically change.

Most of the major updates will be invisible to the naked eye. For starters, the X3 is expected to ride on a brand new modular platform developed to underpin a long list of BMW’s future sedans, coupes and crossovers. The chassis will be made out of aluminum, high-strength steel and carbon fiber, a lightweight combination that will allow the X3 to shed up to 200 pounds.

BMW has previously voiced its desire to electrify its entire lineup and the X3 will be no exception. From launch, the crossover will be available with a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain made up of a small turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline-burning engine and a compact electric motor built into a hybrid-specific eight-speed automatic transmission. The gas-electric drivetrain will generate about 328 horsepower when both power sources are up and running. Alternatively, the electric motor will be capable of powering the X3 by itself for approximately 30 miles.

Next up in terms of sheer grunt will be the X3 M40i, which will boast a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six tuned to provide over 340 horsepower.

Finally, Australian media outlets claim a full-blown M-tuned model will be positioned at the very top of the X3 hierarchy. Dubbed X3 M, the super-crossover will be fitted with the same 425-horsepower twin-turbocharged straight-six that currently powers the M3 and the M4 but it will only be available with an automatic transmission.

The third-gen BMW X3 is scheduled to make its public debut at a major auto show next year, and it will go on sale as a 2017 model several months later. The X4 – the X3’s segment-defying sibling – will most likely benefit from the same mechanical updates at about the same time.