The first solicitation from looky-loos about the BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid: “What is this BMW? That’s not the strange-looking i3 taking up a public electric vehicle charging spot? And why is it a large SUV?”
To keep the ICE’d patrol at bay, this 5,263-pound luxury crossover assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina, can indeed suckle from the electrical mains, although in this application, the charging power tops out at a depressingly not powerful 3.5 kilowatts, meaning all those Level 2 public chargers rated for up to 6.6 kW are twiddling their thumbs. We’re in the Golden Age of Tesla. Waiting nearly 3 hours to charge the xDrive40e’s 9.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery for 18-19 miles of claimed electric driving range (as stated on our vehicle) is so not Silicon Valley cool.
The EPA estimates 0-14 miles of EV range when the battery is full. There’s a dash between 0 and 14 because the powertrain fundamentally favors blended gas/electric driving, unlike a vehicle such as the Chevrolet Volt that’ll keep the engine off for as long as possible. As expected, the N20 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four rated at 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque performs quite reasonably on the road, similar to other BMW products it’s installed in.
A 111-hp/184-lb-ft AC induction electric motor is always ready to roll with the punches at low speeds but is otherwise completely overshadowed by the sterling N20 if the driver isn’t consciously trying to move the X5 with the battery alone. Switching between engine and e-motor or putting the two’s power together, fortunately, does not disturb the SUV’s velvety flow of operation. The information (EV range, battery percentage, electric drive efficiency, etc.) related to the SUV’s plug-in ability is subtly integrated into the existing instrument cluster and center display interfaces. None of the xDrive40e’s PHEV-ness is thrust upon driver or passenger, though the charge port on the driver’s front fender does feature a light-up ring with colors coordinated to the charging status.
One of these days, a plug-in SUV will size its internal combustion part equally with the electric portion, and that’s when we’ll truly acknowledge that there’s no turning back from electrifying all the automotive things. Gasoline and lithium-ion battery energy join forces to the tune of 308 hp and 332 lb-ft in this BMW. We preserved battery energy with the Save Battery setting (this holds the charge for future deployment and coaxes the engine into continuous action) in advance of straight-line testing. This allowed the propulsion sources (set to Auto eDrive instead of Save) to heave the X5 from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and through the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 94.3 mph. Here’s how it compares against the full roster of all-wheel-drive F15-generation X5s: