From £46,2607
Hybrid power increases the X5's weight but cuts its CO2 emissions to 77g/km and improves its combined economy to 85.6mpg
Nic Cackett
23 June 2015

What is it?

BMW’s electrification strategy is second to none. Want a quirky, cutting-edge, cool-to-drive, city-conquering EV? That’ll be the i3. Want a low-emission, eco-savvy, futuristic and forward-thinking sports car? That’ll be the i8. BMW i’s two-model line-up has proven to be a first-adopter slam dunk - and a wham-bam slapdown of the plodding, concept-heavy strategy trotted out elsewhere. 

Nevertheless, both offerings were exclusive (and expensive to make) by design. BMW never intended to put one on every driveway; the i3 and i8 were the amuse-bouche of its hybrid menu - intricate, innovative and out there.

Now, as if to reiterate that we’ve moved onto a more substantive course, BMW has decided that the first production core brand PHEV we get to sample should be the X5, in high-price xDrive40e format. 

To the manufacturer at least, this makes sense. Hybrid SUVs might not yet have taken Europe entirely by storm, but in the petrol-dominated US and Chinese markets, their potential sales volumes are prodigious.

In the US, with Lexus and Porsche chief among its rivals, luxury and performance rate as highly as efficiency, so the plug-in hybrid X5 gets plenty of surge to go with its zero-emission waft.

Consequently the car comes with a 111bhp electric motor located just upstream of its eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, and, ahead of that, the most powerful four-cylinder petrol engine in the BMW range: the 242bhp TwinPower turbocharged lump found in the 328i.

Total system output is rated by its maker as 309bhp and 332lb ft, and 0-62mph ought to take just 6.8sec. Claimed combined economy, mwanwhile, is 85.6mpg. 

One of the advantages of the compact hybrid powertrain is that it allows the X5 to retain its standard clutch-based all-wheel drive system - and while there’s a lithium ion battery to find space for beneath the boot floor, most buyers won’t notice the loadspace sacrifice.

From a domestic socket, the car will recharge itself in a little under 4hr, or 2hr 45min if you’ve stumped up for the fancy-looking BMW i Wallbox. 

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What's it like?

From rest, the X5 is all noiseless grace and glide. Like most PHEVs, inertia is typically overcome by the electric motor alone, its effortless gust of instant torque being far more suited to the job.

BMW i-drivers will recognize the sleek dispensation of thrust - but they will be unaccustomed to its obvious limitations. Where the i3 and i8 seriously scamper in silent running, the much heavier xDrive40e (at least 150kg heftier than standard) settles into a more functional progress. 

Insist on accelerating for all it’s worth in the all-electric MAX eDrive setting, and the car will eventually hit 75mph, although by that time you’ll be draining the battery at a predictably furious rate.

Without firing up the combustion engine, the X5 is limited to about 19 miles - and one imagines BMW recording that at a very gentle clip. For most journeys, and to get the best of the xDrive40e, the default AUTO eDrive hybrid mode is recommended. 

Typically, the key to a PHEV’s performance has been the successful integration of petrol and electric motors - but as both here feed directly into the gearbox, there isn’t a great deal of driveline flounder with which to concern yourself.

Certainly you’ll register the introduction of the engine (an event marked by the spasmodic flick of the rev counter needle) yet the actual pause in progress is negligible and the accelerator pedal consistent. 

Of more significance is the point where the control unit decides the electric motor needs help. BMW claims 44mph as the point where the power sources mingle - and that’s true - but only if your throttle inputs remain well toward the gingerly end of the scale.

Register the merest hint of commuter-style impatience and the X5 will immediately have its petrol-fired components enhancing the motor’s modest 184lb ft. 

That the super-smooth four-pot does most of the heavy lifting isn’t unusual given the continued emphasis on performance, but clearly it isn’t aiding economy. BMW admits that a mixed-use 37-mile commute with a fully-charged battery will essentially cut the combined claim in half at "no worse than" 43.5mpg.

Over double that distance our test car averaged around 36mpg. Spend most of your time on the motorway, using the petrol engine exclusively in the SAVE battery setting, and you can expect to lop an additional 10mpg off that.

Should I buy one?

Compared to the xDrive40d - the X5 model the hybrid is clearly rivalling in price, performance and prestige - those figures start to look decidedly flimsy. But inadequate middle to long-range thirst compared to a diesel-engined stablemate isn’t surprising; for most UK buyers it will be the appeal of cutting the 40d’s 157g/km CO2 emissions almost exactly in half that might prove tempting. 

The surprising thing - considering BMW’s compelling start elsewhere - is the extent to which the X5 has been gazumped even before it arrives in November. At 77g/km, not only does it fail to qualify for the government’s OLEV grant or evade the London congestion charge, but it also won’t hit the latest 5% BIK rate. Or even the less stringent 9% rate for cars up to 75g/km.

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The new Audi Q7 e-tron will. And the imminent Volvo XC90 T8, after some furious recent fettling, will apparently manage 49g/km. That both are doubtless taking advantage of the well-known shortcomings in the current testing regime is for now beside the point. 

By failing to set the efficiency standard, or really advance the segment in any way that feels relevant from the driver’s seat, the X5 - as refined and as comfortable as it is - falls short of the high bar set by BMW’s own endeavour.

Expect future core brand prospects such as the incoming 330e to reset that advantage, but for now there’s no compelling reason for the xDrive40e to stick long in the memory. 

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Location Germany; On sale now; Price £51,845; Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus synchronous electric motor; Power 309bhp; Torque 332lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight 2305kg; 0-62mph 6.8sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 85.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 77g/km, 13%

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Cobnapint 28 June 2015

Of course I get it

But the point I'm trying to make is that Hybrid cars are being sold NOW - THIS VERY MOMENT, on the premise that their existence produces lower emissions, when they bloody well don't. Yes, I know technology has to evolve, but at the present time Hybrids only purpose in life is to serve as long term test-bed mules for that emerging technology, and to lower a particular manufacturers average CO2 g/km via the very dodgy EU test cycle. Ask any Hybrid owner if they get anything other than average mpg returns, they don't. A chap at work has a Lexus 450h and drives 20 miles, steadily, each way to/from work, mainly on dual carriageway with a bit of town. He gets 29 mpg. Don't get me wrong, it'd be great if most electricity was produced from the movement of the tides and weather fronts, and Hybrid owners could get away with overnight charging and completing all their journeys on batteries alone without having to start the back-up motor up front. But then you'd be using valuable battery range on hauling around the dead weight of an internal combustion engine all day, and that wouldn't make sense either. Until we actually reach the point when most (or all) electricity can be produced cheaply with a low carbon footprint, battery technology comes on in leaps and bounds, and road vehicles are built around the Tesla concept, Hybrids will remain the mathematical and environmentally friendly flaw that they presently are.
winniethewoo 28 June 2015

Cobnapint wrote: But the

Cobnapint wrote:

But the point I'm trying to make is that Hybrid cars are being sold NOW - THIS VERY MOMENT, on the premise that their existence produces lower emissions, when they bloody well don't. Yes, I know technology has to evolve, but at the present time Hybrids only purpose in life is to serve as long term test-bed mules for that emerging technology, and to lower a particular manufacturers average CO2 g/km via the very dodgy EU test cycle. Ask any Hybrid owner if they get anything other than average mpg returns, they don't. A chap at work has a Lexus 450h and drives 20 miles, steadily, each way to/from work, mainly on dual carriageway with a bit of town. He gets 29 mpg. Don't get me wrong, it'd be great if most electricity was produced from the movement of the tides and weather fronts, and Hybrid owners could get away with overnight charging and completing all their journeys on batteries alone without having to start the back-up motor up front. But then you'd be using valuable battery range on hauling around the dead weight of an internal combustion engine all day, and that wouldn't make sense either. Until we actually reach the point when most (or all) electricity can be produced cheaply with a low carbon footprint, battery technology comes on in leaps and bounds, and road vehicles are built around the Tesla concept, Hybrids will remain the mathematical and environmentally friendly flaw that they presently are.

I give up.

Cobnapint 26 June 2015

@winnie

I presume you've ordered a hybrid then....seeing as you're such a fan.
winniethewoo 27 June 2015

Cobnapint wrote: I presume

Cobnapint wrote:

I presume you've ordered a hybrid then....seeing as you're such a fan.

No. I think there are too many compromises at present. I am a private car owner so dont get BIK charges, so hybrids and electric don't make sense for me.

What you arent thinking about is policy. The whole world is being legislated towards zero carbon. That means using no fossil fuels at all. You can't have a zero emissions diesel vehicle, no matter how efficient it is. You can have a zero emissions (or near to) electric vehicle however, if the electricity is generated by solar / tidal / wind power.

What you are seeing here is the start of a revolution AWAY from fossil fuels. Yes it is currently clunky and heavy and not as good as optimised fossil fuel equivalents, but the first computers were like that as well... no better, infact worse than a room full of people sitting on abacuses or using punched card machines.

So there IS a point to them. They ARE a good idea. They aren't optimised yet, but like computers and mobile phones they will get far more efficient, far more useful.

Remember the goal here is Zero Carbon output, which means Zero emissions, which isn't possible using diesel engines. Doing what you suggest of making diesel engines more efficient will become the OLD way of doing things because no matter what you do, if you burn diesel, you can't have a zero carbon vehicle.

If you don't get this, I give up.

Cobnapint 25 June 2015

Back in the real world...

You can have an X5 xDrive40d SE for the same price, that you don't have to remember to plug in every night, and un-plug every morning. It'll more than likely do the same real world mpg once you take into account the weight of the pallet of batteries you are carrying around. It'll also handle better, perform more consistently (1 diesel engine rather than 3 hybrid modes) and won't wear your tyres down quite as quickly. Plus you won't be burdened with the ever approaching cost of replacing those batteries in about 4 years time. And it's alright being on economy 7 and charging it up overnight, but don't forget they hammer you for the pence/kwh day rate.
OK, the Diesel BIK rate is 27% versus 13% for the Hybrid - but that is about the only benefit from where I'm sitting.
xxxx 26 June 2015

anti Telsa rubbish

Cobnapint wrote:

You can have an X5 xDrive40d SE for the same price, that you don't have to remember to plug in every night, and un-plug every morning. It'll more than likely do the same real world mpg once you take into account the weight of the pallet of batteries you are carrying around. It'll also handle better, perform more consistently (1 diesel engine rather than 3 hybrid modes) and won't wear your tyres down quite as quickly. Plus you won't be burdened with the ever approaching cost of replacing those batteries in about 4 years time. And it's alright being on economy 7 and charging it up overnight, but don't forget they hammer you for the pence/kwh day rate.
OK, the Diesel BIK rate is 27% versus 13% for the Hybrid - but that is about the only benefit from where I'm sitting.

There's so much guess work in your anti-Telsa post it’s hardly worth replying. Tyre wear is a concern and faster than an X40, you're guessing, have to remember to plug-in at night, do you forget to put queue up at petrol station when the light comes on? Batteries only last 4 years? you’re making sweeping scare statements! I believe the Model S is out-selling the 928 in America to such a degree Porsche is panicking and developing more plug-in’s FACT.

winniethewoo 26 June 2015

Cobnapint wrote: You can have

Cobnapint wrote:

You can have an X5 xDrive40d SE for the same price, that you don't have to remember to plug in every night, and un-plug every morning. It'll more than likely do the same real world mpg once you take into account the weight of the pallet of batteries you are carrying around. It'll also handle better, perform more consistently (1 diesel engine rather than 3 hybrid modes) and won't wear your tyres down quite as quickly. Plus you won't be burdened with the ever approaching cost of replacing those batteries in about 4 years time. And it's alright being on economy 7 and charging it up overnight, but don't forget they hammer you for the pence/kwh day rate.
OK, the Diesel BIK rate is 27% versus 13% for the Hybrid - but that is about the only benefit from where I'm sitting.

my god.

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