Car of the week: BMW X5 xDrive 40e

A Chelsea tractor fit for the flower show

New car: BMW X5 xDrive

IT MIGHT be that, just before Top Gear was forcibly removed from the BBC’s television schedules, you saw Jeremy Clarkson singing the praises of a green-tinted eco-machine, the plug-in hybrid BMW i8, which he declared to be “staggering”. Well, the good news for drivers who can’t squeeze their life into a cramped sports car such as the i8 is that BMW has announced a more practical plug-in hybrid: the X5 xDrive 40e.

This large, family-friendly SUV will cost approximately £55,000 when it goes on sale in the autumn — about half what an i8 costs and about the same price as a diesel-powered X5 40d M Sport. But the advantages of its plug-in hybrid system are no less tempting to drivers who are looking to do their green bit or who want a tax-efficient car for business purposes. It emits just 77g/km of CO2, so is exempt from vehicle tax, and attracts low levels of benefit-in-kind company car tax.

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That’s not all. For drivers whose SUV spends most of its time ploughing a furrow between the family home and the school gates or train station car park, this X5 can be driven for 19 miles on battery power alone. It means that filling up the petrol tank could become a rarity.

The secret to this is what lies beneath its big, brash body. The four-wheel-drive X5 40e has a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine under its bonnet, and a lithium-ion battery pack beneath the boot that can be recharged from flat in less than four hours from a standard home socket. The power sources can work independently or in tandem, and for longer trips the petrol engine can be set to recharge the battery.

BMW X5 xDrive

Yet don’t be lulled into thinking this eco-friendly SUV will have all the driving appeal of a wheelbarrow filled with vegetables. BMW says the X5 40e can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in just 6.8 seconds and the top speed is 130mph — or 75mph in pure electric driving mode.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) such as the X5 40e are catching on in Britain. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been a hit, with 1,000 sold on average each month since its launch last April. Car makers are relying on the technology to help lower average CO2 figures across their ranges, which must fall to 95g/km by 2021.

BMW X5 xDrive 40e specifications

  • Price: £55,000 (estimated)
  • Engine: 1995cc, 4 cylinders; plus electric motor
  • Power: 271bhp @ 5500rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Performance: 0-62mph: 6.8sec
  • Top speed: 130mph (75mph in all-electric mode)/li>
  • Fuel: 85.6mpg
  • CO2: 77g/km
  • Release date: Autumn

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