► 2023’s BMW X5 SUV driven
► New xDrive50e PHEV claims 66 e-miles
► UK range includes two diesels, too
By BMW standards, its hybrid powertrain X5 SUV has received an unusually extensive mid-cycle makeover. The X5 and X6 got redesigned bumpers front and rear, an optional iconic glow kidney flanked by slimmer adaptive matrix (option) headlights, bolder LED taillights with X-shaped graphics, a new interior complete with must-have curved display and a bunch of new assistance systems.
Tell me more about those tech upgrades first
The curved dash, by a now a familiar BMW quantity, has finally made its way into the X5 and X6. The conveniently large high-res panorama display is in essence a touchscreen which can alternatively be accessed via the iDrive controller’s last appearance in this model, as well as by voice and gesture control and the multi-functional steering-wheel.
The centre console is wider than need be and thinly padded, the ventilation louvres and the mystic air distribution devices are an acquired taste, the driving aids are fighting warning beeps and caution lights against premature decommissioning, and the widget batallions which flock the main monitor are a driver distraction par excellence.
Professional planet savers can now specify the Sensafin upholstery instead of real leather. It’s claimed to last forever and, since the standard hide quality isn’t worth writing home about, the money saved could be reinvested in the Bowers & Wilkins sound system which takes full advantage of the improved sound deadening. There’s a reason this BMW X5 makes it onto our list of the best luxury hybrids.
By the way: going down PHEV avenue shrinks the boot size from 650-1870 to 500-1720litres and reduces the towing capacity from 3.5 to 2.7tons.
Pretty big changes, then
And that’s before getting to the powertrains.
The new xDrive50e plug-in hybrid, for example, supercedes the pre-facelift’s 45e and claims up to 66 emission-free miles. The new dual-motor layout adds 96bhp and 74lb ft for a total of 489bhp and 700Nm. Thanks to a clever step-up ratio, the e-motor integrated in the eight-speed automatic transmission can all by itself generate up to 332lb ft of torque. The energy produced by the battery is up 25 per cent to 25.7kWh (net) and the maximum charging power doubled to 7.4kW, but the output of the partnering 3.0-litre straight-six nudged up only by a token circa 20bhp to 309bhp on its own.
In the UK market, X5 buyers can choose from the above PHEV or one of two diesels – the base 30d and the more potent 40d. Both are mild hybrid only and feature modest power boosts.
So, how does the updated X5 drive?
We’re focusing on the 50e PHEV here and, besides the lofty e-range figures and daft fuel economy number, it’s a potent performer. The top speed in e-mode is limited to a swiftish 87mph. So far, so good. But what is it like to drive a vehicle which splits its dynamic duties and talents almost evenly between 309 fuel-injected and 194 cable-fed horses? Put the foot down, and the high-tech SUV takes off like greased lightning, uniting the two torque providers in vocal show-off mode with the emphasis shifting from the CO2-neutral source around town to its fossil-fueled counterpart on the autobahn.
This is automotive fusion cuisine at its finest – with two exceptions. Neither coasting nor the one-pedal feel are the system’s prime strength, and kickdown on the fly feels more like a petition than an order.
Strengths? The four-wheel steering makes the 4935mm cruiser almost as manoeuvrable as a Mini Countryman. The ride is sufficiently supple even on extra-cost 22-inchers. The brakes are strong, progressive and resistant to fade. The chassis works best in Comfort while the other parameters can stay in Sport.
The steering is not Cayenne-like sharp and the suspension is not GLE-like compliant, but the X5 50e easily outhandles the new Range Rover while outperforming the Q8 plug-in hybrid. The X5’s 24/7 sedative is its massive kerb weight of 2420kilos which puts the PHEV on eye-level with the iX. It shows, less so on the straights but under braking, when dialing in an armful of lock and on roads dotted with varying radii and recurrent changes of direction.
Even so, the oodles of low-end torque, running costs matching the most efficient EV and the fact that its performance for the money could make the XM pale certainly work in its favour.
BMW X5: verdict
As always, the X5 is one of the sharper to drive SUVs out there. While the 50e needs a software update to sort out a couple of things, it still offers a lot. And, more generally, the X5 has a great range of engines, a well-sorted chassis – even if the increasingly decorative design inside and out is dating quickly.
Specs are for a BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport