Conspicuous consumption with a conscience: is it really possible? It’s time to find out
Why we’re running it: Conspicuous consumption with a conscience: is it really possible? It’s time to find out
Month 1 – Specs
Life with a BMW X5: Month 1
Welcoming the BMW X5 to the fleet – 7 Feb 2024
While plenty of people have already embraced the electric vehicle revolution, for others it remains a technology that’s hard to trust, let alone fall in love with.
And that seems to be particularly true at the higher end of the market, where internal combustion remains – for now – the preferred choice for travelling long distances in great opulence.
The easiest way to convert those buyers of traditionally powered, big, luxurious SUVs to the electric future – which is already here, of course, in the shape of the BMW iX and its rivals – is a ‘gateway’ model, like this BMW X5 Drive50e plug-in hybrid.
On shorter trips, it offers all of the benefits of an EV in terms of its instant torque and efficiency, but it also has the reassurance of a traditional (and BMW signature) 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine mustering 309bhp (up 26bhp on the pre-facelift Drive45e) for longer journeys.
The electric motor is mounted to the gearbox and makes 194bhp (up a whopping 83bhp on the Drive45ē) to give a combined 483bhp and a massive 516lb ft of torque.
That significant boost means that in EV driving mode the Drive50e feels, not unsurprisingly, a lot like the iX, albeit without that car’s outrageous turn of pace when you really floor it.
The battery capacity has been increased over the Drive45e, too, by 3.4kWh to 25.7kWh, giving it up to 68 miles of electric-only range on the official lab test.
In reality, and in the current cold snap, I’m being offered estimates of between 43 and 52 miles from a full charge, but at least those appear to be pretty honest guesses.
With my commute being around 15 miles each way and in heavy traffic, this means that as long as I remember to plug the car into my home charger each night, I can expect to cover most weekday chores without troubling the petrol engine.
I’m certainly noticing it in my electricity bill, though. For some reason, it feels almost like free energy in a PHEV, whereas I tend to be far more conscious of how much I’m putting into an EV, because it takes so much longer to charge.
Standard kit on M Sport trim is pretty generous, as you would hope for not far shy of £80,000, but still it’s hard to resist the temptation to dip a toe into the extensive options list, and in the end I dived straight in.
Metallic paint was a must, and I opted for discreet Tanzanite Blue II. Soft merino leather in Ivory white makes a very attractive (if slightly impractical) contrast, lifted still further by the addition of a panoramic glass roof.
The recent cold weather tempted me to choose the all-round heated seats and steering wheel that come as part of the Comfort Plus Pack, while the M Sport Pro Pack should make the most of the X5’s already excellent driving experience as well as adding to its looks and the Technology Plus Pack adds a phenomenal Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo to the infotainment and a head-up display, among other treats.
And that’s an appropriate choice of word, because there’s no getting away from the fact that this BMW truly is a treat, for both the driver and passengers. It lacks the overt levels of ostentation of, say, a Range Rover or a range-topping Mercedes-Benz, but if discreet luxury and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing is your preference, it’s hard to beat.
Short journeys still garner cooing from the family, while longer ones tend to result in silence, as its comfort, slick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and authoritative yet supple ride gently rock them to sleep so I can sit back and enjoy the drive.
From without, the 2023 facelift of the X5 is fairly hard to spot, consisting mainly of a new grille and a reprofiled front bumper, but like every generation of this model, it’s a very handsome thing-certainly far more so than the X7.
It looks particularly good in M Sport trim, with matt black detailing replacing chrome and a seriously stylish set of 21in alloys with blue-painted, M-branded calipers behind (courtesy of that pricey upgrade). Those are also a big help in slowing down 2.5 tonnes of car that can crack 62mph from rest in a remarkable 4.5sec.
Among the other changes in the most recent overhaul is a lightly upgraded interior, along with a new, iX-style digital display that stretches much of the way across the dashboard (but does appear a bit plonked on).
I’m still learning my way around it and sometimes yearn for a traditional instrument binnacle with a rev counter, rather than a bar telling me my power percentage use, but I can’t argue with its clarity or its size: a generous 12.3in for the digital instruments, alongside a 14.9in touchscreen for the various infotainment functions (and some rather cheesy ‘X5’ graphics).
Some of the materials on the lower dashboard could feel more solid and room in the back could perhaps be a little more generous for such a massive car, while siting the battery for the PHEV system beneath the boot floor means that, unlike other models in the X5 range, the Drive50e can’t offer the option of seven seats (and reduces the luggage capacity from 1870 to 1720 litres).
However, early impressions suggest that’s pretty much where my complaints start and end. From where I’m sitting, I’m struggling to think of anywhere I’d rather be.
Within five minutes, I was screaming at it. I really don’t get along with the automatic this and adaptive that in modern BMWs. The right settings reveal a car that’s dead impressive, however: beautifully made, comfortable, a capable EV in electric mode, but with a straight six. It even handles quite well for a big lump
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BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport specification
Specs: Price New £78,360 Price as tested £98,905 Options Comfort Plus Pack £4300, Technology Plus Pack £4000, Sky Lounge panoramic roof £2650, M Sport Pro Pack £2100, Ivory and Black extended merino leather £1950, Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint £1890, towbar £1150, Travel and Comfort System £600, acoustic glass £550, sun protection glass £450
Test Data: Engine 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol engine plus front-mounted electric motor and 25.7kWh battery Power 483bhp Torque 516lb ft Kerb weight 2,495kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 4.8sec Fuel economy 261.35mpg (claimed) CO2 20-22g/km Faults None Expenses None
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