BMW has made several announcements in the past few weeks about upcoming PHEV models. Naturally, with the ICE engines hitting the efficiency limits, many manufacturers are turning to plug-in hybrid solutions to keep up with reduced emissions levels.

The first such vehicle to hit the US market from BMW is the X5 xDrive40e model. Why 40 you might ask? Well, it is actually a 4 cylinder engine with the new BMW modular structure. It's the same architecture as the engine in the i8, so again BMW is reaping rewards from investing billions into the i program.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Although you cannot even configure or read about the new X5 on bmwusa.com, many dealers across the country began taking deliveries of demo models, and I was fortunate enough to drive one.

Sure, one could point out at the EPA sticker and notice the 13-mile range is low, but when you put in context of the weight of the car, it is not too bad for a 9 kWh battery.

Naturally, I started the car in MAX eDrive to experience how much torque there is in pure electric mode. To my relief, the vehicle does have about LEAF-like feel in EV acceleration, and is far better then the Porsche Cayenne I tested a year ago. X5 was driving in pure silent mode and if needed I could press the accelerator further down and the ICE engine kicked in very seamlessly.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

Moving on to other buttons, I decided to put the car in sport mode and was surprised to learn that the car will operate in sport mode while being in EV mode. As with the Audi A3 PHEV (tested earlier) a great unknown was whether you can shift gears in all EV mode. Compared to the Audi, the answer is no.

When the ICE engine was working in tandem with the electric motor located in the gearbox, the car was accelerating very well and knowing you are doing it on a 4 cylinder engine felt good.

No significant inside changes compared to the standard X5, with the exception of a new button to control EV mode. There are however some notable feature absence including: Dynamic Package, Third Row Seat and for some odd reason Park Assist. The trunk space is reduced by about an inch to fit the battery, but this reduction is not highly noticeable.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

With lots of competition in this segment heading to this market BMW X5 xDrive40e will be a great alternative to consider. Production has started in Spartanburg SC and you can head to the dealers to order one, or at least take it for a drive and don't forget to plug it in after the test drive, as it takes about 3 hours at 3.7 kW rate to charge.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e