BMW X5 eDrive prototype plug-in hybrid review

19 Feb, 2014 11:00pm Dave Humphreys

Upcoming plug-in hybrid BMW X5 eDrive promises small car economy in a big SUV, but will it deliver?


The camouflage on this BMW X5 eDrive serves to remind you that it's still a prototype, but it shows plenty of promise for what’s set to be the most efficient X5 model by quite some margin. It feels just as fast, refined and luxurious as every other model in the line-up. If it’s not too pricey, then this looks like a great, frugal alternative to the six-cylinder diesel-powered X5 30d, boasting similar performance but with economy drastically improved over that car’s 45mpg figure.

Following the introduction of its ultra-efficient i3 and i8 models, BMW is rolling out plug-in hybrid tech to its more mainstream cars, starting with the X5 SUV. Using battery technology lessons learned from the development of the i cars, the BMW X5 eDrive will be introduced later in 2014, promising more than 70mpg.

Unlike the six-cylinder ActiveHybrid models launched a few years ago, the X5 eDrive will use the latest TwinPower 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine running in tandem with an electric motor. Thanks to a larger battery pack, the X5 eDrive can drive up to 18 miles purely in electric mode while still being able to deliver impressive acceleration: 0-62mph should take less than seven seconds.

BMW ActiveHybrid 3 review

The additional weight of the battery unit is slightly offset by the fact it uses a four-cylinder petrol engine rather than the larger six- or eight-cylinder engines elsewhere in the X5 line-up. Nevertheless, engineers have hinted that the eDrive weighs between 250 and 300kg more than a traditional X5.

Big differences in the weight, then, but styling changes aren’t set to be too drastic. There’s a plug-in socket in the front wing, some subtle eDrive badges and a few new buttons in the cabin to activate functions like pure electric mode but otherwise it’s a normal BMW X5.

As you take off silently a new display reveals exactly where the power is coming from and which wheels it’s being delivered to. The petrol engine is in red, the electric motor is blue and you’re also shown when the system is harvesting energy from deceleration. It’s down to the driver how severe you want the energy recovery to be, simply by choosing different driving modes. Set to Sport, the eDrive feels genuinely fast, with both sources working together to give hot hatch-style pace.

BMW X5 eDrive display

Even in full-electric mode it feels swift, with near-instantaneous response from the throttle. You’ll only be able to get up to 75mph, though, before the petrol engine kicks in. It does so smoothly but you do get quite a different noise with the combustion engine running. It's not unpleasant but contrasts with the smooth silence of the electric motor.

BMW’s xDrive system works to split torque between all four wheels but during our time with the car, it felt as though it had more of a rear-wheel-bias. BMW is clearly aiming to keep the eDrive’s handling sharp, and we were told that weight distribution would be near-50:50. There’s still some work to do on these prototypes but the early results look really promising. Off-roading may not be top of the priorities list for X5 buyers but towing could be, and we were told that the eDrive will be able to tow the same 3,500kg load as all other X5s, excluding the 25d model.

One drawback of plug-in hybrid models is generally that the batteries are fitted underneath the boot floor, eating into the amount of usable space on offer. That’s true in the case of the eDrive as well but it’s barely noticeable. The underfloor storage space is mostly gone, instead replaced by a shallow shelf that’s just big enough to carry a charging cable.

BMW has managed to retain much of the X5’s character, despite the new hi-tech powertrain. It’s an impressive piece of engineering but BMW won’t have the plug-in hybrid SUV market to itself – Audi is working on a version of the next-generation Q7 to rival it.

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What a joke! Give me a Range Rover with its tried and tested, dating from 17 years ago V8.

Tyrannical Arab dictators, Russian oligarchs, The Windsor Parasites, and bailed out by food-bank-using, broke British taxpayers City bankers do not want fancy new German tech, they want proper Indian-British olde-worlde tech, with sub 10 miles to the gallon.

No friends?
No surprise.

Really, people who care about getting more MPG are the people who can't actually afford to by cars at £55K + extras.
Individuals who pay this much money for cars really don't care too much about the cost of a litre of fuel (some business cases might be different). We really need to see high MPG in affordable vehicles, so that the people who need cheaper motoring can take advantage.

You're missing the point.

It's not just about 50 mpg per se, although that in itself is laudable.

It's about being for instance London's Congestion Charge exempt - although I think the threshold may have been dropped to 75g/km CO2 recently, although BMW will probably get down to that with a tweak to the battery range before on-sale date.

The already on-sale Panamera plugin hybrid electric vehicle, PHEV, and the due later in 2014 Mercedes S500 PHEV will hoover up the City people and rich phony eco warriors who want freedom from Congestion Charge restrictions, regardless of list price.

It's about avoiding the penal taxes on imported luxury vehicles with larger than 4-litre engine size in China.

It's about being in-step with the move to tackle air pollution in Chinese cities, which will lead the authoriites to eventually ban gas-guzzling SUVs - bang goes JLR.

It's also about some buyers wanting to show they understand the leading edge of automotive technology and wish to have the best of that available, as BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, with their new 2015 Q7, are doing, unlike Land Rover who still rely on an ancient large capacity V8 and a sharing its 8-cylinder block V6.

It's at bottom about the Germans dominating cutting-edge automotive technology, the automotive industry generally, and exposing shyster outfits like Tata/JLR even futher, with its now painfully exposed, obsolete Ford ownership-era powertrains, vehicle platforms, infotainment and safety systems.

A good indicator of where the next gen hybrids are going. Speed and economy. Diesels don't sell in many major markets and the current BMW 3 and 5 hybrids are a joke (and being very heavily discounted this month). However this looks as if Tesla better watch out when BMW apply the tech to a 5 or 7. Jaguar have hybrids on the way as well. Looks as if you can be green yet not get stuck in the lane with the trucks.

It's the same point. Wealthy people can easily pay a few quid for the congestion charge. People who need cheaper motoring can less so. If it comes down to cost, this tech would more usefully be applied at the low cost end.

No point missed. You really are as stupid as all your other posts suggest.

Hmm, if this and similar cutting edge, world leading German engineering is 'missing the point' and hence 'stupid', happy to be called that too, especially by blinkered numpties of your ilk.

Ever heard of a BMW i3? or a Prius? or Nissan Leaf? Guess not by your comment.

I've read your posts, you've been trolling baseless rubbish for weeks under various names. I don't really think you are in a position to talk about 'ilk' and call people 'numpties'.

Who still used that 'numpties' word anyway?

Have you seen the price of these cars? Little hatchback A segment sized vehicles sold for £25K+ AFTER the UK taxpayer has subsidised the purchase. Have you thought your comment through?

There is no economic case for them. A buyer can by a brand new equivalent small diesel hatch and with the other £15K can fuel it for years and not suffer any of the drawbacks of the electric.

The German's give him a hard on so ignore his rubbish. Nothing wrong with JLR, haters gonna hate.

German cars are sh!t- Fact!

Key specs

  • Price: £55,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl & electric motor
  • Power: 300bhp (est)
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: Under 7 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 70mpg/89g/km (est)
  • On sale: Late 2014