Car group tests

BMW X5 vs Porsche Cayenne vs Volvo XC90

BMW’s new plug-in hybrid X5 joins a new breed of cleaner SUVs. Can it beat Volvo and Porsche rivals?

Say the words ‘full-sized SUV’ to most people, and a vision is likely to spring to mind of a gas-guzzling 4x4 that’s either stopped outside the school gates or at a petrol station.

However, the idea that full-size SUVs are big, thirsty machines is being challenged by a new breed of model that incorporates the latest plug-in hybrid technology. In this test, we’ve lined up a couple of recent arrivals to take on a hybrid pioneer.

Best 4x4s and SUV to buy right now

First up is the BMW X5e. It’s based on the standard X5, but is fitted with a petrol-electric drivetrain that promises a range of 19 miles on battery power alone.

But that’s not as far as our second contender claims to go. The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine has an official range of up to 27 miles, as well as lower overall CO2 emissions than the BMW. Trouble is, it’s also more expensive than its rival.

Both of these cars will have to be at the top of their game to beat one of the first plug-in SUVs on the market: the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. It has a power advantage, but does that mean a compromise when it comes to efficiency?

We put all three through their paces to see if they offer the best of both worlds.

Head-to-head

Charging

All three cars can be charged from the mains, and if you want to recharge on the move, you can set them to harvest energy back into the battery by using the engine as a generator.

Best hybrid cars on sale

You can also save the charge for use later, while the X5 can optimise the best time to use the electricity supply if you have set a destination in the sat-nav.

Boot space

The XC90 has the biggest boot here, but all three models are compromised by their hybrid drivetrains. In five-seat mode, the Volvo provides 640 litres (compared to 775 litres in the standard XC90), while the Cayenne loses 38 litres and the X5 is down to 500 litres.

Plug-in discounts

None of these cars qualifies for the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant – the X5 has emissions over 75g/km, while the other two break the £60,000 price threshold. All three makers provide discounts on fast charging points, though. 

Verdict 

First place: Volvo XC90

The XC90 takes victory, with a major caveat. It wins thanks to its low company car tax rate, surprising straight-line pace and first-class cabin, but the Twin Engine only makes sense if you can charge it every time you park it. If you don’t, fuel economy will only be slightly better than the T6 petrol, and the small tank means you’ll fill it up more often. For most buyers, the D5 diesel is a better option.

Second place: Porsche Cayenne

Like the XC90, the Cayenne E-Hybrid only makes sense if you can plug it in to maximise the amount of electric running you can do, and a regular model may be more suitable for your needs. It’s not the most efficient hybrid around, and it can get expensive pretty quickly if you rack up the options, but it beats the X5 for performance, handling and practicality.

Third place: BMW X5

Compared to its rivals, the X5 40e can be viewed as reasonably good value, although that £57k price tag is still steep. Unfortunately, adding a hybrid drive system hasn’t done anything to improve the standard X5 driving experience, and it still suffers from the same compromised handling and uncomfortable ride. It’s not a giant leap in terms of efficiency, either. 

Is it worth waiting for this model?

Tesla Model X

Due: Summer Price: £65k (est)Engine: 70kWh electric motor

As well as a radical rear door layout and all-electric power, the Model X will offer seven seats and searing straight-line performance. Plug it into a Tesla Supercharger, and it’ll charge to 80 per cent capacity in only 40 minutes.

Figures

 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine MomentumPorsche Cayenne S E-HybridBMW X5 xDrive40e M Sport
On the road price/total as tested£60,455/£72,230£62,154/£73,413£56,705/£61,615
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£26,056/43.1%£25,732/41.4%£25,517/45.0%
Depreciation£34,399£36,422£31,188
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£846/£1,691£1,863/£3,726£1,700/£3,399
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,697/£2,828£2,500/£4,167£2,143/£3,572
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost42/£1,047/A/£049/£1,334/A/£042/£1,007/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£1,001 (3yrs/54k)£420/£490/£420£575 (5yrs/50k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,950/2,984mm4,855/2,895mm4,886/2,933mm
Height/width1,776/2,008mm1,705/1,939mm1,762/1,938mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,969ccV6/2,995cc4cyl in-line/1,997cc
Combined peak power/revs401/5,700 bhp/rpm410/5,500 bhp/rpm309/5,000 bhp/rpm
Combined peak torque/revs640/2,200 Nm/rpm590/1,250 Nm/rpm450/1,250 Nm/rpm
Electric motor87bhp111bhp94bhp
Transmission8-spd auto/4WD8-spd auto/4WD8-spd auto/4WD
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/repair kit80 litres/repair kit85 litres/run-flats
Boot capacity (7/5/2 seat modes)262/640/1,816 litresN/A/580/1,690 litresN/A/500/1,720 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight2,296/689/2,400kg2,350/700/3,500kg2,230/750/2,700kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.9 metres/0.29Cd11.9 metres/0.36Cd12.7 metres/0.31Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs 
Service intervals/UK dealers18k miles (1yr)/10920k miles (2yrs)/36Variable/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.17th/22nd6th/8th13th/23rd
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars97/87/72/100/5N/AN/A
    
0-60/30-70mph5.7/5.1 secs5.5/4.5 secs6.7/6.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.2 secs (kickdown)3.0/3.9 secs2.3 secs (kickdown)
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th2.9 secs (kickdown)4.6/5.7/7.3/9.3 sec3.7 secs (kickdown)
Top speed/rpm at 70mph140mph/2,000rpm150mph/1,800rpm130mph/1,700rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph62.9/38.9/10.6m46.6/36.5/12.1m58.3/33.9/10.7m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph63/43/57/69dBN/A/N/A/61/68dB65/44/58/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range33.6/7.4/370 miles22.8/5.0/401 miles26.6/5.9/497 miles
Govt combined/weighted economy52.5/104.6mpg83.1/83.1mpg35.9/83.1mpg
Govt combined/weighted economy11.5/23.0mpl18.3/18.3mpl7.9/18.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket194/49g/km/7%286/79g/km/15%245/78g/km/13%
    
Airbags/Isofix/self parking/cameraSeven/y/£650/£400Six/yes/no/£446Six/yes/£300/£375
Auto box/stability/adaptive cruiseYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£1,287Yes/yes/£1,330
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/£2,177/£296Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/LEDs/power tailgate£700/yes/yes£720/£1,886/yesYes/£1,495/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/£324/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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