2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e Plug-In Hybrid – Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 25 March 2016
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When BMW first introduced the X5 in 1999, purists were shocked. The Bavarian automaker was known for sports sedans, not trucks, but the Sport Activity Vehicle, as BMW called it to differentiate it from a less sporty SUV, garnered accolades left and right.

Now in its third generation, introduced in 2013, the basic premise of the X5 continues while the range of models has increased dramatically from the original inline six and V8 models to a six-cylinder diesel, an X5 M, and, most recently, a plug-in hybrid model. In addition, the X model lineup has grown from that lone X5 to include the X3 (introduced in 2003), the X6 (introduced in 2008), and the X4 (introduced in 2014).

All X5s, in fact all X models with the exception of the X1, are built at BMW’s Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, where we picked up our long-term 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35d diesel as part of the automaker’s factory delivery program.


We welcomed a BMW X5 xDrive40e into our short-term press fleet just in time for the Blizzard of 2016. Fortuitously, it came equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Ice and Snow winter tires (which were the subject of a separate review). The “e” designation, which stands for the Greek letter eta, the symbol for efficiency, was originally used by BMW to denote very efficient gasoline engine-powered cars, such as in the early 1980s 325e, designed in response to the 1979 energy crisis.

Although fuel prices are the lowest they’ve been in over a decade, automakers are under pressure to meet ever increasing corporate average fuel economy standards and BMW is addressing this with diesels, hybrids, and electric vehicles, having promised a plug-in hybrid for each model it offers. The X5 xDrive40e is the first embodiment of this promise and there are clearly more plug-in hybrids to come, including the new BMW 330e that was announced Tuesday on the eve of the 2016 New York International Auto Show.


The X5e, for short given the cumbersomeness of the car’s proper name, is in almost all respects, with the exception of the powertrain, identical to its gasoline- and diesel-powered brethren. Only badging and the access door just ahead of the driver’s door on the front fender that covers the charge port distinguish it from its non-electric peers.

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