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BMW’s hybrid X5 hints at the future

29.11.2016

The electric future is upon us, yes, that’s right car lovers, our internal combustion engines are slowly being phased out, or so it would seem.

I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with a hybrid version of BMW’s X5 and soon realised that this is what we will likely be seeing in almost all new vehicles in the future.

You see, ‘unofficially,’ manufacturers have admitted that really small turbocharged engines are perhaps not as efficient in real world applications as the claimed fuel consumption figures suggest, so soon we’ll see a moderate ‘upsizing’ of engines. However, to overcome the increased capacity and  to ensure lower inner-city emissions, many car makers will resort to installing an electric motor of some sort to supplement the petrol or diesel-driven powertrains.

The X5 then, in a way is heading the right direction, although as I discovered, it’s far from perfect. You see, under the bonnet is a rather powerful blown 2.0-litre petrol motor which, when combined with the 9.0 kWh lithium-ion battery pack produces 230kW/450Nm. Sounds impressive right?

Well in application it is, the hybrid is no slouch while the claimed fuel consumption figure is pegged at 3.3 litres/100km. It really feels like a normal X5 with a supreme level of refinement, fantastic quality and all of the virtues that have made BMW's full-size SUV such an impressive product. But here’s where the trouble starts.

The vehicle needs to be charged and while the idea of a fuel efficient hybrid is fantastic, I found a few problems, namely during longer journeys when the battery ran flat, leaving just the 180kW/350Nm petrol mill to do the work, which is strenuous when you consider the vehicle’s two ton-plus weight. This meant that my consumption shot up past 8.5 litres/100km.

I decided then to try all-electric mode and charge the car in my garage, which took around four hours. I commuted to work, which is 15km away and arrived with some juice left in the battery, however, on the ride home the petrol motor kicked in, meaning I had covered just over 20km without using fuel.

This filled me with some excitement as I knew that the next day I could perhaps charge the car when I was at work, meaning I had no need to stop at a filling station during my tenure with the car. 

However, I knew that a few longer trips that I had planned for that week would dash my hopes, which they did. I ended up with a combined consumption figure of 7.2 litres/100km during my time with the car as I had embarked on a few trips that were quite lengthy. Although this is commendable for such a large barge on the mixed consumption cycle, it is also many, many litres/100km away from the claimed estimation.  

I however remember that Volvo’s XC90 T8 also struggled to get close to the claimed figure. I think that if you’re city-bound, this hybrid will make sense, just prepare to make peace with the fact that you’ll be charging the car every day and that your boot is a bit smaller that the regular X5 models in order to accommodate the battery pack.

This has lead me to the conclusion that while this hybrid X5 does an exceptional job of making the driver unaware of the fact that is primarily an eco-car, it perhaps fails to deliver on its efficiency claims.

Then one must consider that the base model X5 xDrive25d, when compared with the entry-level  X5 xDrive40e, is some R188 336 less and will return similar consumption figures. Then there’s the aforementioned XC90 T8 which does not compromise on boot space as a result of its electric powertrain while also providing a lengthier all-electric driving range.

Article written by Sean Nurse
29.11.2016
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