BMW has been at the forefront of plug-in electric vehicles, sold under its “i” brand – cars like the urban friendly i3 and angelic i8 sports car. As BMW contemplates a complete line-up of electrified models, it starts where Americans will love it most: The X5 crossover, the first plug-in model from the core BMW brand.
Beneath familiar sheetmetal is an advanced powertrain consisting of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, electric motor, lithium-ion battery pack, and eight-speed automatic transmission. Fully charged, the X5 can travel about 14 miles on just electricity before the gas engine fires up to continue the journey.
Charging takes two hours and 45 minutes with the available 240v charger (plugging into a wall socket is best left for overnight). Combined powertrain output is 308 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft. of torque, or enough to kick the big wagon from 0-60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. All-wheel-drive provides stability under all conditions. Owners will appreciate fuel economy ratings of 56-MPGe (combined powertrain) or 24-MPG on gasoline only.
Even better, drivers can control how the electricity is used with an eDrive button on the center console. “AUTO” mode is the default, starting with the engine and electric motor working together. The gas engine will start around 45 mph or under sharp acceleration. The computer determines optimum efficiency. “MAX” is the pure EV mode, protecting fossils up to 75 mph. “SAVE” preserves remaining battery charge for when the driver prefers, which is normally during urban driving as highway cruising toasts battery charge fastest. As with other BMWs, the X5’s Driving Dynamics Control switch adjusts the powertrain and steering feel for Comfort, Sport, or Eco Pro.
With the exception of a door on the front driver’s side fender for the plug and eDrive logos on the D-pillar, the 40e looks much like any other X5, which is to say it looks every inch a BMW and is elegantly handsome. The front is dominated by the brand’s “twin kidney” grille, flanked by quad adaptive LED headlamps and underlined by LED foglamps. The side profile is tall, but sleek, with 19-inch alloys and deft body sculpting to keep it interesting. More LEDs and dual exhaust outlets leave a clean finish.
Step across the threshold for more BMW goodness. There’s an extra gauge for charging status, but BMW’s simple gauges remain. Infotainment is controlled through the iDrive joywheel and dash screen – still not the easiest to navigation menus, but I’m getting better at accessing audio, climate, and navigation controls. Crank up the tunes through Harman Kardon surround sound. Drivers appreciate the head-up display, power steering column, parking assistant, and rearview camera.
As expected, it’s pretty posh too. Heated front and rear seats keep buns toasty while a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel de-fangs winter’s chill. Our vehicle came with BMW’s Fineline Pure Wood Trim (matte finish), panoramic moonroof, ambient lighting, and aluminum accents. In the front or rear, your peeps will be pleased.
A large crossover may not be your first idea of an electrified vehicle, but it mostly works. Owners get the efficiency they want, all-electric driving over short distances, and give up little in expected BMW performance and luxury. It’s nice that it’s built in Spartanburg, South Carolina. A base price of $63,750, or $72,770 as-tested, will cause little shock among the faithful.
2017 BMW X5 40e
- Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 308 hp – 2.0-liter T4, Li-Ion Batteries
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: Regen disc/disc
- Must-have features: Luxury, Efficiency
- Electric range: 14 miles
- Fuel economy: 24 mpg comb; 56-MPGe
- Assembly: Spartanburg, South Carolina
- Base/as-tested price: $63,750/72,770