2016 BMW X5 Plug-In Hybrid Launch Review

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e Road Test and Review.

BMW has begun a new push to bridge the gap between its i3 and i8 range of electric cars and its conventional luxury/performance models with the first BMW plug-in hybrid model landing in Australia.

Known as the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Behind the Wheel was invited along to the Australian launch of the new model, which will soon be joined in the BMW ‘e’ ranks by a plug-in hybrid version of the BMW 3 Series.

It should come as no surprise that the X5 and 3 Series are the first plug-in hybrid BMW models to be offered here, they are Australia’s two favourite BMW models. While the BMW X5 was also the nation’s top-selling luxury SUV last year.

Priced from $118,900, the new X5 plug-in hybrid is priced in line with the diesel version of the X5, with BMW admitting that this new option probably makes sense primarily for urban-based buyers, especially those who commute within the average 31.2km round trip per day.

The reason for this is that the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e has an electric charge range of 30 kilometres officially, though BMW Australia representatives, to their credit, have admitted they have managed only about 25 kilometres from a full charge in local conditions.

On my test drive, yep, it was about the same. Setting off with a 99% charge, it was after about 24km of sedate electric-drive running in light traffic conditions that the batteries were depleted. After this point the X5’s four-cylinder petrol engine kicks in and you are essentially driving a standard vehicle.

Well standard and not so standard in equal parts.

Some of the X5 40e’s party tricks include the ability to recharge the batteries when the brakes are on (in sport mode you can get back to about 80% charge according to BMW) and an Eco Pro mode is available that will switch off the petrol engine to save fuel while you are making your way downhill.

And you can even monitor your usage stats and complete funky commands like turning on your air-conditioning before you reach your X5 with an available BMW app!

The end result of the high-tech stuff is fuel consumption quoted as low as an average of 3.3L/100km.  Fitted with an 85 litre fuel tank, a full tank and a full electric charge should net you a driving range of about 1000km, according to BMW.

So how do you charge the batteries? Well, the X5 comes with a charging cable that you can plug into any standard Australian power outlet. A full charge with this method takes about five hours and BMW reckons it will cost you no more than about $2 (depending on your supplier/plan etc.)

An optional BMW Wall Box is also available; this will reduce your charge time down to 2.5 hours. The BMW SUV can also be charged at public recharge stations and BMW tell us that there will be up to about 950 of these dotted around the country in the next four years.

Aside from the little access flap to the charge point in the left front guard, the plug-in hybrid version of the BMW varies in a couple of ways from its petrol and diesel sisters.

Firstly, it cannot be optioned with a third-row seat, also, the rear cargo floor is 40mm higher than a standard X5 and finally, it’s heavier, try an extra 120kgs!

So how does it drive? Well, you have a total of 230kW and 450Nm so it certainly will move along nicely when required. Naturally, if a performance-inspired drive is on your agenda, then the fuel consumption will increase.

BMW tell us the X5 40e will sprint to 100km/h in just 6.8 seconds, not bad!

Despite the extra weight over the rear-wheels and the rather low-profile tyres on the standard 20” alloys, it is certainly not an unpleasant vehicle to ride in or steer.

There’s also the usual choice of three drive modes as well and this should give you enough variation in the BMW steering/suspension/engine settings to see you happily negotiate most conditions.

When driving in electric mode, to the models credit, it does move along a lot better than you might expect and if more acceleration is required the petrol engine will kick-in, quick smart.

At over 2.2 tonnes it certainly is a hefty thing, though I thought it handled reasonably well.

The model comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the X5 xDrive40e gets power to all four wheels.

Summing it up; you can very much see the reasoning and thought behind a vehicle like this. I can’t help though that feel the purely electric-drive range should be greater than around 25 kilometres.

Sure, this range covers a big percentage of the Australian commuters who could get to work and back home each day within this limitation, though that does mean recharging it every single night and that could be a little inconvenient, especially if you park it somewhere without an easy charge point, for example if you had to run a cord out to your driveway.

By BMW’s own admission, if you are likely to use an X5 further afield, like for example on regular highway runs, then the diesel version (which is very frugal in itself and priced the same as the plug-in hybrid) would probably be the way to go.

For some buyers though it will hit that sweet spot between clean and green motoring and fun/practicality, though I can’t see it being a really big-seller in BMW’s most popular SUV model.

We will have more in-depth reviews of the new BMW X5 xDrive40e in coming months.

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