My neighbours must wonder what exactly I do for a living as yet another blinded-up and blacked-out luxury SUV arrives on my driveway. In Alpine white and with polished 20” rims, the X5 I have been presented with is, to use the vernacular, proper baller, and I think it looks great!
Yet why am I testing a BMW X5 – surely this car has been out since 2013? Correct, but this is the latest hybrid model, and incidentally, the first plug-in electric hybrid of the core BMW range, the i3 and i8 belonging to the company’s iPerformance sub-brand.
There are batteries, engines, cables, fuel tanks, charging ports and all manner of wizardry powering this 313 bhp SUV, the internal combustion element of which is a 245 bhp 2.0L petrol engine, the electric motor adding the remaining oomph.
This is actually my first time driving a petrol-electric hybrid, and I must admit that in electric mode it does take a little getting used to, especially as you try to figure out if the car is on, off or whether auto stop-start has kicked in when stopped in traffic, such is the silence of the driving experience.
The BMW X5 xDrive40e M-Sport, to give it its full title, is remarkably quick off the line due to the instant torque provided by the electric motor. The 0-60 mph dash is completed in a mere 6.8 seconds which is remarkable for a large SUV that weighs over 2.3 tonnes.
The X5 is extremely refined to drive, the steering precise and visibility excellent due to the relatively low window line. The car tends to shrink around you more so than other SUVs, encouraging you to drive it more like car than a spaceship.
Inside, the X5’s cabin is attractively designed with excellent ergonomics and clear instrumentation. That said, it lags somewhat behind rivals such as the new Audi Q7 in terms of interior finish. Almost every switch and dial in the Q7 is surrounded by finely machined aluminium trim, every button cold and metallic to the touch, every control weighted just so. The X5’s cabin lacks the same degree of fine detailing and finesse.
Arguably however, this is due to the fact that the current X5 is three years old, while rivals such as the Audi Q7 have been launched relatively recently. One aspect I cannot make excuses for however is the coarsely grained leather of the X5’s interior – a stark contrast to the almost Bentley-grade fine nappa leather of the Volvo XC90 I recently tested.
Overall though, these are small criticisms, and the X5 cabin remains a very nice place to spend a long journey, is well engineered and eye-catching in its architecture. The optional panoramic sunroof allows the sun’s rays into the cabin lending it both a bright and luxurious ambience.
In M-Sport trim, the BMW X5 really looks the business with its larger wheels, aggressive body styling and tinted windows. While the lines and contours are attractive, and classic BMW styling cues such as the Hofmeister rear window kink and ‘angel-eye’ DRLs are all present, it will be great to see what BMW do with the next generation of X5 to bring it more into line with the slightly fresher appearance of its latest rivals.
The hybrid X5 has a claimed fuel economy of 86 mpg, although to achieve this one must obviously charge the Lithium-Ion batteries, a task that takes as little as 2.75 hours using the BMW iWallbox. The range anxiety that one might experience if the car was fully electric is also eliminated by virtue of the fact that if no charging points are available at your destination, there is at least a petrol engine to get you home!
Overall, I enjoyed the hybrid driving experience provided by the BMW X5. The car’s engine and electric motor work together seamlessly to provide a flawless and refined driving experience, while the car looks great rolling around town in fully pimped out spec!