As BMW is continuing to improve its green car credentials, we’re finding more and more plug-in hybrid options in the German manufacturer’s lineup including variants of the 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and of course the X5. Not to be overlooked is the entire line of all electric vehicles featuring the i3 and i8. There were even rumors of an i5 crossover but nothing is confirmed.
Today we’re reviewing the X5 xDrive 40e plug-in hybrid luxury SUV (or as BMW likes to call it – SAV for Sport Activity Vehicle). On the exterior there are few indications to tell it apart from the conventionally-powered X5s. The charge port door on the front fender would be the biggest. The rear doesn’t have any markings to identify it aside from the green-car license plate which authorizes you to drive in taxi/car pool lanes in appropriately-marked areas. You’ll probably still get some stares from other electric car owners who think you’re just another arrogant BMW driver so be prepared. There are only two tiny badges on the sides of the vehicle – one that reads E Drive and another that reads xDrive 40e.
On the inside we find the ample luxury that any X5 provides its occupants. All of the optional extras from the BMW X5 range are available, with the exception of the third row of seats, the adaptive M suspension, active steering and comfort seats in the rear. If you’re wondering what “comfort seats” are it’s just BMW jargon for 18-way electrically adjustable seats including lumbar support, thigh rest and headrest adjustment. It’s hard to make a case to me that another SUV has a nicer, more comfortable interior but I suppose it will come down to your personal preference.
I do like BMW’s iDrive infotainment system mainly because of the control wheel situated on the lower center console and excellent steering wheel-mounted operations. The amount of menus can get a little bit confusing at times and I wish BMW would simplify them a little more but other than that it’s fine.
The hybrid has an all-electric range of about 25 kilometers which is nice for short jumps in the city like dropping the kids off at school and when the battery runs out, the X5 switches to the gasoline 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine. When we combine the power form the lithium-ion battery and the gasoline motor, the X5 40e produces a total of 308 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the SUV from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds – a mere 0.4 seconds behind the non-hybrid X5 35i. Not too shabby. You also have the added torque feel from the electric motor which always retains a bit of charge through regenerative braking. When you step on the pedal it from a stop it really makes a difference. If you’ve ever driven a golf cart you’ll be able to relate to the instantaneous power and acceleration. It’s rather addictive.
The power stemming from the two drive units is transformed into forward motion courtesy of the 8-speed Steptronic transmission and the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. BMW engineers have seamlessly paired these two motors together so that when electric power runs out and a switch to conventional power is needed you don’t notice at all – not even a little bit. There is a small readout in the gauge cluster to indicate if the vehicle is using electric power or not but the best way to tell is to look at the tachometer to see if the RPMs are at 0 while driving.
There are drive modes which allow you to control just how green you want to be. The default is the Auto eDrive setting where both engine and electric motor work efficiently in tandem (provided you have enough charge). In this mode, the system determines the most efficient drive combination at all times and switches to it automatically. Then there is all electric which propels the vehicle on electric power alone up to about 120 km/h. The third mode is interesting and it’s called Save Battery. Let’s say you have a long drive ahead of you into the city and want to be able to cruise on eDrive when you get there. This mode will save the energy reserves for a later time so you can do just that. I suppose another name for this mode could be gasoline mode but I don’t believe that name would have made it out of the first marketing meeting.
BMW offers quick battery charging unit you can install at home capable of recharging the vehicle in 2 hours and 45 minutes. If you don’t opt for this, you can just plug into any standard 120V outlet in your garage or at work and the battery is recharged in about 7.5 hours. Charging progress can be checked on a graphic displayed in the vehicle’s instrument cluster or on a smartphone using the BMW Remote app.
Now you may be asking yourself if the hybrid will generate enough fuel savings to justify the higher cost. At 9.5 L /100km it’s not quite there yet. For the $74,950 starting price, you can get a nicely optioned out X5 xDrive35i for less. However if going green is important to you regardless of the cost then the X5 40e might just be up your alley.