DECISIONS... BMW launches its plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive40e and prices it exactly the same as its diesel X5 40d stablemate. Dare to go electric...?
DECISIONS... BMW launches its plug-in hybrid X5 xDrive40e and prices it exactly the same as its diesel X5 40d stablemate. Dare to go electric...? Mark Bean

BMW's plug-in X5 - xDrive40e road test and review

THE X5 has made great inroads for BMW in this country and such is its popularity that last year it outsold even that much entrenched crowd favourite, the 3 Series.

Little wonder then that the Bavarian automaker has used the X5 to flag its green intentions, offering the technical advantages gained from cars like the i8 in a more conventional fashion.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

It is particularly apt given that BMW, celebrating its centenary year, has pledged to keep thinking ahead, to dream a little and in so doing build the ideal car for the ideal driver.

Hybrid cars are not always an easy sell as people are generally suspicious of range, wary of battery life and often put off by performance and price. And while many of us claim to care about the environment, we do little beyond sorting out the recycling.

But in the X5 xDrive40e BMW is offering a plug-in alternative to a much-loved favourite making it easier for you to appease your conscience while still allowing a stylishly practical choice.

Research tells us the average Australian commute is 15.6km and therein lies the xDrive40e's purpose. Its plug-in nature is better suited to shorter trips (school runs?) and stop-start city commutes rather than for cross-country travel or off-roading, despite its ability to impressively manage all.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

Comfort

The interior of the plug-in X5 is, well, typical X5 with standard features matching the xDrive40d for luxury, practicality and creature comforts, including brush aluminium trim and sumptuous Dakota leather.

A 10.25-inch colour multimedia screen takes pride of place on the dash and acts as the conduit for the sat-nav, entertainment system and surround view camera and works seamlessly with the new eDrive button to help select the appropriate driving mode.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

As with all luxury X5s, there's plenty of room to stretch out and an abundance of niceties that make any journey a pleasure. The compromise has come in boot space - the floor has been raised by 40mm and luggage capacity dropped from 650 litres to 500l to fit the 96 lithium ion battery pack underneath.

The xDrive40e cannot be optioned as a seven-seater either and BMW has replaced the spare wheel with run-flat tyres.

On the road

Put simply, the xDrive40e is powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol found in the BMW 520i which works independently or together with a 83kW/250Nm electric motor or "machine" as BMW calls it.

The latter can operate as a regular motor, generator or starter for the petrol engine and is merged in the same mounting as the eight-speed transmission.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

Drivers can select from three settings: the default auto eDrive which combines the electric motor and petrol engine but uses electric alone for speeds up to 70km/h; Max eDrive which relies on the electric battery only until it is depleted for speeds up to 120km/h, and Save Battery which takes the electric motor out of the equation until you are in conditions that suit its use.

In addition, you can pair your desired power mode with BMW's driving experience control offering Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro which adjusts steering, suspension and transmission response accordingly.

The xDrive 40e is some 120kg heavier than the conventional X5 and comes standard with dynamic damper control and rear air suspension to compensate for the added rear weight.

But how does it drive? Pretty much like an X5 actually with a super comfortable refined dynamic ride although the extra weight is a bit telling in the corners.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

It is not as powerful as the conventional six-cylinder X5 but the electric and petrol engine combine well for 230kW/450Nm when you need that extra boost for a highway manoeuvre. You will have to play around with the different combinations on offer to get the most efficient drive for your purposes and that can take getting used to.

So too the regenerative braking that works to top up the battery but reduces pedal feel a bit, making deceleration and coasting sometimes difficult to judge.

For our launch test drive around Canberra we started in the electric-only Max eDrive mode with Eco Pro hoping to replicate the 3.3l/100km official figure. We managed 4.6l/100km after 31km, the claimed EV range of the xDrive40e, but found more success later on after first swapping to Sport mode to recharge the battery quickly.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

What do you get?

Like the xDrive40d, the 40e comes with a bevy of riches including dual-zone climate, power tailgate, 10.25-inch screen with iDrive Touch controller, bluetooth integration, bi-xenon headlamps, sat nav with eDrive services, keyless entry and push-button start, surround view parking and reverse camera, front and rear sensors and active cruise control.

Our launch car was fitted with a panoramic glass sunroof ($3300), Adaptive LED headlights ($2000), lane change warning ($1400), ceramic surrounds for the iControl system ($1100) and the M-Sport package ($3300) which adds 20-inch alloys, adaptive M suspension, M leather steering wheel, M aerodynamics package and a number of sporty exterior touches.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

Running costs

So efficiency would be the main drawcard with official figures at 3.3l/100km. Impressive compared to the X5 40d's 6.0l/100km. The xDrive40e comes with a 3 years/unlimited kilometre warranty, 6 years/100,000km battery warranty and capped-price servicing ($1540) for 5 years/80,000km.

Competition

The most resistance will come from the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid ($140,800), but clearly BMW shoppers have the in-brand choice between the X5 xDrive40e and X5 xDrive 40d for the same price ($118,900).

Practicality

The charging cable can be plugged straight into the socket in your garage at home or work, with the battery recharged in five hours and at the cost of about $2. BMW will install a special wall unit charger ($1700) for you that will do it in half that time. There is also a partnership with ChargePoint, an EV company with 256 free public stations (950 by 2020) around the country that 40e customers can use.

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

We also love the BMW Connected Drive remote app which allows you to check your battery charge, set charge times, locate charging centres, and pre-condition your vehicle.

Funky Factor

The xDrive40e sports basically the same exterior as the regular X5. Special 40e badges on the sides and rear, plus the charging port on the left front wheel arch, are the only noticeable differences.

The lowdown

I have always been a fan of the X5 and with more than 1.5 million units sold around the world I am clearly not alone. It is also clear that this xDrive40e is a niche vehicle.

It makes most sense if you are environmentally conscious, and if you're drawing recharge power from solar panels it's all the greener.

With BMW pricing the plug-in xDrive40e in line with a conventional diesel X5 it will be fascinating to see how many buyers opt for the new technology. It's greener, far more fuel efficient and correctly priced, but will it find favour with a sceptical market? 

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

What matters most

What we liked: Hybrid efficiency, luxurious interior, comfortable drive.

What we'd like to see: More standard inclusions, longer range, no seven seats thanks to the batteries will be a turn-off for some.

Warranty and Servicing: 3 year/unlimited kilometre warranty with capped-price servicing packages.

Vital Statistics

Model: BMW X5 xDrive40e.

Details: Five-door plug-in all-wheel-drive large luxury SUV

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 180kW and peak torque of 350Nm and a 9kW/h electric motor generating maximum power of 83kW and peak torque of 250Nm for a combined total output of 230kW and 450Nm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 3.3 litres/100km combined.

Bottom line plus on roads: From $118,900 ($130,400 as tested).

 

2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed
2016 BMW X5 XDrive40e. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean


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