New X5 xDrive40e – BMW’s first ever hybrid SUV hits the streets

Electric cars are no longer a vague promise on the horizon, they are a firm reality. As of last year, there were over 1 million electric vehicles on the roads around the world. Unfortunately, the South African car industry has lagged behind the rest of the world and we have nowhere near the same variety of electric vehicles as you will find in Europe, Japan and the USA. That is starting to change. BMW, to name one manufacturer, is enthusiastically embracing this new technology and it won’t be long before all of their models will feature an electric engine in one form or another. They already have the i3 and the i8, a full electric hatch and a hybrid sports car, respectively. Not long ago they released a hybrid 5 Series sedan. Their first hybrid SUV, the X5 xDrive40e, is the latest addition to a growing stable of electric and hybrid models.

The XDrive40e is a plug-in hybrid, which means that you can charge it from an independent power source, either using a proprietary power set-up called the i Wallbox Pro (available at a cost of R25,000) or by plugging it directly into a wall socket. In the case of the former it can go to full charge in as little time as 2 hours 45 minutes. In the case of the regular socket, it will take around four hours. The cost of that full charge? A whopping R13,86 cents. Welcome to the world of the electric engine!

OK, now don’t get too excited. Remember that this is a hybrid, not a full electric vehicle. So the electric engine doesn’t do all the work. What you have is an electric motor that provides 83kW at 3170 rpm and 250Nm of torque hooked up to the transmission. This is supported by a regular internal combustion engine, similar to that found in the 330i sedan. This 2.0 litre power plant produces 180kW and 350Nm.

The way it works – as the electric unit sends power through the gearbox, both electricity and petrol contribute to powering all four wheels, for an overall power rating of 230kW and 450Nm. Yes, you read that right - the X5 xDrive40e is a permanent four wheel drive.

Power from two sources

The beauty of this system is that it combines the strengths of both power sources: first you can plug it in to power it up from a traditional power outlet, so you enjoy the savings associated with a cheap source of energy. Second, you never have to worry about running out of power if your journey proves to take longer than expected. After all, an SUV is more likely to be used for long trips. With the hybrid engine you can still take those road trips, and enjoy excellent fuel consumption despite the size and weight of the vehicle.

But you can also use it to drive around the neighbourhood, collect the kids and enjoy all the other uses of a vehicle, without stressing about your fuel consumption or hefty CO2 emissions. Why? Because in most instances, driving in traffic on short trips, you’ll be using the electric engine exclusively. In fact, you can drive for up to 30 kilometres without using a single drop of petrol (top speed is 120kms/h in pure electric mode). Given that it costs only R14,00 to charge the electric engine to capacity, if you could use this car to commute using the electric engine only, what do you think your fuel cost would be? A whopping 45 cents per km. That sound good to you? We thought it would.

Low consumption
On long trips the combined range is up to 830 kilometres, with exceptionally low consumption. BMW rates the consumption at around 3,3 litres per 100km but when the guys at Car magazine tested it on several test drives they found it realistically achieved around 8 litres per 100km. Still an excellent result for a full sized SUV.

Given that it is an electric car, or part thereof, it does need space to store the battery packs. Does this affect storage space. Happily the answer is no. The X5 hybrid still offers 500 litres of storage space, which is expanded to an impressive 1700 litres with the seats folded down. The electric charging cable is stored in a space underneath the boot cover.

Three are three driving modes in the hybrid X5 – Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro – and then there are three additional modes: Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery. To activate, you just push the eDrive button which is located next to the gear lever.

Extra drive modes for maximum efficiency

In the AUTO eDRIVE mode, BMW’s EfficientDynamics system determines the most efficient combination of electric motor and combustion engine – depending on your driving speed and the battery charging status. This mode is divided into two phases: If the battery charging status is between 12% and 100%, you can drive at speeds up to 70 km/h – without using any fuel at all. At higher speeds or with more demanding requirements, the petrol engine switches on automatically. If the battery charging status drops below 12%, the vehicle can be driven in the purely electric mode and with moderate acceleration at speeds of up to 55 km/h.

In the MAX eDRIVE mode, you can enjoy purely electric driving at speeds of up to 120 km/h. At higher speeds or when the acceleration potential has been exhausted, the combustion engine switches on automatically.

The SAVE BATTERY mode is for when the battery charging status is low. It enables the battery to be charged by the combustion engine or allows the charging status to be maintained so that you can save battery capacity for purely electric driving later.

Plugged in

So that you always know what’s going on with your X5, BMW has created an app that will keep updated with all the stats you may need. The My BMW Remote app for iOS and Android displays detailed information, including the vehicle's location, the battery level and remaining range.

You can control the charging procedure remotely via a weekly timer, and set the car’s climate control from a distance so that you get into an already cool or warm car. Destinations such as points of interest and charging stations can be easily sent from the application directly to the vehicle.

The app also measures the efficiency of every trip and gives helpful tips, such as how to drive the vehicle in a more efficient manner and extend its range. The efficiency value of each journey can also be anonymously shared with drivers and compared.

How does it drive?

Driving it you quickly realise that it’s a different animal. To start with its eerily quiet. You won’t hear an engine fire up when you hit the starter button nor will you hear it idling.

You can expect a very comfortable ride though. The X5 hybrid comes standard with model-specific chassis tuning, plus Dynamic Damper Control and self-levelling rear air-suspension to smooth out all those bumps and humps in the road.

When the journalists at Car magazine test drove it they found that it seemed to waft through the air, in a way they’d not experienced in a X5 before. Performance wasn’t too shabby either, with the X5 xDrive40e achieving the 0 – 100km/h sprint in 6.99 seconds. It also earned high marks in Car’s braking tests.

Of course, there is much more to the X5 xDrive40e, including all the bells and whistles that you would expect in a luxury SUV. But it’s really that remarkable power combo of the new and the old that makes it stand out from the pack. Now you can enjoy the convenience and versatility of an SUV without the set-backs that hauling a very large and heavy vehicle around town usually brings.

As always it’s best to test drive the vehicle for yourself. To arrange a test drive, contact a Bidvest McCarthy BMW dealer near you at: Tygervalley – 021 914 0020.

Standard, 8-speed Sport Auto - R 1 097 500
Exterior Design Pure Excellence - R1 108 800
Exterior Design Pure Experience - R1 115 000
M Sport Model - R1 146 300


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