The BMW X5 xDrive40e has a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain resulting in an official combined fuel economy figure of 85.6 mpg – so will you enjoy this in real-life?8
Everyone wants premium SUVs, and to get emissions down, the world is moving towards electric propulsion. The BMW X5 xDrive40e, a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid BMW SUV, is the result of combining these two trends.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e has a 4-cylinder, 2-litre TwinPower Turbo petrol engine and an electric motor – integrated in an 8-speed Steptronic transmission – which is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which you plug in to the mains to recharge. The X5 xDrive40e has full hybrid drive, with permanent torque vectoring to all four wheels. It can drive at speeds of up to 75mph on electric power, and has an electric range of around 19 miles.
Other than the electric motor and battery, the xDrive40e is virtually identical to a regular X5, apart from slightly less luggage space. So it’s functional, spacious, comfortable and luxurious on the inside, and it looks good on the outside, complete with M Sport body kit on our test car. Even with its 20-inch alloys, from certain angles the rear wheels still look as though they’re too small compared with the bulky bodywork that sits over the rear arches.
Before you go anywhere in the BMW X5 xDrive40e it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with all the settings. There’s an eDrive button giving you the options of AUTO eDrive, MAX eDrive and SAVE Battery. There’s also the ‘Driving Experience Control’ switch offering the modes of Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro. And you get paddles behind the thick M Sport steering wheel so you can change gear manually. All the above options mean that there really is a drive setting for all occasions.
So what is the X5 xDrive40e like to drive? Assuming that it’s been charged, then driving an X5 in full EV mode is an excellent novelty. Even though we spend much of our lives driving various vehicles with full EV capability, including other BMW and BMW i models, it still feels futuristic to glide around town silently in an X5. In pure EV mode, like most other EVs, the X5 is quiet, refined and responsive.
The X5 is also quiet, refined and extremely comfortable on motorway journeys, despite its huge 315 35 R20 low profile tyres, which should ruin the ride and generate lots of noise, but don’t.
The X5 was also 100% capable with light off-roading duties. Ensuring there is sufficient battery capacity for off-road work means that there is lots of torque, and the electric motors allow more controlled throttle response. And off-roading in near silence means that you can hear the interaction between the tyres and the surface, which is always helpful.
So far, so good. But there’s an elephant in the room. Or more accurately there’s an elephant sitting on our drive. It’s called the BMW X5 xDrive40e and it weighs 2230kg.
We’ve tested the BMW 330e – a plug-in BMW 3 Series saloon with a two-litre petrol and an electric motor – and it felt responsive, sporty and efficient. At 2230kg, with a large, high body and associated aerodynamic challenges, the laws of physics mean that the X5 xDrive40e is always going to struggle to feel responsive, sporty and efficient. Even in Sport mode, there isn’t much kick-down from the transmission; you get a bit more response if you change gear manually and hold the car in gear. But the car isn’t in its comfort zone when driving like this. The good news is that thanks to the X5’s weight it has a towing capacity of 2700 kg.
Although the interior is as functional as the interiors of most BMWs (with the head-up display being excellent), the X5 xDrive40e has the same issue as the 330e – you can flick through the displays on the dashboard to show battery charge and battery range, but it would be better if this information was displayed constantly. And a clearer indication showing when the car is driving on electric power would be good (rather than the rev counter just being at zero).
The official economy figure for the X5 xDrive40e is 83.1-85.6 mpg (depending on tyre size), which equates to 77-78 g/km CO2 emissions. We’ll tell you what we achieved in real-life in a moment, but if you were to buy this car, you could average anything between 25mpg and 250mpg depending on how much of your driving was done on electric power.
Most mornings after charging, the instrument panel displayed a range of between 16-18 miles (a 100% charge should take less than three hours at 3.5 kW). Some days we were able to drive less than 15 miles and recharge, and we didn’t use any petrol. However around 80% of our driving is typically on motorways, and 16 miles of battery capacity doesn’t go very far on long motorway journeys. The best we enjoyed from a long journey was 36.1mpg. The worst we recorded was 26.9mpg. After a week – including some all-electric local runs but with around 80% of trips being long journeys – we averaged 33.0mpg. This is less than you’d expect from an X5 diesel, but better than you’d expect from a petrol X5.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e MSport costs £55,925. Apart from this petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain option, you can choose from diesels: 25d, 30d, 40d, M50d; or the petrol 50i. Most X5s are four-wheel drive xDrive, but you can have two-wheel drive sDrive. In terms of trim levels, the choice is SE or M Sport. As a comparison, the X5 5 Door xDrive30d M Sport returns 47.1mpg and emits 158g/km CO2. A significant flaw is that to access the £2,500 UK government plug-in car grant for plug-in hybrids the CO2 emissions need to be bel0w 75g/km CO2 – which, at 77-78g/km co2, they aren’t.
Whether or not you should buy a plug-in hybrid car depends on your driving patterns. Our week with the X5 involved too many long journeys to stand any chance of recording a decent overall fuel economy figure. However we recently ran a long-term Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for 6 months and due to having other vehicles available for longer journeys it was used primarily for journeys within its electric range, with occasional longer trips. After 6 months we averaged 80.7mpg. The BMW X5 xDrive40e could deliver a similar economy figure. However it would have to be driven less than 15 miles between charges most of the time, with just occasional longer journeys. In our view, there are few people in the UK who would pay £55,925 for a BMW X5 and primarily drive it less than 15 miles per journey. Therefore for most people the X5 with BMW’s excellent 3-litre diesel engine is probably the one to go for. However if you do genuinely want an X5 for primarily urban driving then the X5 xDrive40e will be much better for local air quality than the diesel. Our concern is that business buyers will be attracted to the X5 xDrive40e due to its favourable 13% BIK rate, but will then drive it up and down the nation’s motorways, chewing up lots of petrol and emitting lots of CO2.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e is certainly a feat of engineering, but we imagine it won’t suit most people’s usage patterns in the UK; it gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.