If you’re not in it for the range, BMW’s plug-in is an entertaining steer.
– Detroit, Michigan
If, back in 1999 when the BMW X5 was introduced, I told you that eventually the company would make a hybrid version with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, you’d have called me mad. (In my imagination, Motor1 readers are mostly urbane Englishmen who say things like “mad” instead of “crazy” or “stupid.”) If I’d gone on to explain that the so-called X5 xDrive40e was actually pretty fun to drive, you would continue to think that I was barmy. But it’s all true, I swear.
- The 40e powertrain is of the plug-in hybrid variety: It pairs that 2.0T engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. BMW specs a total system output of 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, with an all-electric range of up to 14 miles and a combined fuel economy estimate of 56 MPGe. But forget about the hybrid-y stuff for a moment and hear me when I say that the advanced powertrain actually makes this X5 really enjoyable to drive. The boost from the electric motor is sufficient to give the SUV a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds, but I had to look that up – my guess would have been quite a bit quicker, based on the feeling of power when accelerating from a standstill.
- Part of the reason, no doubt, the X5 feels so quick are its wide contact patches with the ground. No low-rolling-resistance tires here, but fat 255-section rubber that aids in getting all that electric torque to the ground, as well as with grip through the twisting parts of the road.
- Despite a fair amount of body roll and softness in the suspension under really hard cornering, it’s fair to call the X5 better than average in terms of handling, for this class of SUV. Steering is direct, though pretty numb, and the car telegraphs its high limits when pushed a bit. You shouldn’t confuse this with an M5, of course, but the big BMW would seem more at home on a handling course than most of that competitive set, below.
- Someone, somewhere will be able to realize the BMW-predicted EV range for this plug-in, but it wasn’t me. I got around nine miles of electric driving, which could be enough for some folks that work close to home, but does make the range seem even more terse.
- Same issue with the fuel economy; my experience wasn’t up to the advertising. I saw in the low 20s for miles per gallon figures over a few hundred miles, with a mix approaching 75-percent highway driving and 25 in the city. As ever, driving style plays a huge role here, and I wasn’t trying to baby it. Suffice it to say I found the electrocution of the powertrain more compelling as a performance booster than an economy enhancement.
- There are a surprising number of interesting competitors for this partially electric, $70k-ish SUV, many with compelling advantages. The more-expensive Tesla Model X is all-electric, has great range, and the doors go like this. Volvo’s XC90 T8 Twin Engine has more of a light, airy interior. Oh, then there’s BMW’s own X5 diesel, which, if you’re simply looking to save on fuel bills, might be the sanest way to go.
|2016 BMW X5 xDRIVE40e|
|ENGINE||Turbocharged 2.0L I4 w/ Electric Motor|
|BATTERY||9.2 Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion|
|OUTPUT||308 Horsepower / 332 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 Seconds|
|TOP SPEED||130 MPH|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||56 MPGe / 24 Combined (gas only)|
|EV RANGE||14 Miles|
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Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com