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    A Viable Option? #2016

    The new #BMW-X5-40e #BMW-F15 costs the same as a xDrive40d model but which makes more sense to buy? #BMW-UK has pitched the #Hybrid-X5-40e right into the section of the 4x4 market occupied by the X5 40d… but is the part-petrol, part-electric machine a real alternative? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: BMW.

    So here it is, the first of what will be four full plug-in hybrid models that #BMW will be launching in the UK this year. The X5 is the first to get the #PHEV treatment but following closely on its heels will be the 330e (that you can read about on ), the 220xe and the 740e and no doubt when the new Five and Six are eventually announced both of those cars’ architecture will have been designed to allow full use of BMW’s drivetrain of choice.

    We’ve already had ‘ActiveHybrid’ versions of the 3, 5 and 7 Series but the next generation of BMW Hybrids are far more advanced than those and promise greater electric ranges and are less compromised in day-to-day use than its previous efforts. The real question that needs answering is whether one of these hybrids, and specifically this X5 we have here today, will actually suit your motoring needs? I would suggest that you’d need to sit down with a large piece of paper that will end up being covered in hastily squiggled figures to try and work out whether a hybrid or one of BMW’s already excellent diesel versions makes most sense for your specific needs.

    I have to hold my hands up and say that I approached the test of this new kid on the block with a fair amount of cynicism – a diesel X5 is a wonderful machine to drive and own and with the hybrid’s limited range and perhaps less than stellar real-world economy figures I was finding it a difficult concept that someone would actually prefer to invest in the 40e than a 40d. First impressions are certainly good however – the X5 40e in M Sport trim we have here retains the big 4x4’s handsome good looks and is still an imposing piece of kit. It’s not likely your neighbours will notice it’s a hybrid either unless they catch you charging it or clock the small 40e script on the front doors or the subtle eDrive logo sitting on the X5’s rump.

    Once I’ve clambered up into the X5, made myself comfortable and adjusted mirrors and seat to my satisfaction, I make the school boy error of assuming I’ve managed to break the X5 as pressing the starter button doesn’t elicit any sort of engine starting noises from under the bonnet. The dash pod glows nicely and I soon realise that the X5 is ‘running’ and that all I need to do if release the electronic handbrake.

    Moving off with nary a whisper from the drivetrain is always a slightly uncanny feeling, but it’s one you soon become accustomed to in the X5. Once you’re rolling it’s not an entirely noise-free environment as a certain amount of road noise and tyre roar do eventually permeate the cabin as the speed rises. Trundling around the Berkshire sub-suburban roads where speeds are generally pretty low sees the four-cylinder twin-turbo slumbering, letting the electric motor and batteries take the strain until the speed rises to around 42mph and then the internal combustion side of the equation joins the party. We seem to use the word ‘seamless’ to describe so many things these days, but it really is the right description of the way the engine kicks in and out – if I hadn’t caught the movement of the rev counter needle out of the corner of my eye I really wouldn’t have realised the engine had kicked in.

    After around 20 minutes of driving, not desperately fast, not intentionally slowly, simply keeping pace with the rest of the traffic on the road, the X5 is indicating a pretty staggering 73.9mpg. This rises and falls pretty rapidly depending on whether the four-cylinder is in play or not, and we must bear in mind that the battery was fully charged before departure, but it’s the sort of figure a diesel X5 could only dream about. The flip side of the coin is that when you use all the performance the economy plummets dramatically, but it’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of performance on offer if you use the combined might of the twin-scroll turbo four and the electric motor. Together they offer up 313hp (identical to the X5 40d’s output) and 332lb ft of torque (considerably down on the 40d’s 465lb ft) and if you ask it to, the 40e will really fly, taking you by surprise as this isn’t the sort of forward momentum you’re conditioned to expect in a car that has eco credentials. You’ll need to use the upper end of the rev-range in the 40e to enjoy the best it has to offer, but that’s no hardship as it does sound pretty good when revved hard. So, put simply, it’s pretty enjoyable to punt along, whether looking to eke every last bit of charge from the battery in the quest for ever-better economy figures, or when giving it a good old fashioned pasting.

    But how does the X5 40e seemingly manage to offer the best of both worlds? As mentioned it uses the fourcylinder turbocharged engine (in a 245hp state of tune) allied to a synchronous electric motor (offering 113hp and 184lb ft of torque) that’s housed within the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an all-electric range of between 14 and 19 miles and that latter figure is actually the distance market research has shown to be the average journey by X5 owners. BMW UK has put together some figures for what it expects potential owners will achieve under certain driving conditions and these may well help you decide on whether or not it’s going to be suitable for your needs.

    In an urban commuting environment with journeys of up to 15 miles, BMW reckons you should be able to achieve 94mpg, running almost exclusively on electric power. For an owner using their X5 for trips of between 30 and 40 miles a day including commuting BMW expects returns in the mid-40s, typically 43-47mpg (better than you’d get with a diesel-powered X5) but over longer journeys (over 125 miles) the 40e is expected to return between 26 and 27mpg, making it less economical than a diesel model. All these figures assume you’re starting off with a fully charged battery pack, too, but as the X5 only takes two and a half hours to charge on a BMW i Wallbox (and three and a half from a standard 13amp socket) this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.

    However, it’s worth considering that fuel economy isn’t the be all and end all when considering one’s overall motoring cost. For instance, the difference between running a car that does 30mpg compared to one that does 40mpg is only around £380 a year if you do 10k miles per year. If one assumes the 40e returns the former and the 40d the latter you’d need to factor in road tax (free for the 77g/km 40e) while the 157g/km 40d would cost you £180… bringing the overall cost difference to just £200. So it’s as near as makes no difference. What makes a huge difference is if you intend on running one of these as a company car as the chasm in Benefit in Kind rates are significantly larger. An X5 40e will cost a 40 per cent tax payer a little over £3000 in tax whereas a 40d will be getting on for double that figure… and surely that’s a pretty large chunk of cash unless your surname’s Abramovich.

    There are some compromises in running the Hybrid 4x4, particularly if you wanted to spec a third row of seats in your X5, as this simply isn’t available in the 40e. Boot space is somewhat compromised too, and while it still has a virtually flat load bay its capacity is down to 500 litres (the 40d has 650) with the seats up, while maximum carrying capacity is down to 1720 for the 40e compared the 1870 for the non-hybrid models. Overall though I was impressed with the 40e and were my monthly company car allowance somewhat larger and I was interested in a large 4x4 it would undoubtedly be on my short list. I would be able to get virtually all the way to the office in pure electric mode, charge it for a couple of hours and return home in the same manner. The car’s energy management system would help here too. As well as the expected Drive Performance Control switch to toggle between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes there’s a separate eDrive switch that allows you to tailor the use of the batteries to best effect. The default mode is ‘Auto eDrive’ which allows for electric driving up to around 40mph and focuses on the best efficiency. ‘Max eDrive’ will see the X5 running purely on electric power up to speeds of 75mph and the four-cylinder will only be awoken from its slumber should you either exceed that speed or use kick down. The last mode is ‘Save Battery’ which allows you to effectively shut off the electric motor to save the battery for when you get to an urban area later in your journey, and this would be ideal for me to switch off the electric side of the equation when I’m on the (mostly) open roads of Kent, reverting to battery power for the last congested slog into London. And if you use the satellite navigation system the car basically works all this out for you.

    It certainly won’t be for everyone, but the 40e’s combination of low running costs (depending on your driving needs), low company car tax and the fact that it’s actually a hoot to drive quickly when the mood happens to take you makes BMW’s first full hybrid a bit of a winner if you ask me. My only fear is that BMW won’t be able to make them fast enough…

    Interior of the 40e shares the same handsome architecture as other X5s.

    eDrive lets you make the most of hybrid modes; boot is smaller than regular X5 and there’s no seven-seat option.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-M-Sport / #BMW-X5-F15 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-M-Sport-F15 / #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-F15 /

    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic automatic, four-wheel drive

    MAX POWER: 245hp at 5000-6500rpm (petrol), 113hp at 3170rpm (electric motor)

    MAX TORQUE: 258lb ft at 1250-4800rpm (petrol), 184lb ft @ 0rpm (electric motor)
    0-62MPH: 6.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 130mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 85.6mpg
    CO2 EMISSIONS: 77g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £56,705
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    The #2015 #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-F15 / #BMW-X5-F15 / #BMW-F15 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW - EU-spec road test
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    2015 #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-F15 / #BMW-F15 / #BMW-X5-F15

    BMW is now transferring its hybrid technology from the i cars into the regular range. The first to go ‘plug-in’ is the X5 xDrive40e – does it make a valid anti-diesel case? Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: BMW.

    If the future-shock i8 could speak, we reckon it might be smugly quoting Darth Vader: “Now the circle is complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” And who would it be addressing in such haughty tones? Why, BMW itself, of course. Because, following the stunning success of the fledgling i brand launched just four years ago, the tricks BMW has learned regarding plugin hybrid technology are filtering back into the ‘core’ brand – and the first series production model to benefit is the X5.

    There’s no surprises there; since it was launched in 1999, an incredible 1.5 million X5s have been built at Spartanburg in the US. So as a hugely successful model in its own right, it’s the sensible choice for Munich to electrify first. BMW calls this ‘when xDrive meets eDrive’.

    The X5 xDrive40e, to give it the proper nomenclature that fits in with the rest of BMW’s badging, is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. The format is fairly simple – up front is the familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four, here making 245hp and 258lb ft of torque, in the middle is an eightspeed automatic gearbox and drive to all four corners, and underneath the boot floor is the eDrive lithiumion battery pack. The synchronous electric motor itself, rated at 113hp and 184lb, is sequestered away in casing of the automatic transmission.

    Next year, the xDrive40e will be followed by a 340e and a 740e, both of which will use the same drivetrain in differing states of tune and then more ‘regular’ BMWs are likely to follow suit. Talking of power, the X5 PHEV is another of those hybrids where the peak system output figures are not the sum of their parts. At most, the xDrive40e delivers 313hp and 332lb ft of torque; the first figure is comparable with an xDrive40d but the latter is down 133lb ft on the diesel’s 465lb ft maximum.

    Nevertheless, some of the numbers connected to the X5 PHEV make for mind-boggling reading. It weighs the best part of 2.3 tonnes but can apparently return up to 85.6mpg combined economy while emitting just 77g/km CO². And yet despite being ‘only’ a four-cylinder vehicle, it will hit 62mph from rest in 6.8 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 130mph, in Auto eDrive mode.

    Ah yes, the ‘modes’. Like every X5, the PHEV still has the Driving Experience Control switch to change the car through Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro settings. But just aft of that is a new button, labelled ‘eDrive’. Here, there are another three options: Auto eDrive, in which the car shuffles power between the various hybrid sources according to driving demands; Max eDrive, which keeps the X5 electric-only (unless there’s no battery power left or you depress the throttle into kick-down); and Save, which either maintains the battery at or juices it up to 50 per cent charge by using the petrol engine and brake recuperation. Set the sat nav and the X5 will even work out whether it’s in a built-up area or not, switching between electrified modes autonomously. Handily, you can over-ride that at any time by pressing the eDrive button.

    All of the on-board technology works like an absolute dream, naturally. With a brimmed battery and Max eDrive selected, step-off acceleration is silent and suitably brisk. The electric motor, ZF auto and xDrive traction all shift the bulky X5 without any drama at all. You can go up to 19 miles at speeds up to 75mph without ever once troubling the petrol motor, which will be more than enough for suburban commuters, and it’ll take around three hours to replenish the battery via a 230-volt mains socket or optional BMW i-Wallbox.

    But in Auto eDrive, the way the X5 switches the petrol on and off as required is seriously spooky. There’s no shudder as it kicks into action, and the only way you’ll tell it has cut off is watching the rev counter suddenly die away while it coasts. Silky smooth doesn’t even cover it – the drivetrain is pure liquid and much quieter than any BMW diesel. The handling is fine, the extra bulk of the #eDrive kit not ruining the X5’s poise, while refinement levels are generally high. The engine only gets noisy at about 4500rpm and tyre noise is marked, but the xDrive40e cruises serenely.

    What a shame, then, that the ride is questionable. On the typically excellent German roads around Munich, too often the secondary ride was weirdly busy. There were also a few occasions where the car rose up on tiptoes, as if the dampers were struggling to control the body. Odd, because self-levelling rear air suspension is standard fit on the X5 PHEV. The SUV was never out-and-out uncomfortable, but we’ll need to reserve final judgement on the ride until we’ve driven it in the UK.

    There are very few indicators that differentiate the xDrive40e. Discreet ‘eDrive’ boot badging and the door-mounted model inscription aside, there’s the charging point on the front nearside wing and trapezoidal tailpipes to clock. Inside, it’s the eDrive button, blue illumination in the dashboard and some extra electric-related screens in the iDrive. It’s otherwise as luxurious and pleasing on the eye in there as any other X5 – albeit the battery under the boot floor means no seven-seat option. Cargo capacity stands at 500 to 1720 litres, though, so there is a benefit to that.

    The biggest problem for the X5 xDrive40e is the NEDC (New European Driving Cyclefuel) consumption test. A quirk of its setup means that BMW is forced to quote those stratospheric eco-stats, when officials on hand at the launch freely admitted that only a handful of owners could ever hope to achieve anything like those levels. The minute you rely on the petrol engine, the #BMW-X5 dips to much more real-world figures; we saw around 35mpg on a mixed Autobahn/country roads run and that’s not a number that’s going to get buyers flocking to showrooms. Prices are yet to be confirmed ahead of its November on-sale date but BMW says it will be ‘broadly comparable’ to the xDrive40d. Which actually means ‘in the £51,000 ballpark’. It can be fitted with all the options you would find on a normal X5, bar those rear seats, and will be backed up by the 360 Electric customer support package as found with the i3 and i8.

    Diesel is currently being demonised as the dark side of the force and plug-in hybrids such as this X5 get more impressive by the day. But the firm ride, lack of a seven-seat option and less-than-spectacular realworld economy figures mean we’re not 100 per cent convinced by the xDrive40e, certainly not when compared to the brilliance of the 40d. You can be sure, though, that future #BMW hybrids will be the masters of diesel. Darth i8 will be pleased.

    TECH DATA #BMW-X5-xDrive40e #2015

    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic automatic, four-wheel drive.
    MAX POWER: 245hp at 5000-6500rpm (petrol), 113hp at 3170rpm (electric motor)
    MAX TORQUE: 258lb ft at 1250-4800rpm (petrol), 184lb ft @ 0rpm (electric motor)
    0-62MPH: 6.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 130mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 85.6mpg
    CO2 EMISSIONS: 77g/km
    PRICE: Circa £51,000

    The #PHEV X5’s cockpit is reassuringly familiar with just the eDrive button showing the car’s eco credentials. iDrive screen can show the car’s different drive modes demonstrating when it’s charging or how much eDrive you’ve used.
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