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6 Nov, 2019 11:00pm James Brodie
The new plug-in hybrid BMW X5 xDrive45e promises up to 54 miles on electric power and over 140mpg, but does it deliver?
Plug-in hybrid power is back on the menu for the BMW X5, but with a key difference this time around. BMW is aiming to make the new xDrive45e version of its long-running Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 rival more than just a niche choice; it is hoping this new, six-cylinder petrol-assisted option will shape up as the X5 to buy for more people than ever before.
Compared with the previous-generation plug-in X5 (the xDrive40e), the biggest change is the adoption of two more cylinders. The 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine links up with an electric motor attached to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Total system power stands at 389bhp, but more importantly, the electric motor is fed by a 24kWh battery pack located under the rear bench. That’s a large battery for a plug-in hybrid car; for context that’s as big as the cell found in the previous-generation, fully electric Nissan Leaf. But in the BMW application it has six-cylinder shove to fall back on when necessary.
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The size of that battery means that the X5 xDrive45e boasts a big range on electric power only. BMW says it’ll do between 42 to 54 miles at up to 83mph, according to WLTP standards. Those numbers easily beat out the maximum electric ranges of other large plug-in rivals like the new Audi Q7 TFSIe and Volvo XC90 T8. Only the upcoming, diesel powered Mercedes GLE 350de with its enormous 31.2kWh battery and 61-mile claimed range looks like it’ll outgun the BMW for electric running.
Beyond that one key metric, the rest of this new plug-in X5 package shapes up well. Glance at the price list and you’ll find it slots neatly into the middle of the range, though it is slightly more expensive than the most popular xDrive30d diesel. Still, with a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rate of 16 per cent compared with the 30d’s 37 per cent banding, this should be the go-to option for company car buyers.
With the hybrid mechanicals essentially stacked on top of the six-cylinder petrol engine, this is a heavy SUV, weighing over two and a half tonnes. Thankfully the instant torque of the electric motor helps disguise the heft, and throttle response feels strong. The X5 xDrive45e operates in hybrid mode by default, so you’ll move off silently and need to prod the throttle to coax the six-cylinder petrol engine into life.
While the overall electric range of the powertrain is something BMW has majored on, it has also focussed on making the way the car flows between electric and petrol power as intelligent as possible. The car uses the mapping data from the navigation system to work out which power source makes the most sense for the road in question.
Drive through a village and it’ll prioritise battery power, for example. Hit the motorway, however, and the X5 will rely on its engine instead. The shifts between electric and petrol are seamless, while the six-cylinder engine under the bonnet is silky smooth. It’s a very impressive set-up.
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Another interesting feature includes a battery saving mode accessed through a button next to the gear selector. At the start of a journey, you can cap the amount of electric power the car will use, so you can perfectly split the charge for the outward journey and the drive back home, if there’s nowhere to charge in between.
Charging is perhaps the X5’s main weak point. BMW has not equipped the X5 xDrive45e with any fast charging capabilities, and topping the battery up at 3.7kWh through a typical household plug is as good as it gets, the idea being the seven-hour recharge time is achieved overnight – on a driveway or in a garage – rather than at your destination or on the road.
The battery pack eats away a little at practicality, removing 150 litres ofl boot space. However, the X5 is a large car – few families will be left wanting for practicality. The interior remains a high point with modern BMW touches and a typically strong iDrive infotainment system, presented across two 12.3-inch displays. Twin-axle air suspension is standard on the plug-in X5, so it’s comfortable, too.
4 The new BMW X5 xDrive45e will actually be the best version of the X5 for many potential buyers. This is a very accomplished plug-in hybrid SUV with plenty of premium appeal, and it doesn’t stick out on price list. For many considering a conventionally powered X5, this is an option they’ll be able to afford. If you can deal with slowly recharging it overnight, this is a model worth thinking about.
- Model: BMW X5 xDrive45e xLine
- Price: £63,165
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol and electric motors
- Power/torque: 389bhp/600Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
- 0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
- Top speed: 146mph
- Economy/CO2: 141.2mpg/47g/km
- On sale: Now