Neither super-fast nor super-efficient, this one toes the line

2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e Review

BMWs greenest SUV just might be its most unique offering

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: April 6th, 2016

The BMW X5 xDrive40e seems odd in BMW's lineup. Sure, it's environmental, but BMW has the i3 and the i8 already -- vehicles that are much more visible as environmentally friendly vehicles. The i3 is pure electric, and the i8 is a plug-in hybrid that are set apart, design wise, from the rest of BMW's models, which appear fairly normal by comparison. But this X5 is a foreshadowing of things to come.

BMW plans on having a plug-in hybrid for every model in its lineup. Right now it's just the X5 and the 3-Series. They're not really meant to be bastions of efficiency as we think of them (like the Prius Prime with 120 MPGe, compared to the X5's 56 MPGe), but it's a harbinger of the future that will offer us more options for powertrains. We think it's an interesting approach that probably needs better marketing to spread the plug-in SUV gospel, but the future should prove more fertile over the next decade for cars such as this. Let's take a closer look from a hands-on perspective in our review.

  • Driving Impressions

    Folks who want the X5 plug-in hybrid will do so for numerous reasons, but driving dynamics won't bre one of them. It's not an X5 M that corners flat and accelerates like a monster, but it does drive well for a big German SUV. You'd be best served driving it at less than rapid speeds and maximizing fuel economy rather than trying to nail apexes like you're an autocross champ.

    Much of this is due to the added weight of the battery and electric motor, which causes the X5 xDrive40e to suffer from an overly heavy curb weight. What it does do, though is provide the feel and firmness of a BMW along with good straight-line acceleration that nails 60 mph in less than seven seconds.

    • Ride Quality: BMW sacrifices a bit of ride comfort for firmness, and we don't blame them. It would be easy to make the X5 a cushy boat of an SUV, but that's not what BMW is about. That being said, it's by no means harsh over bumps and undulations.
    • Steering:This X5's steering delivers a modicum of precision but lacks feel that only makes its heft more disconcerting.
    • Acceleration: Mighty quick for a plug-in hybrid, especially with the electric motor working in conjunction with gas. Throttle response is annoyingly delayed.
    • Braking:Progressive braking with good pedal feel. You need good brakes for something this huge.
    • Handling: It's not exactly confidence-inspiring due to its hard-to-ignore 5,220 curb weight. This is not a performance SUV.

  • Technology & Safety

    The technology showcase really is the powertrain in the X5 xDrive40e. Using the entire system optimally takes some education and real-world practice. If you do it right, you can extract 24 mpg combined, which doesn't sound that impressive but for something this big, it's solid. Only the X5 diesel does better in the X5 lineup. The X5 plug-in matches the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid's combined mileage and bests its base price by $16,600.

    In the X5 xDrive40e, there are three different modes that control the powertrain. Auto eDrive mode lets the computer handle things, while Max eDrive keeps X5 in electric-only mode up to 75 mph. Save mode puts the X5 in gas-only mode. You'll find yourself either trying to maximize your mileage or throwing caution to the wind and driving it like a normal gas-powered car most of the time like we did. Either way, the amount of tech in this SUV is nothing to balk at.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: BMW's big 10.2" center screen has excellent resolution and moves seamlessly between the numerous infotainment layers.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Easy initial pairing for both Android and iPhone, though automatic pairing when re-entering the car wasn't consistent.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: The Harman Kardon sound system was crisp and clean but could've used more clean bass at higher volumes. Upgarde to the Bang & Olufsen system for higher fidelity sound. The voice calls were clear on both sides.
    • Controls:BMW's iDrive controls can still be confusing with too many layers and too-many movements and buttons. It requires too much time with your eyes off the road and memorization takes a savant. We still hate the cobra's head shift knob, which feels weird and overly plasticky in the hand. The fact that it can be knocked into neutral all-too-easily is annoying.
    • Safety: All X5s get standard stability and traction control, ABS, automatic brake drying, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints. Also standard are the BMW Assist and Remote Services emergency communications systems, handy if you get in an accident. Our optional Driver Assistance package provided rearview camera and head-up display, both huge conveniences

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    Though some have criticized this generation's X5 for being a bit more muted in style and less distinctive than the blocky first-generation car that pretty much defined the luxury SUV segment, we think it's a handsome SUV, especially with the new fascia where the headlights taper into the twin kidney grilles. It's the right amount of aggressiveness and sophistication. That being said, the lower fascia is a bit on the busy side for us.

    • Front: Distinctive X5 hood creases prevail, as does the 7-Series-like headlight and grille setup. We do wish the fog lights were set lower on the front of the vehicle. Their position makes the car seem taller from the front.
    • Rear: BMW's L-shaped taillights work well on the X5, and for such a thick car, the horizontal lines do a good job of breaking things up a bit.
    • Profile:eDrive badging on the front fender vents and the plug-in socket door set this one apart from other X5s, while the black M wheels do a superb job of making this car look faster than it is. Aside from that, it's the standard X5 profile, which equates to handsome, if not daring.

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    One of the higher points of the X5 is its comfort level, with some of the best seats we've experienced in an SUV, shy of the new Lexus RX. Not only do they look beautiful, sitting in them for the daily commute is a pleasure that BMW has clearly given attention to.

    Ergonomics in this Teutonic beast are good but could use improvement since the buttons surrounding the large tall, iDrive controller between the seats are hard to reach when driving. The fact that advancing or reversing music using the iDrive controller is a pain and that no steering wheel buttons perform that function means BMW has to rethink what "ease of use" means.

    The wood trim in our tester was one of the more unique approaches we've seen. Matte finished and strongly textured, it leapt out at us and invited the fingers to touch. Far better for this modern interior than laquered wood or glossy piano black, it's an excellent choice for those who want to be different. The ambient orange lighting throughout the cabin is beautiful when the lights get low. One of the best setups we've seen in a while.

    • Front Seats: Zero complaints here. Ample support and bolstering along with robust 14-way adjustability mean you'd be hard pressed not to find a comfortable position. The Ivory White leather is stunning.
    • Rear Seats: Ample room in the rear for second-row passengers.
    • Visibility: Great visibility out front, and good visibility out back. The X5 has big C-pillars but not the biggest we've seen, thankfully. Side mirrors are appropriately large.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    BMW could do a better job of providing bigger, deeper storage compartments, but in the X5, they're decent, if not cavernous. This X5 included a rapid phone charger, which occupied a fair amount of split-top center armrest storage space, but the added convenience of a rapid charger might be worth it for high-use smartphone owners. Door pockets for both front and rear passengers were well-sized.

    • Storage: Not small enough to truly complain about but not big enough to be floored by, the storage in the X5 is adequate. The sliding door above the front cupholders is corrugated and looks like it'd be a huge dust magnet, as well as tough to clean. Tall cups will interfere with some of the audio controls.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: Because of the battery for the electric motor in the rear of this X5, cargo space suffers by around 30 percent, which is significant. You'd better be willing to sacrifice gear-hauling space for the added efficiency.

  • Final Impressions

    BMW's efforts to create environmentally conscious models in each line are commendable, though we wish the pursuit was along the lines of more diesel models. Though BMW builds five diesel models in their lineup, including the X3, X5, 3-Series Sedan, 3-Series Wagon and 5-Series, their plug-in hybrid lineup will increase to cover every single model. That's a serious ambition that may or may not pay off in sales. Plug-in hybrids are still a niche and that much more so when it comes to SUVs. The X5 is a solid start. And though the mildly added efficiency is buoyed by comfort, good acceleration and a premium marque, it's not really worth the additional cost, at least to us.

    Most of folks looking for an X5 probably don't care too much about gas mileage, especially with current prices at the pump. It's far more about brand cache and perceived environmentalism than about anything else, really. In that vein, the X5 xDrive40e does its job beautifully. What you get is a comfortable, richly appointed and handsome German SUV that gets better mileage than its gas siblings. Oh, and the sinister black wheels help, too.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inilne 4-cylinder combined with a plug-in electric motor

    Transmission: 8-speed Steptronic automatic with Sport and Manual shift modes and Adaptive Transmission Control

    Drivetrain/Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive

    Power Output: 241 horsepower (gas)/111 horsepower (electric); 309 combined horsepower, 332 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 56 MPGe (gas/electric)/24 mpg (gas) combined

    Base Price: $62,100

    As Tested: $75,870 (incl. $995 destination fee)

    Standard Features: xDrive all-wheel drive system, Dynamics Stability Control with Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying and Brake Stand-by features with Dynamic Traction Control, and Dynamic Brake Control, 4-wheel anti-lock ventilated disc brakes with electronic front/rear proportioning, Dynamic Damper Control with Rear-axle air suspension, Xenon Adaptive Headlights with dynamic auto-leveling, Corona headlight-rings and Cornering Lights, LED fog lights, Chrome-line exterior trim, 14-way heated power front seats with 4-way lumbar support and driver's seat memory, 40/20/40 split folding rear seats, Panoramic moonroof, Power tailgate, Park Distance Control front and rear, Enhanced USB and Bluetooth, iDrive system with on-board computer and touchpad Controller, 8-programmable memory buttons, BMW Navigation system with 10.2" high-resolution screen, Voice command and Advanced Real Time Traffic information, FM/CD/MP3 player HiFi Sound System with HD Radio, Driver's and passenger's front airbag supplemental restraint system with advanced technology, Front and rear compartment Head Protection System with front side-impact airbags, power adjustable steering column, Runflat tires, Alarm System, Universal garage door opener, Acoustic protection, auto-dimming mirrors, Storage package, Xenon headlights, Ambient lighting, eDrive Services, BMW Online and BMW Apps, Advanced RTTI, Battery Certificate, US Charging Socket

    Options on our test vehicle: Space Gray Metallic paint, Ivory White/Black Dakota Leather, Cold Weather Package: Heated Steering Wheel, Heated rear seats, Retractable headlight washers; M Sport Package: 20" M Wheels, Steptronic auto with shift paddles, Roof rails in Satin Aluminum, Fineline Pure Wood Trim, M steering wheel, Aerodynamic kit, Shadowline exterior trim, Anthracite headliner; Premium Package: Comfort Access keyless entry, 4-zone climate control, Satellite radio with 1 year subscription; Rear view camera, Ceramic Controls, Storage package, Surround View, Smartphone integration, Harman Kardon surround sound.

    Find Local Discounts on the BMW X5

Shopping for a used

• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 BMW X5, click here: 2016 BMW X5.