To date, German automaker BMW has chosen to segregate its all-electric and plug-in hybrid models under the specialist i-brand, reserving its main BMW brand for traditional gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.
Next month at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show in China, that will change with the unveiling of the first production version of a mainstream BMW model, the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive 40e.
Based on the Concept X5 eDrive plug-in hyrbid that we’ve seen at several major auto shows in recent years, the 2016 X5 xDrive 40e features a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Instead of a conventional automatic torque converter however, the gearbox houses a specially-designed electric motor which not only helps to provide power to smooth over gear changes but also makes it possible for the X5 xDrive 40e to operate in all-electric mode for up to 19 miles at speeds of up to 75 mph.
Power to enable that comes from a 9 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack housed under the load bay floor, which BMW says can be charged in two hours and 45 minutes from a standard charging station. That time increases to 3 hours and 50 minutes from a household outlet.
In total, the gasoline engine puts out 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while the 82 kilowatt electric motor contributes a further 184 pound-feet of torque. When combined — a total of 309 horsepower and 331 pound feet of torque, taking into account the way that the two powertrains combine — that means the X5 xDrive 40e can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 6.8 seconds.
That’s hardly sportscar fast, but for a midsize SUV, that’s more than respectable. In fact, the X5 xDrive 40e’s 0-62 time sits right in the middle of the existing X5 lineup, being faster than the X5 xDrive 35i but admittedly slower than the high-end V8-powered X5 xDrive 50i.
Unlike the BMW i3 REx range-extended EV and BMW i8 plug-in hybrid — both of which can be categorised as being mainly electric vehicles with gasoline-powered range-extenders — the BMW X5 xDrive 40e is primarily a gasoline vehicle that can run in electric mode for short periods of time. In its default Auto eDrive mode, the vehicle’s intelligent hybrid powertrain control system automatically uses the most appropriate blend of gasoline and electric power as it deems fit.
To force electric-only mode, the driver must enter into Max eDrive mode.
Claimed fuel efficiency on the NEDC test cycle is between 83.1 and 85.6 imperial MPG, while combined electricity consumption is somewhere around 15.4 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers (62 miles).
Like other plug-in hybrids, the X5 xDrive 40e also comes with charge sustaining (Save Battery) function, allowing the battery pack to be recharged or kept in its fully-charged state for later on in the trip. As with other BMW models too, there’s a range of operational modes: Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro, which adjust the driving characteristics to enhance driving pleasure, performance characteristics, or range.
Like the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro plug-in hybrid we recently saw at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show, the BMW X5 xDrive 40e comes with all-wheel drive as standard, enhancing on-road handling as well as enabling at least some mild off-road capabilities.
After its debut in China next month at the Shanghai Motor Show, production of the BMW X5 xDrive 40e will start in South Carolina for the U.S. market later this year alongside other BMW X5 models. It is expected to go on sale in the U.S. some time this fall, and will be available in Design Pure Experience, Pure Excellence and M-Sport versions.
Price and availability — as well as final performance figures — will be released nearer to launch.
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