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.