5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Clever combination of ICE and EV; premium cabin; ride/handling
Getting quite expensive; hefty kerb weight; limited electric range
The Wheels Verdict: The BMW X5 xDrive45e is a great solution for those who commute within city limits during the week, but still want to be able to saunter through the countryside on a longer drive at the weekend. Ultimately, the PHEV variant is big, spacious and positively premium – in product and price. But if a plug-in hybrid SUV with a luxury badge is your thing, then there’s little to deter you here.
WHAT IS THE BMW X5 xDrive45e?
This is a petrol-powered BMW X5, using the venerable 3.0-litre turbo straight-six, that’s aided by an electric motor and a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It has a maximum electric-only range of 87km with a 69-litre petrol tank to get you to the next charge point. It even comes with an app with BMW-specific eDrive zones to help you optimise and cater for electric driving – although this function is not confirmed for Australia as yet.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
The European brands seem to be jumping head-first into plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology to satiate buyer demands. The BMW xDrive45e is the German marque’s first foray into this market down under with an SUV – with the just-announced X3 PHEV set to join down the track. With buyer focus shifting to PHEVs, this looks set to be an important model for BMW.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
It’s early morning and frightfully cold. Munich has turned on the fog. It cloaks the Alpine White BMW X5, rendering it almost indistinguishable. Unlocking the handsome Bavarian SUV activates the traditional LED headlights and they cut through the misty haze. Depressing the start button doesn’t disrupt the eerie silence. All that can be heard is the distant whir of an electric motor then the slight screeching of the tyres on the hotel forecourt as we set off. This is a different kind of X5.
Joining the morning rush hour as the fog ascends need not activate the petrol engine. The electric motor, which is powered by a beefed-up 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack, initially suffices. As the traffic mercifully dissipates, the petrol engine ignites and the autobahn beckons. Soon numbers surpassing the claimed electronically limited top speed of 235km/h appear on the new digital instrument cluster. But then, it’s all over. A nasty crash has clogged the derestricted super highway. The clever X5 kills the combustion engine and, once more, silence befalls the lavish cabin as the xDrive45e uses more of its 87km pure-electric range (WLTP).
That’s the beauty of the new X5 plug-in hybrid (or PHEV in industry-speak). It can anonymously skulk through traffic in deft silence or power on past commuters when using its combined 290kW and 600Nm of total system output. Its claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds feels utterly feasible, if not a little underrated, and the 3.0-litre turbo six sounds muscular when called upon. You’re never left wanting for performance, with instant torque from the electric motor being backed up by the twin-scroll turbo higher in the rev range. What’s more, the xDrive45e will return an ultra-frugal 2.0L/100km – if you’re not a lead-foot.
The electric motor, developed in conjunction with ZF, resides where the rear converter would be located within the traditional eight-speed automatic gearbox. It takes over the functionalities of the converter with special clutches. The transition between ICE and electric is so seamless that you’re often hard pressed to notice any change. The conventional auto also works as well as ever, with a creamy smoothness when left to its own devices, and a sporty nature when the mood takes you via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
A number of modes are available to get the most out of the PHEV experience. Sport gives you everything the xDrive45e has to offer, Electric is essentially what it says on the packet – pure EV. Adaptive toggles between these two modes to find the best balance, while Hybrid can actually recharge the battery pack. The latter afforded an extra 11km of electric driving after using that function for only a short time. Regenerative braking also sends charge to join the electric reserves, but thankfully it doesn’t kill the feel through the pedal, and coming to a halt is largely progressive and jerk-free.
While the drive route, in the postcard-perfect autumn greenery surrounding Munich, doesn’t offer too many dynamic challenges, the X5 PHEV astounds by how well it manages its heft. Although the centre of gravity remains low due to the placement of the battery in the X5’s floor, the almost 2.5 tonne kerb weight is hard to ignore. Yet, with only minimal tweaks to the bushings and dampers over garden-variety X5s, the PHEV handles remarkably well and defies that bulk. Two-axle air suspension with adaptive dampers is standard – and it shows its worth with a supple ride, confidence inspiring body control and minimal road noise. The xDrive moniker stands for all-wheel drive, so there is an abundance of grip and an ability to go off-road. Most won’t.
Inside, the xDrive45e is much the same as the updated G05 X5 we already have in Australia. Plush materials abound, with high-quality leathers cloaking the seats and dashboard. It’s an elegant and detailed cabin. A 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen housing smartphone mirroring capabilities and navigated via the latest iDrive controller dominates the experience. It’s crisp, clear and has the capability to showcase EV-specific menus. The digital instrument cluster is a bit hit-and-miss, but overall looks modern and couples well with a clear head-up display.
There’s ample space for heads, legs, knees and toes, although it’s worth noting that the PHEV version of the X5 can’t be optioned with third-row seating – it’s strictly a five-seater. Boot space has decreased thanks to the hybrid gubbins, leaving the xDrive45e with 500L of cargo capacity compared to 650L in a ‘normal’ X5. The cool split tailgate remains.
Returning to the city and to BMW Welt, you forget just how silent the X5 PHEV is. Tourists are simply unawares. However, all the quiet time allows for thinking, and you have to wonder whether the $129,900 xDrive45e is worth the $17,000 price jump over the X5 30d – even with diesel now being somewhat on the nose. You have to really want the benefits the PHEV offers to justify the extra spend. For instance, you could feasibly cover the daily commute on the 87km of electric range, comfortable in the knowledge that there’s petrol power to back you up on longer trips if needed. Plug in when you get home and you’re back to full charge in less than seven hours.
As a premium SUV, the X5 already ticks a lot of boxes. With the xDrvie45e, there now is an added layer of forward-thinking flexibility.
Mercedes-Benz EQC; Audi Q7 e-tron; Jaguar i-Pace.
Price and specs
Model: BMW X5 xDrive45e
Engine: 2998cc in-line 6, dohc, 24v, turbo
Battery: 24kWh lithium-ion
Max power: 290kW combined
Max torque: 600Nm combined
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100km/h: 5.6sec (claimed)
On sale: Now