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BMW X5 xDrive 40e MSport

Click to view picture gallery “Its full charge ahead for BMW
  in 2016 as their new X5 xDrive PHEV
  joins the UK
s fast-growing plug-in
  hybrid sector

FOLLOWING ON FROM RECORD UK SALES in 2015, when it replaced Audi as the best-selling premium brand, the first of BMW's new models to be handed to the UK's motoring media at the start of this their centenary year was their first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) production car the X5 xDrive 40e.

Priced at 52,105 for the SE and 56,705 for the MSport version, both come equipped with BMW's intelligent AWD xDrive system. Impressively, these prices are just 215 more than the equivalent X5 xDrive 40d turbodiesel variants. And BMW are fully committed to the future of PHEVs with more plug-in petrol-electric hybrid models to follow during 2016 in the 2 Series Active Tourer, 3 Series and 7 Series ranges.

BMW’s new plug-in X5
xDrive 40e is a large,
luxury 4x4 that uses a
241bhp twin-turbo
2.0-litre petrol engine
working with an electric
motor to give a total
PHEV power output of
308bhp an
d 331lb ft
of torque...”
The X5 xDrive 40e (or PHEV) is a large, luxury 4x4 built for global markets alongside BMW's conventional petrol- and diesel-powered X5 and X6 models at the brand's Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, USA. BMW expects to sell around 1,000 units of the X5 PHEV in the UK this year which equates to around 15% of all X5 SUV sales in this country.

The new X5 xDrive 40e might be destined for global greatness but for the UK market, where PHEVs are the flavour of the month, it misses out in some important areas areas that have fed the strong demand for similar vehicles.

With its twin-turbo 2.0-litre, 241bhp petrol engine working with an electric motor to give a total PHEV power output of 308bhp and 331lb ft of torque, the CO2 emissions, depending on the specification, are 77 and 78g/km.

This fact alone means that it's not eligible for the UK Government's current 5K plug-in vehicle grant (reducing from 1 March to 2,500) and neither does the X5 PHEV meet the lower emissions necessary for exemption from the London Congestion Charge.

Even worse in the UK market, where company car/fleet users are the main customers for PHEVs, the Benefit-in-Kind tax rate for the X5 PHEV is currently 13% not the 5% enjoyed by drivers of similar PHEV hybrid models. And things do not improve because from 1 April this year each of these Benefit-in-Kind tax rates go up by 2%. Currently all PHEVs are exempt from road tax but that could also change from April when new rates and revised band levels are expected to be announced in the Budget.

Another downside of the X5 PHEV is the official Combined Cycle fuel economy figure of 85.6mpg for the SE (83.1mpg for the MSport). It looks good but bear in mind that others in the PHEV SUV sector are quoting official figures of well over 100mpg. Models like the sales-leading Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4x4, the soon to arrive Volvo XC90 PHEV Twin-Motor and the Audi Q7 e-tron all have lower CO2 emission figures to reap the benefit of reduced personal tax costs, freedom from the London Congestion Charge and potentially better real-life fuel economy.

Getting to the nuts and bolts of the X5 xDrive 40e (better known as the X5 PHEV), its drive system comprises a four-cylinder TwinPower turbo petrol engine and a synchronous electric motor integrated with the 8-speed Steptronic transmission.

The lithium-ion high-voltage battery pack can be topped up with mains electricity from any standard domestic 240V power socket (this takes 3.5-hours or, using the BMW i Wallbox, 2.5-hours) or can be done at public charging stations.

The high-voltage battery
is housed underneath
the 500-litre luggage
compartment floor that
extends to a substantial
1,720-litre loadbay —
in fact the standard X5
luggage area is barely
The high-voltage battery, which also supplies power to the standard battery for the car's 12V electrical system via a voltage transformer, is housed underneath the luggage compartment floor (the charging cable is stored in a hinged compartment below the boot floor).

With a capacity of 500 to 1,720-litres, the standard X5 luggage area is barely compromised. The X5 40e models re-folding rear seats split 40:20:40 for optimum passenger/load carrying options. And if you need to tow, the braked towing limit is 2,700kg.

BMW says short everyday journeys in urban areas can easily be completed with zero tailpipe emissions with a range of up to 19 miles using electric power only. Also, during urban travel using mostly battery power and a little support from the petrol engine, around 94mpg can be obtained. On longer 'workday' journeys, when both the engine and the motor need to be deployed, the figure is 43 to 47mpg. For long journeys the consumption drops to around 26mpg.

During my short test drive around busy stop/start commuter routes and on some rural traffic-free B-roads, 'my' 40e MSport version, which had its battery almost fully charged before setting off, returned 32.8mpg. This is a figure I'm sure the X5 40d turbodiesel version would have at least equalled, although the X5 PHEV's saving in personal Benefit-in-Kind tax still gives company executives something to cheer about.

The X5 40e is not at all complicated to drive it just needs a little understanding on how PHEV technology works, and how to get the best out of it.

On the X5 PHEV the eDrive button on the centre console lets drivers tailor the powertrain according to their own preferences and situation. When the vehicle is first started, the default AUTO eDrive setting is activated with both the engine and electric motor working efficiently together.

The electric motor alone is used for setting off with normal power requirements while the engine cuts in at around 44mph or when the driver accelerates briskly.

The driver can also switch to the all-electric drive mode setting MAX eDrive where the vehicle is powered solely by the electric motor. This mode is designed for comfortable driving with zero local emissions and offers a maximum range of approximately 19 miles at a limited top speed of 75mph. The third mode available is the SAVE Battery setting which allows the driver to conserve or build up the high-voltage battery's reserves for use later on.

How does BMW’s
plug-in perform?
In reality just like any
other X5 and it is really
a case of getting in,
pushing the Start button,
selecting Drive,
pressing the accelerator
and off you silently go
with the very quiet petrol
engine coming to life
when needed...”
The X5 40e also features as standard the Driving Experience Control function from the conventional X5 models. This can be used to activate the Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro modes, which each have the effect of altering the throttle mapping, the steering characteristics, and the responses of the eight-speed Steptronic transmission as well as the Dynamic Damper Control settings.

How does BMW's PHEV perform? In reality just like any other X5 and it is really a case of getting in, pushing the Start button, selecting Drive, pressing the accelerator and off you silently go with the very quiet petrol engine coming to life when needed. The only hint of when the petrol unit is working came when I caught a glimpse of the rev-counter needle flicking into life.

BMW's plug-in is an important addition to the X5 range to compete in the fast-growing 'plug-in' sector. It's desirable, beautifully built, highly specced, and easy to drive and continues the already well-known driving refinement of other X5 models.

Its only drawback is that due to higher CO2 emissions than most other PHEVs, BMW's plug-in misses out on even lower company car tax savings and is still liable for the London Congestion Charge. BMW's plug-in also doesn't have the higher pure electric range of, say, Mitsubishi's hugely successful Outlander PHEV, which does 32.5 electric-only miles against the BMW's 19. A calculated oversight by BMW that assumes the coveted blue-and-white badge will triumph regardless?
David Miles

BMW X5 xDrive 40e MSport | 56,705
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds | Test Average: 32.8mpg
Power: 308bhp | Torque: 331lb ft | CO2: 78g/km