BMW X5 xDrive 40e review

The BMW X5 eDrive 40e is a lovely, relaxing car to drive. Cynics will dismiss it as another company car tax dodger, though ironically it misses escaping the London congestion charge by a fine margin. To be as green as possible you need to charge it as much as possible to use the electric power, or you are just carrying around unnecessary weight. It's most efficient in a stop-go mixed urban/country environment.

Review by Russell Bray

PERFORMANCE

BMW's first plug-in hybrid uses technology from its 'i' brand electric models and is powered a four-cylinder, 2.0 litre twin-turbo petrol engine developing 242bhp. Used in the smaller 328i, it's an impressive engine, three times winner of the International Engine of the Year award. An electric motor delivers an additional 111bhp for smooth, lively performance. The two power sources harmonise beautifully and, with a total available joint power output of 308bhp and 332 lb ft of torque, deliver sports car like acceleration with 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds - though at higher speeds the X5 doesn't feel that fast, probably because of its hefty 2,230kg kerb weight. Maximum torque from the petrol engine is 258 lb ft and 184 lb ft from the electric motor. Top speed is limited to 130mph. In electric only mode, where top speed is limited to 75mph the X5 is brisk and near silent. Drive goes to all four wheels via a smooth changing eight-speed automatic transmission.

HANDLING

SUVs aren't known for being light and with the added weight of the electric batteries and electric motor, the tyres of the X5 PHEV have more work to do than usual. The car is heavier than diesel versions so it takes more effort to deflect it from a straight course and into a corner. Nicely judged, but light, steering effort disguises this but in tighter corners the car isn't quite as responsive as other models, even though BMW has located the battery weight as low as possible. Ride comfort was very good despite shallow side wall tyres riding on big 19-inch wheels. Agility is impressive for a tall car and obviously helped by the xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. This fully varies the drive torque between the front and rear wheels. Linked to the dynamic stability control, it can act to reduce understeer or oversteer while splitting the torque for the best handling balance. The driving experience control lets you select Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro modes which change the throttle mapping, the steering characteristics, the responses of the transmission, and the characteristics of the dynamic suspension dampers.

BODY STYLE

There are few people who can't recognise and don't like the imperious yet elegant look of BMW's X5. This latest version oozes style and quality in a way that rival Mercedes SUVs struggle to match. Bigger 20-inch wheels are available for those who want a more aggressive, designer look. Bespoke design touches on the 40e include twin-tailpipe exhausts. As the electric drive equipment goes under the boot floor, the plug-in X5 comes only as a spacious five-seater, not a seven. Fitting in the batteries has reduced boot volume by 150 litres to 500 litres. The load floor though is almost flat and the rear seat splits 40:20:40. Towing capacity is 2,700kg. Length 4886mm. Width 1936mm.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

BMW X5 xDrive 40e interior

Smooth, luxurious and quiet, the X5 delivers everything its appearance suggests, though at times there is more noise from the road than you might expect. The electrically adjustable, heated front seats are superbly comfortable and the back ones good too with generous legroom. The instrument panel is hybrid-specific. A drive ready message shows in the lower part of the engine rev counter when the start/stop button is pressed and the state of the battery pack shows below the gear display. Information on electric and total range, current fuel or electricity consumption, recuperation of electrical energy and vehicle charging can be called up. An energy flow graphic shows the interaction between combustion engine and electric motor and how energy is fed to the high-voltage battery. The usual range of hybrid drive modes lets the X5 run on electric power alone (for a claimed 19 miles), charge the batteries on the move or drive with petrol engine and electric motor working together. Flex your right foot in electric mode just a little too much and the engine blends in as well but it's the flick of the rev counter you notice rather than any noise. Topping up the batteries using the petrol engine is not efficient, you need to plug the car in. A fast charger will give you 80 per cent battery power in two and half hours, says BMW.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

BMW says the xDrive40e returns 85.6 MPG on the official combined cycle while emitting just 77 g/km of CO2 (78g/km with the bigger wheels). Motorway cruising and main road running with the electric batteries depleted saw 28.1 to 29.1 MPG. This improved to 35 to 38 MPG on urban drives. If the battery is fully charged, BMW says a commute of up to 37 miles could see fuel economy of 43.5 MPG, depending on driving style. With a full 85-litre tank of petrol and the battery pack fully charged, BMW claims long-distance economy "above 25.7 MPG". The lithium-ion battery pack is capable of a pure electric range of up to 19 miles. Compared to an xDrive 40d diesel with 157 g/km emissions, the 40e would save a company car user £2,711 a year in benefit-in-kind taxation and under current road tax legislation there would be no tax to pay.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

For maximum efficiency the petrol engine uses a twin scroll turbocharger, high precision injection, and variable valve timing and variable camshaft control on both the intake and exhaust sides of the engine. The eight-speed automatic transmission is more efficient and Efficient Dynamics systems regenerate brake energy and the automatic engine stop-start saves fuel and reduces pollution in traffic. Eco Pro mode on the driver control system optimises the air conditioning, seat heating and heated mirrors to save fuel. And when travelling with the engine on the overrun below 100mph, a coasting function shuts off the engine so no fuel is burned. Linked with the satellite navigation system Eco Pro can work out the most fuel efficient route to a destination.
According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 53.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Standard equipment on the X5 xDrive 40e includes alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, LED fog lights, front and rear parking controls, leather upholstery, dual zone air conditioning, electric rear tailgate, self-leveling rear air suspension, DAB radio, multi-media navigation, BMW on-line services, real time traffic information, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and roof rails. The dual-zone automatic climate control includes an auxiliary heating and ventilation system. Timer-controlled cooling or heating delivers the desired temperature in the car before a journey. It can either run on mains electricity during vehicle charging or be powered by the high-voltage battery. Options included reversing camera (£375), panoramic glass sunroof (£1,295), surround view cameras (£530), high beam assistant (£150), enhanced Bluetooth (£350) and Harmon Kardon sound system (£895). Shift paddles on the steering wheel are an option. Options not available on the 40e model are a third row of seats, adaptive suspension, active steering, rear comfort seats and a ski bag.

MODEL SUMMARY

BMW X5 xDrive 40e rear

Model tested: BMW X5 eDrive 40e
Body-style: Five-door SUV
Engine / CO2: 242bhp 2.0 twin-turbo petrol and 111bhp electric motor / 77 g/km
Trim grades: SE, M Sport

On-road price: From £55,925. Price as tested £61,090
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

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BMW X5 xDrive 40e details

Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:8th Feb 2016

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