The BMW X5 xDrive45e plug-in hybrid drives like a BMW rather than a hybrid, and it has an official electric driving range of 54 miles.
Most plug-in hybrids have an official all-electric driving range of around 28-32 miles before they have to use petrol (or diesel) power. However the new BMW X5 has an official electric driving range of 54 miles, and it even comes with a 6-cylinder, 3-litre petrol engine rather than the 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine in the previous model.
We think that the styling of the new X5 has been updated skilfully and the new model looks better than ever. The interior also follows the theme of other current BMWs: everything works well from a technical and a driver’s point of view.
The X5 is big and so you’d expect it to offer a lot of space, and it does: the luggage compartment volume is 500 litres – only 50 litres less than a conventionally-powered BMW X5. If the rear seats are folded down, the luggage volume increases to 1,720 litres.
However it’s the powertrain that’s really interesting; there’s now 54 miles of official electric driving range from the 24kWh lithium-ion battery – more than three times the range of the previous X5 PHEV model. And if you need to go further, there’s a 286hp in-line 6-cylinder, 3-litre petrol engine. There’s also the 113hp electric motor, resulting in a combined power output of 394hp and 600Nm of torque between the engine and the electric drive system.
Despite the new larger engine, the official emissions and economy figures are better than the previous model – almost twice as good – thanks to the increase in electric range.
There’s an eight-speed Steptronic transmission and xDrive; all-wheel drive is delivered by the petrol engine, by the electric motor, and by both systems together. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 5.6 seconds – an impressive feat bearing in mind the weight of the X5 PHEV.
From the driver’s seat, the X5’s interior is a very familiar BMW environment. This means it feels upmarket, the dashboard is functional, and now there’s more technology than in the previous model. And of course you can get the normal excellent BMW driving position.
Once you’re underway it becomes clear that all the control weights are very well judged, and that even includes the brakes – something that often isn’t the case with hybrids.
If you select electric mode the car is extremely refined and there’s instantly available 100% torque, although the electric drive is delivered through the transmission, so you can feel gear changes.
If you press the hybrid button then the car decides itself whether it will use the petrol engine – which it generally does for most normal driving – or the electric drivetrain, which it does at standstill or at low loads. This system for choosing when to use petrol or electric power is more effective than many other plug-in hybrids, which can over-use the battery for normal driving, leaving no battery capacity for when you need it later, eg. entering a built-up area.
There’s also a Sport button, which primarily uses the petrol engine. And this is a very, very nice petrol engine. The previous X5 plug-in hybrid had a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol unit. Although this performed adequately under normal use, if you needed a bit more acceleration, the engine could feel – and sound – strained. No such issues with the new X5; although we’re advocates of electric propulsion, if you have to use a petrol engine, the 6-cylinder, 3-litre unit in the new X5 is beautifully smooth and refined. And with 394hp and 600Nm of torque, performance is excellent – just don’t expect 100mpg+ economy if you’re using the performance.
Another area in which the X5 is unlike many other plug-in hybrids is the seamless integration of the hybrid system; with some other rivals you can feel the car searching for the petrol engine or the electric motor, as well as for the right gear. Even though it has a hybrid powertrain, the X5 first and foremost feels like a BMW.
The drive mode switches are grouped together in an easy place to reach near the gear selector, but on the other side of the stop/start button there’s also a button with a battery symbol. Pressing this enables you to maintain the battery charge – ie. use the petrol engine – or even increase the battery charge up to a level that you can choose.
Life on the motorway is extremely pleasant, with virtually no mechanical or external noises intruding into the cabin. Ride quality is generally excellent, but the 21-inch wheels mean that potholes aren’t absorbed as comfortably as they would be with higher profile tyres. You can still feel some rear-wheel drive BMW genes in the chassis, and the handling is impressive – and here comes the elephant in the room – for such a big heavy car. And yes, this is a big car. During our test in North Wales we were faced with roads with very sharp slate walls that were literally only one or two inches wider than the X5.
The car is also tall, although the PHEV’s centre of gravity is lower than that of the conventionally-powered X5. And why is that? Because there’s a large battery in the base of the car. To deliver 54 miles of range the battery has to be big, and this results in the X5 xDrive45e weighing 2,435 kg. If there’s one area where the car can be improved, it’s weight loss.
The X5 is an SUV and so you would expect it could drive off-road, but it’s obviously not designed to do this, and just taking a look at the tyres and the complete lack of any off-road tread pattern confirms this. However you can raise (or lower) the ride height thanks to the air suspension.
BMW’s iDrive infomedia continues to be the best system available. You can control everything by using the rotary dial and a selection of buttons rather than by touching the screen (although you can also do that if you want). If you’re using the satnav then you have a large central screen showing a map, you have directions in the instrument display in front of the driver, and you also have excellent directions on the head-up display. So there really is no excuse for getting lost.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV is 235.4-188.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 39g/km. As regular Green Car Guide readers will be aware, whether you come anywhere close to this fuel consumption figure in real life depends completely on how much driving is done on electric power. If most of your driving is less than 50 miles, and the car is always charged, then you might enjoy 100mpg+. However a pure EV will probably be the best solution for such driving patterns.
So it’s expected that some journeys in the X5 will be more than 50 miles and therefore the petrol engine will be used. So we regard the fuel economy at 70mph on the petrol engine as a key guide as to what you can expect on longer journeys: we achieved 30mpg at 70mph on the motorway. This isn’t great, and is the consequence of a 6-cylinder, 3-litre petrol engine, a car weighing almost 2.5 tonnes, and the inefficient aerodynamics of a large SUV.
After a week of mixed driving with the car we averaged 44.5mpg.
But what about the official 54 mile driving range? Did we achieve that in real life? No: we experienced 32-40 miles in the real-world. However that was in cold temperatures in February, and that’s substantially more than most rival plug-in hybrid SUVs can achieve in real-world driving.
With its 69-litre fuel tank you could expect a total combined driving range of around 500 miles from the petrol engine and the battery.
If you’re going to buy this car, you need to charge it at home, and because the battery is so big, you really need a 7kW charger to cut the charging time down to a few hours compared to the much longer time that it takes using a 3 pin plug.
The new BMW X5 xDrive45e starts at £63,165. With M Sport trim this increases to £66,755. And then there were the options on our test car, including Visibility package (£1,595), Technology package (£2,095), Comfort package (£2,350) and M Sport Plus package (£1,900). All options totalled £9,285, taking the total price of the car to £76,825.
Although the purchase price isn’t cheap, the good news is that the Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability is 16% for 2019/20, but BIK tax will be just 6% from April 2020, which could save company car drivers thousands of pounds. And of course if driven on electric power most of the time, the fuel costs should be much lower.
If you drive long distances on motorways and don’t intend to charge a plug-in hybrid, a diesel X5 is likely to be more economical – but the BIK would be much higher.
The BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV really is a car that can do everything. It can be driven in fully electric mode for up to 54 miles (based on official figures). If you drive it further then you have a very smooth and powerful 6-cylinder, 3-litre petrol engine to help ensure that long journeys are a pleasure. So it can deliver economy and performance (although not both at the same time). It also drives like a luxury car, the infomedia system is excellent, it has lots of space, and you can venture off road in a limited way thanks to the ability to raise the ride height, although you’d need to be very careful doing this on the standard road tyres.
So the BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV can pretty much do everything, but the main penalty is its 2,435 kg weight, and the 30mpg that you’re likely to experience on a long journey using the petrol engine. However the key point is that the BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV drives like a BMW rather than a hybrid, which is a very, very good thing, and it achieves a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.