It is eerily quiet when I take off under full electric power. In a BMW X5, a full freakin-sized X5, silence. Welcome to the BMW X5 Plug-in Hybrid, named the BMW X5 Concept eDrive. Running in eDrive mode, the BMW X5 eDrive powers all four wheels up to 20 miles and at speeds up to 75 mph. Motivating the X5 eDrive is a 95 hp electric motor and a four cylinder motor. The seamless transition between electric, combined electric-petrol and pure petrol is remarkably smooth. The BMW i blue touches may just well be the biggest clue to what lurks underneath an otherwise normal appearing X5.
In the passenger seat next to me is a BMW engineer from Germany, making sure no one takes any photos of the center console that has buttons hidden under black tape. Scanning the dash for a hint, I ask how does one know if you are running pure electric other than hearing how quiet it is. With typical German efficiency he points to the tachometer I had overlooked and sure enough its reading is dead zero. Crazy.
My mind is saying there is something wrong here with my foot on the gas pedal, the world speeding past and the tachometer at null. Pushing the accelerator farther down with more urgency, the N20 four-cylinder motor making 245 hp fires up and very quickly, yet, smoothly joins the acceleration party. Under full power, the X5 eDrive is down right scooting on its way up to 60 mph on a course around BMW North America’s Headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. We cannot take it on open roads because this is the European test vehicle and not legal for U.S. roads.
BMW says the X5 eDrive is designed to bridge the i vehicle line and the rest of the BMW family. The whole experience is to function as if you were driving a regular BMW model. The familiar powertrain settings of EcoPro, Comfort and the rest, are there just as they are in all modern BMWs. Further, if you abruptly lift of the accelerator, it will coast just like a regular X5. If you abruptly lift on an i3 accelerator, you get rapid battery regeneration dragging the i3 to a stop.
The biggest question about the X5 plug-in hybrid is why choose one customer would choose it over an X5 diesel? The X5 diesel is such a sweet machine with loads of torque and great fuel economy. I posed this question to BMW and received a remarkably well reasoned answer. It lies in how the owner will use it. If one lives in a city and does primarily short trips, you can drive with out using much, if any gas. If you are one who commutes over 100 miles a day, a diesel will fit your lifestyle better.
There is only a $1500 premium for the X5 xDrive35d compared to the base X5 xDrive35i.
No pricing or a production date of the X5 plug-in hybrid has been confirmed yet. BMW did state however, that this would be a production vehicle and that it is not far off, perhaps only 1-2 years. The weight of the hybrid is more than a traditional base X5 because of the battery back and the electric motor. Subtract, however, the starter motor because the electric motor can double duty as the starter. BMW was not ready yet to give us specific weight figures but they did say that the battery has an approximate 9kWh Capacity with 6 kWh usage.
A couple of cool features that help extend the electric range are: the Navigation system which chooses the most fuel efficient route to destination taking in to account traffic and distance, and second, there is the option of “preconditioning” the X5 eDrive via an electric heater or electric air conditioner. The X5 eDrive can draw energy while still plugged in to precondition and thus not tap into the range.
BMWBLOG was fortunate to be one of the first media outlets to drive this same protoype in Miramas, France where our own Hugo Becker remarked that driving the X5 hybrid revealed a “seamless experience of pure electric, and mixed format power.”
Having driven it, I completely agree. The execution of the transitions of power are so sooth that many who drive it will not notice the changes of propulsion. Further, despite the X5 eDrive being a hybrid vehicle it did not in anyway feel underpowered.