Taking over the baton through the electric BMW i brand, hybrid technology comes to the X5 SUV.
When: February 2014
Where: Miramas, France
What: BMW X5 eDrive Plug-in Hybrid prototype
Occasion: Prototype drive
Overall rating: 4.5/5
BMW is working towards reducing the environmental guilt of large SUV ownership with the introduction of hybrid technology to its X5. Here’s our drive in a ‘technology prototype’.
Model driven: BMW X5 eDrive Plug-in Hybrid prototype
Engine: 2.-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol combined with an electric motor
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
Rivals: Porsche Panamera Hybrid, Range Rover Hybrid
CO2 emissions: 89g/km (targeted) (Band A2, €180 per annum)
Combined economy: 70 mpg (4. litres/100km)
Top speed: 250km/h
-100km/h: 7. seconds
In the Metal: 4/5
Despite what the liberal use of camouflaging might suggest, there might be very little to differentiate the very last production version of this plug-in hybrid from other BMW X5 models. The tell-tale giveaway is the wing-mounted flap just above the front left wheelarch for the plug-in socket. In order to help reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency further, unlike the pre-production prototypes we drove, final versions are likely to have slightly smaller plus more aerodynamically-efficient alloy wheels to assist maximise airflow over their surfaces. BMW’s ‘air curtain’ design that channels air through the front bumper, over the face from the wheel and back out through a groove just ahead of the front doors will play a much bigger role with this X5 as well.
For the most part it will probably be very much a familiar feeling to the interior, where really the only change is going to be an additional button near to the gear selector, used to engage full-electric mode. The car’s large infotainment screen can do displaying an animated real-time status in which power source is now being used, as well as showing when energy recuperation is occurring. There is a decrease in the useable volume of the boot space however, due to battery cells and electric motor.
Driving it: 4.5/5
Obviously being pre-production prototypes, driving impressions needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. That said, in both full-electric and hybrid modes the hybrid X5 delivers quite an amazing drive. It will likely be possible for the X5 eDrive to travel approximately 30 kilometres solely on electric power – a distance that, based on BMW, is further than the average daily commute for 80 per cent of X5 drivers.
In town-like driving conditions with plenty of start-stop traffic the electrical-only function generates more than enough instantaneous torque to allow the X5 to feel quick away from the line. More so to get efficiently and permit the system to harvest further electricity when off-throttle and braking, despite the fact that of course the intention of the eDrive system isn’t to confuse other motorists as you silently race away from the traffic lights.
Provoke the throttle and the turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine spools into life and gives the X5 quite a healthy shove in the back. The petrol engine steps in and cuts out almost seamlessly dependant upon the requirements placed upon the eDrive transmission by the driver. Selecting the Sport driving mode fully engages the electric motor along with the petrol engine to provide maximum performance. The interaction of the petrol and electric motors offers an unusually good aural experience.
Whatever you get for your investment: /5
It’s likely that the plug-in hybrid X5 will be launched within the next 12 months – most likely at the Los Angeles Auto Show at the conclusion of the year – and while it remains too early to speculate on pricing, expect reduced. The X5 eDrive will qualify for government grants that, taking the i3 REX (range extender) by way of example, could visit a saving of €5,000. Another benefit may be the predictably low CO2 emissions, which should make the BMW quite reasonable with regards to road tax, and of course that determines the general purchase price too throughout the VRT. We’ll not assign a rating in this category until we know all the figures though.
Unlike many hybrid vehicles, the X5 eDrive still is able to pack ample performance, which, when you consider the physical dimensions of the car, can make it that little more impressive. Included with this, during the discussion with one of the prototype’s engineers, we had been told that this towing ability of the plug-in hybrid version will be the same as that of the conventional X5 (that’s 3,500kg for all four-wheel drive versions). And even though this new eDrive system was showcased within the X5, the machine itself is relatively compact, which means that it should require little change to be installed into other models.
At first glance the idea of a small petrol engine within a large SUV like the BMW X5 may seem like a stretch too far in order to keep the environmentally-concerned bureaucrats happy, even with the latest electric technology on-board. In reality, it is in fact an engine and transmission solution that could end up being the more popular choice, especially because of the relatively short urban commuting life of most X5s, and judging with the pre-production prototypes we drove, it will be sufficiently good to convert many.