BMW X5 xDrive 40e first drive, CAR+ June 2016 | CAR Magazine

BMW X5 xDrive 40e first drive, CAR+ June 2016

Published: 08 June 2016 Updated: 08 June 2016

► New BMW X5 xDrive 40e tested
► Petrol-electric hybrid powertrain
► Claimed 83.1mpg and 78g/km of CO2

Blame their brilliance but so impressive are the i3 and i8 that when you climb aboard any other hybrid-electric BMW, expectations are high: impossibly high for anything of more conventional breeding. Thanks to their gutsy, well resolved powertrains and no-expense-spared carbon composite construction, both i cars are capable of silent flight, launching with the alacrity of a startled hawk and the gentle whine of a hard-working Nutribullet.  

The X5 xDrive 40e is not like this. It’s an X5, so its body is a knuckle-dragging effort in metal. Remember that stuff? And where the i8 is all-wheel drive by virtue of its twin power sources (a 1.5-litre turbo triple drives the rear axle, the electric motor the front) the X5 drives all four corners via mechanical xDrive, complete with prop-shafts, driveshafts and clutches.

Add the hybrid system’s battery (stashed under the boot floor in what’s normally additional stowage space) and e-motor to the mix (wedged between the engine and eight-speed transmission) and you wind up with a fighting weight north of 2300kg, a 120kg ball and chain when compared to the six-cylinder diesel X5s.

Little wonder then that in pure EV mode the PHEV X5 is stately rather than swift. Three hybrid strategies are offered; Auto (blends petrol and electric power as it sees fit) Max eDrive (tranquilises the four-cylinder petrol engine for the life of the battery) and Save (preserves your precious charge for later use).

Go Max eDrive and performance is predictably sluggish, the e-motor doing an admirable job initially but soon struggling in the face of so much weight and drag. Top speed is limited to 75mph and range to 19 miles. Sounds mean but for most that’ll cover a useful chunk of the daily commute and, as ever, the refinement of travelling by electric power alone is beguiling.

Mix electric and petrol power with gay abandon and the combined 309bhp and 332lb ft will do the business, while the X5’s well-documented handling (agile, keen, fun and many other adjectives previously unused in conjunction with SUVs) lifts your mood, or at least distracts you from the 30-35mpg you’re likely to see once the battery’s flat and that 2.0-litre petrol four’s doing all the work.

For most this simply isn’t the best version of a fine car. Explore the idea by all means, and there’s much to like about the BMW’s beautifully implemented powertrain – the T8 XC90 Volvo would kill for this kind of efinement and step-free integration – but be prepared to come back to a diesel. And while the 30d is the X5 hybrid’s on-paper non-PHEV equivalent, don’t overlook the agile and less expensive 25d.

The specs: BMW X5 xDrive 40e

Price: £56,705
Engine: 1997 16v 4cyl turbocharged petrol, electric motor, 309bhp (system), 332lb ft (system)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 6.8sec, 130mph, 83.1mpg, 78g/km CO2
Weight: 2305kg
On sale: Now

Love: Still handles better than an SUV should
Hate: Drivetrain tries to be everything and misses the target
There cannot be a target audience
Rating:  ***

Read more from the June 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three