By 2016, each of the three German luxury brands will join Porsche in a hotly contested new segment of plug-in hybrid utility vehicles. BMW jumped into the game March 17 with the announcement of fuel economy and range ratings for the X5 xDrive40e, a plug-in EV that looks like a contender. The electric crossover should help the brand boost its green credentials on the heels of its i-Series success.
New utility vehicle standards
With fuel economy standards rising along with Americans’ hunger for crossovers and compact SUVs, automakers are finding plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) a necessary part of their repertoire. They likely see an opportunity as well. (The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, available in foreign markets, trailed only the Nissan Leaf in global plug-in sales in 2014.) This PHEV represents BMW’s first foray into electric vehicles in its core brand.
With the BMW X5 xDrive40e set to hit U.S. dealerships in fall 2015, consumers find a satisfying compromise of power and efficiency. According to a company statement, the X5 uses its 2.0-liter twin-turbo engine combined with electric motor to produce 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels using an 8-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration from a standstill to 60 miles per hour takes just 6.5 seconds.
What the electric motor provides — other than a significant power boost over the standard 2.0 engine — is unprecedented efficiency. The X5 PHEV will get 13 miles on pure electric power and 55 miles per gallon equivalent, according to the automaker’s preliminary EPA estimates (executives originally estimated 15 electric miles). These specs, coupled with the brand’s strong U.S. reputation, should serve the electric X5 well in a crowded field.
Previewing the X5 vs. the competition
Currently, the only plug-in crossover on the U.S. market is the Porsche Cayenne S E-hybrid ($77,200) that can cover 14 miles of range on electric power while returning the equivalent of 47 miles per gallon. Being a Porsche, it packs 416 horsepower and can hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 5.4 seconds. (The 3.0-liter X5 with all-wheel drive starts at $56,200.)
By the third quarter of 2015, Tesla plans to begin delivering its all-electric Model X crossover. Other entries in the segment include the the Volvo XC90 plug-in (30 miles of electric range) and the Audi Q7 plug-in (though not the diesel model) that as of now has no range estimate. The Mercedes GLE should also be in dealerships at the end of the year after it debuts at the New York Auto Show in April.
BMW has found considerable success in its green vehicle strategy with the i3 all-electric car and the i8 supercar. You can easily see how the 2016 X5 plug-in will be the next smart move in a winning electric offensive in the U.S.