From £60,1259
A six-cylinder petrol engine and a bigger battery work wonders for BMW's plug-in hybrid SUV

What is it?

The new BMW X5 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has gained two extra cylinders yet somehow become more economical (officially) and more BIK tax-efficient at the same time.

This feat has been achieved primarily thanks to a significant increase in battery capacity: it’s now 24kWh, up from just 9.2kWh in the previous-generation X5 xDrive40e.

That’s a key upgrade mostly for the difference it makes to electric-only range and associated tax qualification. As of April 2020, PHEV company cars will be classified not only on their WLTP-rated CO2 emissions but also how far they can be driven on electrictity alone. So, while most rivals have significantly smaller batteries that enable them to do no more than 20 miles or so under electric power, the X5 will be rated to go as far as 54 miles without necessarily exciting its reciprocating pistons.

The difference that could make to monthly running costs, even between running one of these instead of what you might take for a pretty competitive rival, could be significant. While owners of PHEVs rated for 40 miles of electric range or more will be due to pay just 8% of the car’s value per year as benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, those who own alternatives good for less than 30 miles will have to pay 14%, and plenty will have to pay more still. That means the X5 could save a 40% taxpayer more than £200 per month over its rivals, and compared with a diesel, possibly twice as much.

This new X5 is one of several revised PHEV models introduced by BMW throughout 2019, all of which have what it calls its fourth-generation hybrid battery technology. Like the 530e, 330e and forthcoming X3 30e, it uses a longways-mounted engine and an electric motor mounted between that and the eight-speed automatic gearbox, where you might expect to find a torque converter.

Unlike the fleet-friendly petrol-electric 3 Series and 5 Series models, though, the X5 adopts the 282bhp turbocharged six-cylinder 3.0-litre motor that also powers the 745e. Given that this is good for 111bhp, total powertrain outputs are 389bhp and 442lb ft, leaving the X5 close to the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine for potency, albeit not so close to the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid.

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What's it like?

In most respects, the 45e is like any other fourth-generation X5. Even though it has grown so much on capacity, its battery is carried under the floor and within the wheelbase so that it doesn’t adversely affect packaging. The fuel tank has been displaced a little, though, so you get marginally less boot space here than in other derivatives. It’s also not possible to get a seven-seat layout.

Up front is an excellent and comfortable driving position, while a digital instrument display presents information in adaptable and mainly easily legible style. Perceived quality is high, and while the driving position is a little more recumbent than that of some big SUVs (and the X5 feels slightly less spacious than some), there can be no mistaking the ambience of a very technologically advanced, expensively finished, modern-yet-luxurious family car.

When we drove this car abroad, the strides made for it in terms of smoothness, driveability and refinement were as plain as the ones made on outright performance, and the same progress comes through loud and clear on UK roads. The four-cylinder 40e was a much less fluent and assured operator than this, offering considerably less initial throttle response as supplied by the motor before switching pretty abruptly to combustive power. The 45e, by contrast, gives you all the electric urge you’re likely to want in Hybrid driving mode when you’re around town and up to typical B-road speeds without ever threatening to rouse its engine.

When you do delve deep enough into the accelerator to require a bit of extra pace, there's just enough hesitation and extra hum for you to notice the car waking its straight-six, but acceleration continues to be supplied in very predictable, linear and responsive fashion. The switchover from Electric to Hybrid mode is no more noticeable than a change of intermediate gear ratio. And on wider pedal openings, the X5 picks up speed with a really torquey briskness, needing fewer downshifts than you expect and making supremely light work of moving a kerbweight that’s very close to 2.5 tonnes. Smoothness and muscularity from low revs are its abiding qualities.

Unlike other X5s, the 45e offers driving modes specific to its powertrain type, so instead of the usual choice of Comfort, Individual and Eco Pro, you choose between Sport, Electric, Hybrid and Adaptive, with a Sport Individual mode hidden away in a sub-menu for those who want to mix and match steering, powertrain and suspension presets. Another button on the transmission tunnel allows you to select a separate Battery Hold mode, in which you can restore the state of charge in the battery to anything up to 100% during normal driving.

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Adaptive mode is expected to be the one most drivers will default to. Assuming a route is set in the sat-nav system, it allows the car to manage the switching of its own powertrain from electric mode to combustion mode and back again in order to maximise fuel efficiency and, where possible, always deliver you to your destination just as the battery runs dry. Run in Electric and from a fully charged state and our testing suggests you’re more likely to get between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery than the 54 the new lab tests promise. Still, that's a reasonable chunk more than you would get from most rivals.

Sport mode allows the car to take on a pretty convincing performance flavour, since it configures both engine and motor to run continually and to work together instantly. If you opt to manage the eight-speed gearbox yourself via the wheel-mounted gearshift paddles, throttle response is really good and initial acceleration strong when picking up from low engine speeds.

Above 4000rpm, however, it becomes pretty clear that the motor can do little more to assist the engine. And given that both power sources are driving onto a common gearbox input shaft and must therefore always operate at the same rotational speeds (and that motors still aren’t great at producing torque at high revs), it’s easy enough to work out why that might be.

The X5 xDrive 45e M Sport comes with adaptive air suspension, 20in alloy wheels and runflat tyres as standard, with BMW’s Integral Active four-wheel steering system as an option. Optional wheel size runs all the way to 22in if you have the M Sport Plus package – and, yes, as it happens, you can have the big rims without disqualifying the car from that low tax classification explained earlier.

Our test car had the optional 22in wheels and handled accurately and well on better surfaces, thanks to its medium-firm suspension. Both steering (which was slightly overly light) and body control over uneven roads left a little to be desired, however. The car’s ride was particularly busy, with lateral head toss at times, and under-damped at other times, particularly over bigger intrusions, when it tended to bound from one input to the next. Which just goes to proves that, while it can be very effectively masked for while, a two-and-a-half tonne kerbweight can’t be hidden forever in any modern passenger car.

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Should I buy one?

Much as they may blunt the edge of this car’s driver appeal, those dynamic flaws will be minor enough to overlook for the vast majority of interested buyers – and quite rightly so. Having been attracted to this car for what it promises to do for their P11D, most who test drive a 45e ought to be really convinced by the well-rounded slickness, drivability, accessible potency and refinement of its powertrain. Assuming they can charge it easily, they should also get impressive fuel economy from it.

Having been one of the least recommendable luxury hybrid SUVs of its kind in its previous four-cylinder form, the X5 has now undoubtedly become one of the best. And if you’re a company car driver yet to cotton onto the fact that, although the monthly business lease on one might cost you £100 more than for a 30d diesel, the monthly BIK tax on one will likely save you five times that sum? It’s probably high time you did.

BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport specification

Where Buckinghamshire, UK Price £66,675 On sale now Engine 6 cyls in line, 2998cc, turbocharged, petrol; plus electric motor Power 389bhp (total output) Torque 442lb ft (total output) Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2435kg Top speed 146mph 0-62mph 5.6sec Fuel economy 201.8mpg (WLTP combined) CO2 31g/km Electric range 51 miles (WLTP Combined) Rivals Volvo XC90 T8 Twin EnginePorsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

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Comments
12

6 December 2019

" ..between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery" for a battery with the same capacity capable of driving a MK1 LEAF 90 miles minimum that is really poor progress.   Yes I know there's the weight issue but then how can an I-Pace go over 200 miles with a 90kwh or a Model S over 300 on a 100kwh battery.

If the BIK advantage is ever re-worked and made fairer these cars will dive!

6 December 2019
xxxx wrote:

" ..between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery" for a battery with the same capacity capable of driving a MK1 LEAF 90 miles minimum that is really poor progress.   Yes I know there's the weight issue but...

Well, the weight issue that you mention is considerable. This thing has a full tonne on the Mk1 Leaf. As for the i-Pace and Model S, in addition to their much higher battery capacities, even they weigh quite a bit less than this X5. I think aerodynamics also play a part, with the X5, a full-on SUV, not being as slippery as the others.

6 December 2019
Overdrive wrote:

xxxx wrote:

" ..between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery" for a battery with the same capacity capable of driving a MK1 LEAF 90 miles minimum that is really poor progress.   Yes I know there's the weight issue but...

Well, the weight issue that you mention is considerable. This thing has a full tonne on the Mk1 Leaf. As for the i-Pace and Model S, in addition to their much higher battery capacities, even they weigh quite a bit less than this X5. I think aerodynamics also play a part, with the X5, a full-on SUV, not being as slippery as the others.

There's only a 8% difference in weight between this and the P100D Model S.  "aerodynamics " not a whole lot of difference between the BMW and the i-Pace.

Either way these small differences don't account for how inefficient this PHEV is when using battery power compared to a BEV. 

6 December 2019
xxxx wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

xxxx wrote:

" ..between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery" for a battery with the same capacity capable of driving a MK1 LEAF 90 miles minimum that is really poor progress.   Yes I know there's the weight issue but...

Well, the weight issue that you mention is considerable. This thing has a full tonne on the Mk1 Leaf. As for the i-Pace and Model S, in addition to their much higher battery capacities, even they weigh quite a bit less than this X5. I think aerodynamics also play a part, with the X5, a full-on SUV, not being as slippery as the others.

There's only a 8% difference in weight between this and the P100D Model S.  "aerodynamics " not a whole lot of difference between the BMW and the i-Pace.

Either way these small differences don't account for how inefficient this PHEV is when using battery power compared to a BEV. 

p.s. The Tesla Model X100d is both heavier and has the aero of a brick compared to a X5 and that gets around 290 miles from 100 kwh battery

6 December 2019
xxxx wrote:

p.s. The Tesla Model X100d is both heavier and has the aero of a brick compared to a X5 

No it doesn't - Model X drag coefficient is 0.24 or 0.25 (sources disagree), the X5 drag coefficient is 0.31 - so 24% or 29% higher. The X5 also has a larger frontal area, so the X5 is considerably more brick-like.

6 December 2019
Sporky McGuffin wrote:

xxxx wrote:

p.s. The Tesla Model X100d is both heavier and has the aero of a brick compared to a X5 

No it doesn't - Model X drag coefficient is 0.24 or 0.25 (sources disagree), the X5 drag coefficient is 0.31 - so 24% or 29% higher. The X5 also has a larger frontal area, so the X5 is considerably more brick-like.

.24 (Tesla figure?) or .25 and I'm not sure where you find out how the X5 has a larger frontal area than the Model X. Either way the PHEV effiiciency is crap

6 December 2019
xxxx wrote:

I'm not sure where you find out how the X5 has a larger frontal area than the Model X. 

Google. You should try it - it's really handy to be able to check your facts before posting. I'm amazed more people don't use it - it's remarkably simple.

13 January 2020
What a tool, where opinion becomes fact, like dealing with a teenager!

6 December 2019
xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

xxxx wrote:

" ..between 30 and 40 miles out of that battery" for a battery with the same capacity capable of driving a MK1 LEAF 90 miles minimum that is really poor progress.   Yes I know there's the weight issue but...

Well, the weight issue that you mention is considerable. This thing has a full tonne on the Mk1 Leaf. As for the i-Pace and Model S, in addition to their much higher battery capacities, even they weigh quite a bit less than this X5. I think aerodynamics also play a part, with the X5, a full-on SUV, not being as slippery as the others.

There's only a 8% difference in weight between this and the P100D Model S.  "aerodynamics " not a whole lot of difference between the BMW and the i-Pace.

Either way these small differences don't account for how inefficient this PHEV is when using battery power compared to a BEV. 

p.s. The Tesla Model X100d is both heavier and has the aero of a brick compared to a X5 and that gets around 290 miles from 100 kwh battery

According to Autocar, the X Model is pretty the same weight as the X5, 2,439 kg v 2,435kg. Also, in addition to its much higher battery capacity and it's drag coefficient advantages, the X Model is optimised as a full on EV and as such will likely have drivetrain efficiency advantages over a hybrid like the X5.

6 December 2019

The difference that could make to monthly running costs, even between running one of these instead of what you might take for a pretty competitive rival, could be significant. While owners of PHEVs rated for 40 miles of electric range or more will be due to pay just 8% of the car’s value per year as benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, those who own alternatives good for less than 30 miles will have to pay 14%, and plenty will have to pay more still. That means the X5 could save a 40% taxpayer more than £200 per month over its rivals, and compared with a diesel, possibly twice as much. If this is the solution to our environmental problems then god help us all.

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