BMW X5 hybrid review
This isn’t the first time the BMW X5 has been available as a plug-in hybrid: a few years ago, the X5 xDrive40e gave buyers up to 19 miles of electric-only running, which wasn’t quite enough to make it a clear-cut choice over the much cheaper diesel variant.
Now, though, the X5 PHEV is back in the form of the xDrive45e. It comes with a longer electric range and more power than before, and looks set to give its Audi Q7 hybrid and Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine rivals a serious run for their money.
Battery capacity rises to a whopping 24kWh; double what you see from most plug-in hybrid vehicles in this class. This gives an all-electric range of between 42 and 54 miles (the most of any PHEV on sale, at least until the Mercedes GLE 350 de arrives) with the X5 capable of up to 83mph without any assistance from the petrol engine.
The 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 282bhp, while an electric motor provides another 111bhp. Total system output is 389bhp, driving to all wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This is good news because, at two-and-a-half tonnes, the X5 PHEV is not a light car: fortunately, the instant torque from the electric motor is enough to disguise its bulk from behind the wheel. Hybrid mode is the default setting on start-up, which means you’ll pull away silently from a standstill. However, burying the throttle will engage the engine, too, resulting in 0-62mph in a strong 5.6 seconds en route to a top speed of 146mph.
As well as performance, BMW has worked hard to make sure that electric power is used as intelligently as possible. The X5 uses data from the sat nav to calculate the most efficient combination of battery and petrol power on your journey. In practice, this works extremely well: enter a village and the car will run on the electric motor, but hit the motorway and the engine – an ultra-smooth unit, it must be said – takes priority.
The automatic shift between the two modes is impressively seamless, and BMW also gives drivers the option of manual control. Using a button next to the gear selector, you can choose to cap the amount of battery power consumed during a journey, ensuring you have enough for the next leg of your trip if there’s nowhere to charge up along the way.
This is a useful feature that you’re very likely to use, as the maximum charging speed of the X5 PHEV is a mere 3.7kW. While this fairly common for plug-in hybrids, the large size of the battery means stopping for a top-up at a public charger isn't realistic unless you’ve got several hours to spare.
Plug the X5 into a home wallbox charger using the Type 2 cable and a full charge will take at least seven hours, and even more if you’ve only got a three-pin plug at your disposal. This is perfectly acceptable if you leave the car plugged in overnight; doing so will cost you around £3 on an average household electricity tariff. If your commute falls within the all-electric range on a full charge, the savings on running costs will add up very quickly indeed.
This is because driving on electric power is much cheaper per-mile than petrol. Bear in mind though, that getting close to the official fuel economy of 141mpg relies on regular charging; forgetting to top-up the battery will see something closer to 25mpg in the real world.
Most families will likely find the X5 xDrive45e to be a practical car, with 500 litres of boot space being more than enough for everyday luggage on paper. But it’s worth noting that the rear-mounted battery eats into this figure, with non-hybrid X5s offering 650 litres with the rear seats in the upright position.
As you’d expect from BMW, the interior is finished to a high standard, with the excellent iDrive infotainment system spread across a pair of 12.3-inch screens. Occupants will be comfortable – even on long journeys – thanks to the twin-axle air suspension, which is a standard feature.
Unlike the old X5 PHEV, this latest attempt could be the pick of the model's line-up. The xDrive45e is keenly priced in the middle of the range, while the extra cost over the xDrive30d diesel will surely be recouped with short and mid-range journeys covered on electric power.
Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax of 16% is much better than the diesel’s 37%, and buyers living in the capital get free access to the London Congestion Charge Zone until October 2021, thanks to official CO2 emissions of 47g/km.