BMW X5 Preview: A hybrid without compromise

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This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through an obstacle course in reverse. But it’s definitely the first time that I’ve done it without my hands on the wheel.

I’ve been driving the X5 45e Plug-in Hybrid for a week now, and as I get ready to hand it back over to the fine folks at BMW, I can confidently say, I’m highly impressed.

With the new safety and security features, the increased electric range, and that signature BMW drive, the X5 is an SAV without compromise.

It’s a mid-range SAV that combines the flexibility of a combustion engine with the perks of an electric. Throw in some good looks, and some fun tech to play with, and you’ve got one CARismatic vehicle.

If you’ve driven a BMW in the last few years, you’ll immediately feel at home with how the X lineup handles. If you haven’t, I’ll be going over my impressions shortly. But it’s important to note that while every vehicle in the X line shares a common DNA, each SAV has distinct features that set them apart, both in terms of feel, and how they’ll fit your lifestyle.

Specifications

  • Engine
    • 3.0-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder with integrated electric motor
  • Transmission
    • 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission with Sport and Manual shift modes and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters
  • Edrive motor horsepower
  • Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
  • Acceleration 0 – 60 mph automatic (sec)
  • Fuel consumption
  • Total electric range (km)

Signature drive

So how does it feel to drive?

Most of my experience with the X range comes from an older model of the X3, and the base experience feels immediately familiar, but the minute I took it on the road at speed I felt the difference. The X5 has noticeably more weight to it, but with the added power, it feels just as sharp accelerating out of turns. It’s smooth, quiet, and has an adjustable air suspension to tweak the ride to your liking.

But it’s also aided by the xDrive 45e hybrid engine.

If you want the benefits of an electric vehicle without sacrificing the extra power and convenience of a gasoline-powered engine, the X5 is a perfect balance.

With double the electric range of the 40e, the 45e can get nearly 50km out of a single charge. And it has six drive modes, allowing you to tweak the experience to your liking.

These are the usual fare, but with a hybrid twist. Sport mode gives you an aggressive drive, so if you’re concerned about losing the kick of your traditional engine, you have nothing to fear. You’ll feel the extra power immediately. You can set it to hybrid mode to have a balance of gas and electric. Or electric to get the full EV experience.

Given that I’ve been driving in the city and out in the countryside, I mostly left it on adaptive mode, and I found that it did a great job of kicking in that extra power when I needed it, but would swap over to electric when I was coasting.

For urban drivers, a single charge is more than enough to get you around the city for your weekend plans, and for those heading up to the cottage, the hybrid engine will give you peace of mind, without contributing as much to your carbon footprint.

In terms of charging, it took me around four hours to fully recharge the battery from about 20 percent.

Semi-autonomous features

But the semi-autonomous features are where the new X5 really shines.

Several manufacturers are adding autonomous driving to their vehicles, but this is one of the most impressive implementations I’ve seen.

The X5 has an impressive parallel parking assist that uses Ultrasonic sensors to measure the cars and space you’re parking between to map out its path in real-time.

By simply driving by the space, the SAV notifies you as it measures the two cars you’re looking to park between, at that point you hit the parking button on the centre display, take your hands off the wheel, and ease your foot off the brake to allow it to park for you.

Where it gets even more interesting though is with the BMW Back-up Assistant.

We all hate parallel parking in tight spots with people waiting around for us, but just as bad is pulling out of a long alley or driveway with obstacles that had to be avoided going in.

The X5 uses its built-in memory to store your steering wheel movements, and can mirror them to reverse out of spot for you. There are still limitations, such as if objects have moved since you moved into your path, but the sensors will warn you if that’s the case, and you can then take over.

For those that have experienced parallel parking assistance, you’ll know that it can take some getting used to giving your trust over, and this takes that to the next level. You have full control should you want it, and it’s still your responsibility to monitor your surroundings, but it’s impressive to say the least. I weaved through five obstacles on a course, and it maneuvered around them with ease.

When driving, the X5 makes sure to assist with safety in a number of ways.

Along with the now standard blind spot detection, the X5 uses cameras to track your eyes to make sure that you’re paying attention to the road. If you’re driving in rush-hour traffic on the highway at up to 60km/h, it will gently assume control to make sure that you stay in the lane.

And even while you’re driving normally, it will warn you if you’re drifting using lane departure warnings.

To test this, I was passing a cyclist on a wide country road. I moved to cross into the oncoming lane to give the cyclist a half lane of distance, and the driving assistance activated haptics in the steering wheel to warn me that I was about to leave the lane. Once I signalled, it turned off. It was an effective way of telling me that I was drifting.

All of these features can be customized should you prefer a more manual drive.

In terms of the interiors, the X5 is equipped with iDrive 7 on the centre console, a projected navigation display on the lower windshield, and the signature instrument display.

BMW iDrive 7 is entirely modular, allowing you to change the widgets that are on the screen at any point, and with Apple Carplay and Android Auto integration, the experience is seamless.

My BMW app

However, to take things further, BMW has introduced the My BMW App.

I’ve used mobile apps for vehicles before, but this is the first time that I’ve found the app to be such a valuable asset. With the X5 being a hybrid vehicle, being able to not only power it on using its electricity while away from the vehicle, but start the air conditioning, check its surroundings with the 360 degree camera, and even send navigation commands to the console directly from your phone means that once you’ve climbed into your SAV you’re ready to hit the road.

Oh, and if you’re having range-anxiety, you can check the combined range to see if you need to refill your tank or recharge. Looking to find a gas station, or an electric charging station? The app has dedicated filters for that on its navigation screen, and will even display the prices so that you can get the cheapest rates.

But there’s also a feature for Apple users that has been requested for a long time: a digital key.

It’s as simple as holding your iPhone up to the driver’s side door handle.

If security is a concern for you, you’ll love the BMW Digital Key. Stored in the Secure Element of your iPhone, and accessed through your Apple Wallet, you can share your key with up to five other users in case you need to grant someone access to your vehicle. You can revoke access at any time, and if your phone dies, you can still use the digital key for up to five hours. This is the most secure implementation of a digital key I’ve seen, and it’s because of BMW’s industry-first partnership with Apple.

We’re running out of time here, and  I haven’t even had a chance to talk about the comfort features, media instruments, or even the storage.

Well okay, I can make a bit of time to talk about them.

While not a tech feature, the other reason I was interested in the X5 was that it fit my needs as a video producer. I’m often loading camera equipment into my vehicles, so the storage features made this the best fit for me.

Whether we’re taking out a drone, bringing our full Blackmagic kit along, or heading out for a sunset cruise with snacks, the X5 is a midsize SAV with a split tailgate that opens automatically at the top and bottom. This makes taking gear and luggage in and out a breeze.

It’s loaded with comfort amenities as well. From the heated armrests to the panoramic moonroof, it feels as spacious and luxurious as you’d expect from a BMW.

Honestly, it takes a bit to wrap your head around all of the features jam packed into the X5. To take full advantage of everything it has to offer, you’ll need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the console, safety features, and amenities.

I had a great time with the X5 exploring all of the new additions BMW has added to the 45E. If you’re looking for an SAV that fits your lifestyle, there’s an X for that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get one last drive in before I have to hand it back over.

Sponsored by BMW.

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