IN THE CAR BUSINESS, IF YOU’RE STANDING STILL YOU’RE GOING BACKWARDS.
Not BMW. It's given its full-size X5 SUV a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid version - the BMW X5 xDrive 40Ee to be precise. It's name, that acronym that attaches to it, might be more than a mouthful, but so is the car.
At $118,900 (plus on-road charges) the petrol-electric hybrid model is identically priced to the xDrive 40d turbo-diesel. BMW, incidentally, admits the latter - also incredibly frugal - remains the better bet for rural customers.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $118,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 230kW/450Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol/electric hybrid | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 3.3 l/100kms | Tested: 4.8 l/100kms
Here’s the thing: SUVs still enjoy enthusiastic support from the new car buying public (37 percent of Australian sales in July), but the increasing ‘greening’ of global markets has seen a rush of vehicle manufacturers responding with vehicles that are kinder to the planet.
As things stand, plug-in hybrids are the best all-round package, and the BMW X5 xDrive 40e shows why all SUV buyers should give them serious consideration.
- Standard features: Leather seats/trim, head-up display, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, surround-view camera system, bi-xenon headlights, front/rear parking sensors
- Infotainment: 16-speaker Harman/Kardon audio, 10.25-inch colour screen with satellite navigation, internet browser and BMW ConnectedDrive services
BMW claims around 30 percent of X5 buyers opt for the third seating row; in an X5 xDrive 40e this option isn’t available – it had to make way for battery storage.
You also notice the raised boot-floor compared to regular X5 models and luggage space is slightly less at 500-litres (rear seat in-place) or 1,720-litres (rear seat folded). Even so the plug-in hybrid BMW X5 was an easy "pass mark" for our golf bag test.
Otherwise - apart from some minor switches, extra dashboard readouts and ‘eDrive logos on the door sills - the excellent current generation X5 interior is unaltered.
So that means lots of space in both seating rows.
Our test car was fitted with the ‘M Sport’ option pack so it garnered the excellent M three-spoke steering wheel (xDrive 40e scores the M sports seats as standard and ours was trimmed in beautiful white leather so the total look was excellent).
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol engine with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed automatic
- Power/Torque: 180kW/350Nm (petrol) 83kW/250Nm (electric) 230kW/450Nm (combined)
- Towing Capacity: 2,700kgs (braked)
- Suspension: Double wishbone front/multi-link rear with ‘Comfort’ adaptive suspension package
- Steering: Electric power steering
- Brakes: Four-wheel-discs
Oh, there are variables for sure, but fully exploiting the eDrive mode, around the suburbs on a Sunday we managed around 25kms of pure electric driving in the BMW X5 xDrive 40e (a family of four on-board).
We got the same on a chilly weekday commute (only the driver) to the city with the climate-control air-conditioning working hard.
If - after the catastrophic failure of our Census - you can still believe the stats guys, we’re told 50 percent of Australian commuters drive 20kms or less each way to get to work and home again.
So, as we’ve heard before with hybrids, there are plenty of SUV buyers who could easily switch to the X5 xDrive 40e and slash fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
At TMR, we recognise that we’re not exactly typical commuters. A fair bit our time each day is spent on the road so the majority of the week our BMW X5 xDrive 40e operated in Auto eDrive (the BMW X5 xDrive 40e’s default setting).
This automatically selects the most efficient combination petrol or electric power and switches between the two with, we’re going to say, ‘world’s best’ seamlessness (though we’ve not yet driven the Mercedes-Benz GLE500e).
So most days saw us leave home with full battery charge and undertake quite a bit of pure electric driving but, with a couple of stops along the way, the battery charge had expired well before we got to the city.
There is some regenerative braking - most effective in Sport mode – but it takes a long downhill coast before you spot any improvement in the battery charge level readout.
Even so, our recorded average of 4.8 l/100km, for a car this weight, perfromance and size, is excpetional.
Not that running on the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine was a hardship - in fact it’s a belter – with great response and quiet operation across the range. And the package is helped by nicely spaced ratios in the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Adaptive dampers are standard with the BMW X5 xDrive 40e and, combined with plenty of grip (our test car was fitted with the ‘M’ option pack so it had massive 20-inch alloy wheels) allowed us to tackle our twisty roads test route with some zest.
Using the steering wheel paddle-shifters for snappy ratio changes in the eight-speeder, the X5 xDrive 40e was certainly dynamic and sporty - very firm in the ride department in fact - with just a smidge less directness in the steering to separate this from say the ‘M’ badged X5 variants.
On the downside - like all hybrids - the regenerative aspect of the braking system does lead to variable pedal feel as you slow-down (takes some acclimatising, that’s all).
ANCAP Rating: Not yet tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Six airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, acoustic pedestrian protection (up to 30km/h), active headrests, dynamic braking lights.
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Capped price servicing via BMW Service Inclusive ($1,540 for 5 years/80,000kms whichever comes first)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
At $143,100, the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid is a $24,200 premium over the BMW X5 xDrive 40e. But the Porsche does have a lot more going on under the bonnet thanks to its 306kW590Nm 3.6-litre six-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid engine – so it’s nearly one second faster zero to 100km/h than the BMW.
The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine at $122,950 looms is the X5 xDrive 40e’s closest current rival. Clever, beautifully designed inside and out and with 235kW/400Nm on-tap the XC90 is the best car Volvo has made period. But it’s still not as dynamic as the X5 when the going gets twisty.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
That shortish pure-electric range is perhaps the only real negative of the BMW X5 xDrive 40e. But, consider these quick facts: currently there are more than 400 cities in the world with a population greater than one million and in developed nations around 74 percent of us live in urban areas.
So, do you still want to question the relevance of the BMW X5 xDrive 40e?
We don’t. This incredibly frugal and spacious 'upright family wagon' is a terrific first shot by BMW at making large premium SUVs sustainable.
But we will concede that rural buyers or those who drive longer distances in the city might still be better served with the identically-priced BMW X5 xDrive 40d turbo-diesel.
Bear this in-mind however: really this whole hybrid/zero emissions technology is far from fully developed... it will only improve and in-turn this will give vehicles like the X5 xDrive 40e longer pure-electric range.
That’s good news for BMW, for sure, but also good news for us - because we’re continuing to vote with our wallets for SUVs. With this SUV, we can also be kinder to the planet.