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Hybrid power increases the X5's weight but cuts its CO2 emissions to 77g/km and improves its combined economy to 85.6mpg

Our Verdict

BMW X5
The X5 uses in effect the same platform as the previous generation, but it's been substantially revised

BMW sticks to its well proven SUV formula with the new X5, delivering a competent and refined off-roader – but one that's lacking those few extra flourishes

  • First Drive

    2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e M Sport review

    The BMW X5 xDrive40e claims up to 85.6mpg and emissions of 77g/km of CO2. Does those figures measure up in the real world on UK roads?
  • First Drive

    2015 BMW X5 xDrive40e review

    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. 

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.

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%

Join the debate

Comments
25

23 June 2015
One badge reads "xDrive40e", another badge reads "edrive". Too many confusing badges.

23 June 2015
One badge reads "xDrive40e", another badge reads "edrive". Too many confusing badges.

23 June 2015
This journalist has failed to recognise that this is a low-emission SUV which reduces the fleet fuel consumption in the worst-offending part of the model line-up and offers BMW customers around the world a very regulation-friendly version of a popular vehicle. BMW does not design just for the UK, as this is clearly more intended for the U.S. or other such vital markets while still being highly applicable for Europe. It may not set 'new benchmarks', but it is a capable representative for a vital sector and is entirely relevant, regardless of the ill-thought-out claims made in this article.

23 June 2015
Telsa will show this BMW as no more than a stepping stone. Still as people know I'm all for plug-in power just a shame the electric range can't be raised to around 50 or better still make the power train an i3 range extender type.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

bol

23 June 2015
In fairness, I think the article reflected that the car is aimed at the USA and China. It isn't regulation friendly in the UK, unlike its competitors. It's not quite one thing or the other and is a bit "first generation".

23 June 2015
Live in the snowy NE of the US - and a couple of things became apparent in the last two winters:

You can't rock a 4WD hybrid out of a snowy rut (i.e. switch between reverse and drive). The systems won't allow it

The batteries are sensitive to the cold, and you can't jump them. You need to get a dealer out to do it - try that in the middle of a Vermont winter

Because of the above, I know a bunch of people of traded their hybrid Highlanders, Escapes, Mercedes for regular technology vehicles.

23 June 2015
...amuse-bouche. Another thing I don't understand is why anyone thinks that Hybrids are a good idea. I mean, in an age where car manufacturers are trying to save every gram in vehicle weight, and we are told that driving around with a full tank of fuel on board will reduce your mpg by 'x' amount - we are now being urged (after just approx. 12 miles of use) to carry around the totally useless dead weight of a discharged battery pack while we wait for the bloody thing to charge up again. And the 'low emissions' tag is one for the trade descriptions people as well. Just try quoting that to your fuel gauge as you drive around trying to bring it back to life again, or the power station coal-feeder operator when you plug it into the grid at home.

23 June 2015
Cobnapint wrote:

...amuse-bouche. Another thing I don't understand is why anyone thinks that Hybrids are a good idea. I mean, in an age where car manufacturers are trying to save every gram in vehicle weight, and we are told that driving around with a full tank of fuel on board will reduce your mpg by 'x' amount - we are now being urged (after just approx. 12 miles of use) to carry around the totally useless dead weight of a discharged battery pack while we wait for the bloody thing to charge up again. And the 'low emissions' tag is one for the trade descriptions people as well. Just try quoting that to your fuel gauge as you drive around trying to bring it back to life again, or the power station coal-feeder operator when you plug it into the grid at home.

And the first computer took up a whole room, sucked up loads of electricity and was less powerful than a pocket calculator. Another useless invention there then, according to your logic.

23 June 2015
Cobnapint wrote:

...amuse-bouche. Another thing I don't understand is why anyone thinks that Hybrids are a good idea. I mean, in an age where car manufacturers are trying to save every gram in vehicle weight, and we are told that driving around with a full tank of fuel on board will reduce your mpg by 'x' amount - we are now being urged (after just approx. 12 miles of use) to carry around the totally useless dead weight of a discharged battery pack while we wait for the bloody thing to charge up again. And the 'low emissions' tag is one for the trade descriptions people as well. Just try quoting that to your fuel gauge as you drive around trying to bring it back to life again, or the power station coal-feeder operator when you plug it into the grid at home.

Or what about the bell ends who invented the first mobile phones? They weighed 30kgs and required a suitcase to haul around.

24 June 2015
Cobnapint wrote:

...amuse-bouche. Another thing I don't understand is why anyone thinks that Hybrids are a good idea. I mean, in an age where car manufacturers are trying to save every gram in vehicle weight, and we are told that driving around with a full tank of fuel on board will reduce your mpg by 'x' amount - we are now being urged (after just approx. 12 miles of use) to carry around the totally useless dead weight of a discharged battery pack while we wait for the bloody thing to charge up again. And the 'low emissions' tag is one for the trade descriptions people as well. Just try quoting that to your fuel gauge as you drive around trying to bring it back to life again, or the power station coal-feeder operator when you plug it into the grid at home.

I think they are a good idea (not this one its too half hearted) but my hybrid saves me £240 a month in company car tax between it and the next cheapest vehicle with 4wd. Would be a lot more than that if I wanted something of comparable size and spec. ----- seems a very good idea to me!

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