BMW X5 all adds up

This big SUV might look like BMW’s familiar X5, but under the skin it’s packing a trick petrol-electric hybrid power system. As motoring taxes, fuel economy and emissions pressures become more important, hybrid motoring is edging towards mainstream status. This X5 offers owners all-electric running for around 19 miles plus a mix of petrol and electric power depending on the journey type.

2015 BMW X5 xDrive40e

And while diesel has been the mainstay of large SUVs for some time, this hybrid X5’s 77g/km CO2 rating will likely cause some prospective buyers to change their minds, as will the car’s official 85.6mpg figure. Importantly, this X5 retains its all-wheel drive credentials and trademark BMW driving character, while the charge time from a domestic outlet is approximately four hours — less if you use a dedicated charging point.

If it looks like an X5 and drives like an X5 it must be an X5, right? In this case you’d be correct, as BMW’s engineers have made great efforts to ensure this model is as compromise-free as possible. Save for the car’s extra front wing-located access panel for the charging socket, you’d be hard pressed to tell this X5 apart from a diesel variant. And thanks to its many fans, the X5 is a frequent sight on our roads, carefully blending chunky SUV looks with familiar BMW design cues.

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The regular X5 is a pretty roomy car and this hybrid version is, mostly, no different. It will accommodate five people in comfort, which is what you’d expect from a premium-grade 4x4. Plus, the boot is a good size and the rear seats fold for extra practicality. The hybrid system does impact on boot space slightly — there’s a tell-tale small raised lip — and there’s no seven-seat option. Still, the compromises are small when you look at the X5’s roomy cabin and generous amount of oddment space for mobile phones and the like.

Key to the hybrid X5’s performance is the combination of a four-cylinder, 242 horsepower turbo petrol engine and 111 horsepower electric motor. On its own the latter delivers ample thrust for city driving and, surprisingly, all-electric running up to 75mph – assuming you have enough juice in the battery. Realistically you’ll be leaving the car in the default ‘auto’ mode most of the time, as this decides which power source to use and when depending on driver behaviour and road conditions.

BMW’s done a lot of work on refinement and it’s fair to say that the transition to and from the various modes is near-seamless. You’ll struggle to hear the petrol motor kick in, which is exactly how BMW wanted it. The electric-only mode is pretty quiet too, while the trick setting allowing you to preserve battery charge on the fly for use in town will be essential for future low emissions zones. And with all this tech it’s easy to forget that the hybrid X5 drive much like a regular model, meaning you can hustle it through corners for fun and confidently take to the fields for the local gymkhana event.

Plug-in hybrids don’t suit everyone — it’s as much a lifestyle choice as a cold, hard business decision to run one. The plug-in X5 is a sizeable investment, but if you do a lot of short urban journeys there’s a good chance you’ll rarely use the petrol motor and can rely on cheap electric charging. And then there’s the tax issue; this hybrid X5’s city car-low CO2 figure means the Treasury won’t be seeing much of your cash – likewise for the modest amounts of petrol bought. And in general terms BMW is less miserly than it used to be, which means this X5 comes with a generous level of standard kit. Factor in free — for now — public charging points and the convenience of BMW’s mobile phone app allowing you to control numerous functions remotely and the X5 ownership experience could save you time and money.

You might be surprised to hear that you don’t need to be an eco warrior to justify something like this X5. If you can make the numbers stack up it could save you — or your business — a tidy sum over a number of years. Unlike with pure electric cars, the X5’s charging cycle is only few hours tops not an overnight chore. And in the best tradition of having your cake and eating it, this X5 will do all the things a regular diesel model will do, only quieter. As compromises go in the hybrid car market, the plug-in X5 is a pretty attractive one.

Vital stats

Price: £51,845

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit (242bhp) and electric motor (111bhp)

Transmission: 8-speed auto 4WD

Performance: Top speed 130mph, 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds

Economy: 85.6mpg

Emissions:77g/km of CO2