Sharing the stage with the BMW i3 at the Frankfurt motor show is the BMW Concept X5 eDrive. The plug-in hybrid X5 is set to re-write the SUV rulebook with its four-cylinder petrol-electric drivetrain producing claimed figures of less than 90g/km of CO2 and a tree-hugging 74.3mpg, smashing the Lexus RX450h which produces 145g/km and 44.8mpg. What’s more, it’s better than the most efficient 3-series currently on sale, and far more frugal than the V8-powered BMW X6 Active Hybrid that was axed in late 2011.
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Is this a concept or a production model?
Strictly speaking, the X5 eDrive is a concept, but following on from other BMWs claimed to be for show only, the production versions following have hardly changed. It’s also a gaping hole in the X5 line-up (you read correctly – a niche that BMW hasn’t yet filled) with key rivals offering hybrid SUVs to shoppers who are after space, prestige and not-so-large fuel bills.
So what’s under the bonnet?
The new X5 brought with it a four-cylinder model for the first time, making it fertile ground for a petrol-passing model. With the four-pot petrol engine up front, a 70kW electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that's carried in a ‘crash-safe’ position at the rear of the SUV. The petrol engine isn't quite the same as that found in the regular X5, nor is it the up-to-the-minute hardware in the plug-in electric BMW i3, but takes tech from both.
There’s still sufficient space to make it all-wheel drive, the clever packaging optimising weight distribution and enabling only a meagre reduction in bootspace. It also allows the X5 to travel as far as 19 miles at speeds of up to 75mph under electric power alone. Its official 0-62mph time is quoted as ‘less than 7.0sec’.
The X5 eDrive features three driving modes: the first switches between the two drivetrains depending on the conditions, while there’s an Eco mode for zero-emission driving and a Safe mode, which maintains battery charge levels. You can plug this baby into any conventional power socket, but BMW hasn’t given any clue as to how long it will need to be there.
Why is it more efficient than the 3-series ED – and why make an X5 hybrid especially after the X6 hybrid was dropped?
The X5 uses an entirely new approach to hybridisation for BMW, which may be the result of collaboration with Toyota on such technology, made public in 2012. The now defunct X6 used a two-mode system that was developed by General Motors in collaboration with BMW, Daimler and a host of other investors, but the game has moved on since its introduction in 2008 – GM’s ditched it and is working with Honda for a smarter solution on future models.
Back to the X5 eDrive, and it’s the smartest application of BMW’s hybrid tech. Being both plug-in and using a four-cylinder engine makes it easily more efficient than the 320d Efficient Dynamics, which makes up almost one-third of all 3-series saloon UK sales. This bodes well for the X5 eDrive, which will be the most efficient BMW apart from the brand’s groundbreaking ‘i’ models. That is, until other plug-ins join the line-up…
Those 21in alloys – surely they’re not part of the act?
They’re the real deal. While other eco models go for high-profile tyres on smaller wheels to save fuel, BMW clearly understands that size matters for X5 buyers. Like the BMW Concept Active Tourer shown at the 2012 Paris show, the X5 eDrive sports ‘BMW iBlue’ accents on its grille, lower front apron and rear bumpers, while the plug has been cleverly integrated into the front-quarter panel above the C-shaped vent that’s become a BMW signature.
When can I buy one?
A production version is still at least two years sometime in 2015 if the project runs on time. Expect an X6 to follow suit if there’s enough demand…