Electric-assist X5 to price-align with diesel twin?

If BMW New Zealand applies the same logic as its Australian counterpart, then we can expect the plug-in electric X5 to just slip under the $150,000 barrier.

POTENTIAL that a plug-in hybrid electric version of the X5 arriving later in the year might be price-aligned with a popular diesel version of the line has been raised.

The xDrive40e, whose marriage of a 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder and battery-fed electric motors provides a pure electric operating range of up to 31 kilometres and a diesel-destroying optimum average economy of 3.3 litres per 100km, is not expected to come on sale here until around July at the earliest.

BMW New Zealand has declined to talk about the car, beyond spokesman Ed Finn saying: “All we are presently communicating is that it will be with us some time in quarter three.”

Nonetheless perhaps much of what the vehicle can deliver – and where it will position - might be gleaned from material provided across the Tasman, where it has just gone on sale and also been subject to a media preview event.

Our transtasman neighbour has determined to place the 40e at virtual price parity with the X5 xDrive40d, the twin turbo 3.0-litre turbodiesel which sells for $147,300 here. The specifications and trim levels are also all but identical.

BMW NZ has not said if the Australian-market car is in the same specification as that intended for New Zealand, but would be a given. Due to the specific requirements relating to this model’s design, there are limitations on how it can be packaged and dressed.

X5 was BMW NZ’s best-selling single model in 2015 and is also claimed as the prestige sports utility sub-sector’s top seller.

The 40e is potentially set to be a niche performer, give the nature of its technology and also the enthusiasm the buyer base has for diesel. However, it is a car BMW here can not do without, not just because it wants to be seen an environmental champion but also because Audi and Mercedes are also set to release competing hybrids in Q7 and GLE format within the next six months.

Styling-wise the plug-in looks much like any other X5, save for a charge port just behind the left front wheel arch, some eDrive badging and more aerodynamic wheels. The dash display is from a standard X5, albeit with hybrid-specific dials showing range, fuel consumption and electric charge.

The turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine develops 180kW and 350Nm of torque in isolation. The electric motor sited in the forward section of its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox provides an additional 83kW and 250Nm.

Altogether, the X5 xDrive40e possesses a combined system output of 230kW and 450Nm.

To give an idea of where it sits, consider that the X5 40d has identical power but generates 220Nm more torque while the $128,300 X5 30d, which is also a 3.0-litre six but with a single turbocharger, creates 190kW and 560Nm.

The e-drive X5’s performance is said to be brisk, with a top speed of 210kmh and ability to sprint to 100kmh in 6.8 seconds.  The X5 30d has an identical 0-100kmh time but is 20kmh faster overall. The X5 40d is 0.5s quicker to the highway limit, according to BMW data

The electric motor draws from a 96 cell 9.0kWh lithium ion battery that reduces boot space by 150 litres, with BMW claiming 500 litres’ space with the split fold rear seat in place. The derivative also forgoes a spare tyre and the option of seven-seat capability.

Compromise also reveals in respect to the kerb weight. This totals 2230kg, or 120kg more than an X5 xDrive40d.

The model offers three driving modes: Auto eDrive in which the electric motor supplements – at up to 70kmh - the petrol engine for maximum performance; Max eDrive which sees the X5 xDrive40e run exclusively on electric power up to 120kmh; and Save Battery, which maintains the state of charge of the battery by uses the petrol engine as a generator, a concept already used by the Outlander PHEV.

As with BMW’s i3 and i8, the model recharges via a standard household powerpoint or a an optional BMW i Wallbox fast charger, at five hours on 10 Amp or half that time at fast charge. The battery can also apparently be heavily replenished on the run, by sliding the transmission lever into its Sport mode.

BMW Australia is reported is saying that while the batteries can turn their usable 6.8 kiloWatt hours into 31km of petrol-free motoring, that is a is a best-case scenario.

It instead cites that around 25km is more realistically achievable. However it also claims that the average Australian commute between home and work is 15.6km and 50 percent of locals have a sub-10km drive on weekdays.

One report from the drive day says the model felt heavy and occasionally unwieldy to drive, and while up to delivering the cited economy of 3.3-litres per 100km – a 50 percent gain on the six-cylinder X5 diesels and also markedly better than the optimum from the current family eco-champ, the 25d (5.8L/100km claimed) – it did not have the oilers’ responsiveness or smoothness.

“ …there is a touch too much four-cylinder petrol growl too often,” commented Daniel DeGasperi, a writer for the GoAuto website. “The X5 xDrive40e would be a better vehicle combining an electric motor with a diesel engine, but primary markets such as the US and Japan have appetite only for petrol-engined hybrids.”