A passenger ride in a BMW 5-series GT xDrive equipped with the new Power eDrive system hints at a bright future for Munich's new plug-in hybrid system
28 November 2014

The idea behind the new plug-in petrol-electric hybrid Power eDrive system is to provide a scaleable basis for BMW‘s future performance and upper luxury car needs.

The German car maker isn’t pretending the complex arrangement is going to replace the potent 552bhp twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 direct injection petrol engine in the BMW M5 any time soon.

However, it does concede electrification is set to play an important role, both in achieving the sort of performance and range customers have come to expect from traditional combustion engines and at the same time fulfilling ever-stricter fuel consumption and emission regulations.

Right now, it says the Power eDrive system can be adapted to generate anything from 250bhp all the way up to 650bhp, as sampled here.

As an indication of where the efforts of BMW’s concept driveline engineers are focused with Power eDrive, the otherwise innocuous-looking 5-series GT xDrive in which the initial prototype system is installed is described to us as “the Tesla-killer”. We take a passenger seat and ready ourselves to ride shotgun around the German company’s vast Miramas test track in southern France.

From rest in the pit lane, the BMW test driver pushes the throttle against its backstop and we’re thrust onto the circuit with truly astonishing force. With the two electric motors channelling their reserves to all four wheels, acceleration is brutal.

The delivery of torque is instant, and it is sufficient to induce momentary wheelspin from all four wheels as we’re furiously propelled up the straight. The only sensation of noise comes from a distant high-pitched whine from the electric motors, the buffeting of wind around the exterior mirror housings and the roar of tyres across the Tarmac. That is until until the four-cylinder petrol engine fires to further boost the remarkable performance and also act as a generator to produce electricity, which is stored on board.

BMW won’t say exactly how much shove is on offer, suggesting only that it is “well into four figures” on the Newton metre (Nm) scale. As a point of reference, the recently unveiled performance variant of the Tesla Model S, the so-called 85kWh, possesses a mighty 931Nm – or some 687lb ft of torque. So the BMW prototype is not exactly lacking.

Make no mistake, this is a very heavy car. It carries three powerplants and a battery roughly twice the size of that found in more conventional plug-in petrol-electric hybrids. However, its ability to gather speed in a straight line is nothing short of sensational. Subjectively it feels every bit as quick (and then some) as the 3.2sec figure Tesla quotes as the 0-62mph time of the Model S 85kWh.

Before the weight becomes a factor, though, the BMW test driver steps off the throttle on the approach to the first corner and uses the brakes to recuperate electrical energy, allowing the big five-door liftback to roll past the apex before getting back on the power again for another viscous whip of acceleration along the next straight.

Once again, we’re left reeling from the sheer explosiveness of the available performance. That, and the already impressive cohesion evident in the complex driveline. Although it was hastily constructed, the driveline of the 5-series GT xDrive prototype gives the impression of being tremendously well engineered.

BMW won’t be drawn on specifics, but I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Power eDrive. What chances of the German car maker applying a modified version of its new plug-in petrol-electric system to the BMW i8 to create something really special – a centenary birthday gift to itself in 2016, perhaps?

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Comments
14

28 November 2014

"The so-called 85kWh" Whats up with the language? This phrase is usually used when referring to criminals. And the model's name is P85D not 85kWh

"Subjectively it feels every bit as quick (and then some) as the 3.2sec figure Tesla quotes as the 0-62mph time of the Model S 85kWh." Have you actually been in the P85D? If not, how can you compare the two?

As I see it this system will give you full power as long as the battery lasts, which will certainly pale in comparison to the Tesla, and then default to a 228hp range extended mode.

Tesla on the other hand will give you full power for as long as its range lasts, which does of course vary according to how you use it.

28 November 2014

Tesla-killer? Why would you want to suggest a new, exciting, industry-shaking company is under threat by this hastily-constructed prototype? I would have liked some objective opinion about wether this BM actually has the package, range, and overall performance of the Tesla. As it is, a press-drive doesn't really give me the insight.

wmb

28 November 2014

Whether this is truely meant to be a "Tesla Killer" or not, I don't know. But with the emission and Cafe regs that are coming every car brand, big or small, will have to carry their own weight for their larger mother corparation! Add to that, with Tesla for the most part be cross shop with established premium/luxury brands, it's not surprising that they are making Tesla a boogie on the radar. That said, the Power eDrive system, the scalable and powerful, will be a good match for the 7 Series and the RR vehicles it is intended for. For the article puts alot of emphasis on straight line performance with the eDrive and, save for the 7 Series, this would serve the vehicles in the RR portfolio well, with dynamic handling and sport car athletes not being one of their strong suites. Add to that, as referenced also in the article, the system will be heavy and probably expensive, so BMW will be able to recoup some of the cost of its development with RR and eventually add it to the 7 once the proper balance of power, weight, driving dynamics and price are achieved in the coming years. To be honest, ultra high end luxury brands should be greatful to Tesla and the Model S for their contribution on the electrification front. For as those entreprenuers who were earlier converts to Tesla's vision and purchased a Model S, as they move up the pay scale they may be looking for something that better represents their new reality while respecting their core values. Then, what do you know, there is a Phantom or Ghost powered by BMW's eDrive just setting in the RR showroom waiting for them! So why make a "Tesla Killer"? As Celebrities, those who are environmentally conscious and business leaders move out of their Medol S's, they may find a RR that does less to harm the planet maybe just what they were looking for!

28 November 2014

It's more like a possible Tesla rival. The Tesla looks vastly more attractive to my eyes, and Tesla actually have their product on sale now. The headline is understandable but inaccurate.

29 November 2014

That sounds a bit sticky *and* kinky.

So much for proof-reading/editing on this site!

29 November 2014

I am surprised that no one has yet commented that 85kWh is the battery capacity and has absolutely nothing to do with the power.

Alex

29 November 2014

I am surprised Volvo haven't challenged the use of eDrive as a name. It sounds very similar to Drive E.

29 November 2014

For me, one of the attractions of the Tesla is the extreme mechanical simplicity. Having what amounts to a complete electric car plus a turbo petrol engine and complex auto box sounds like a nightmare, especially since BMW have not exactly been free from engine and gearbox issues over the years.

So for me at least, this is by no means a 'Tesla Killer'.

29 November 2014

Where do the two cooling towers fit?

29 November 2014

"BMW’s ‘Tesla-killer’" anyone who has been in contact with a Tesla knows there is much more to it than an electric drive chain.... Its makes the BM look low rent in comparison

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