What is it?
The new BMW X5 eDrive, and it's a very significant car. Not only will it be BMW’s first regular production model to boast plug-in hybrid technology when it goes on sale in the UK in 2015, but it will also act as a rolling blueprint for an extended range of upcoming petrol-electric-powered BMW models that you’ll be able to plug into mains power as a means of extending performance and economy, among them a secret new 3-series eDrive saloon recently spotted testing for the first time.
Revealed in concept car guise at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, the X5 eDrive draws heavily on the knowhow amassed during the development of BMW’s recently introduced i3 city car and forthcoming i8 sports car.
Although based around an existing series production model, its advanced driveline has been developed alongside those of the initial i brand models with which it shares crucial components, such as its power electronic control unit – the system that controls the interface between its combustion engine, electric motor, gearbox, battery and four-wheel drive system.
The X5 eDrive uses a specially adapted version of BMW’s existing N20 direct-injection petrol engine, as used across the German car maker’s model range in recent years. Mounted longitudinally well back in the commodious engine bay, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit kicks out 241bhp and 258lb ft.
The combustion engine is mated with a disc-shaped electric motor mounted within the housing of the gearbox. Produced by long-time BMW partner, ZF – the same company responsible for the new SUV’s standard eight-speed automatic transmission – it delivers 94bhp and the same 184lb ft as the unit employed in the upcoming i8 sports car.
BMW isn’t giving all the secrets to the X5 eDrive away just yet, but it suggests the combined system output will be more than 270bhp and 332lb ft. By comparison, the existing X5 xDrive35i’s turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine delivers 302bhp and 295lb ft.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a battery sited beneath the floor of the boot, which has been raised by 20mm over that of other X5 models to accommodate it. The lithium ion unit consists of cells supplied by SB LiMotive, a joint venture operated by Samsung and Bosch, and is claimed to possess a capacity of more than 9.0kWh. It can be charged either via a 400 volt wall box or standard 240 mains through a socket hidden beneath a flap within the front driver’s side fender panel.