Many articles and opinions have been written about the X5 xDrive40e (40e), especially on the
13 mile 14 mile EPA rated range (*see below on changes), this summary doesn't focus on its limited electric range.
This article is about BMW Plug In Hybrid Technology, and it previews what's to come in the 740e, 330e and the next Xe (perhaps an X3e), and how that technology is now being applied in the BMW X5 xDrive40e
Being a family of 2 BEVs and one ICE, my wife was never comfortable with giving up an SUV size car and going all electric. Sure, she takes one of the BEVs to drive, but her preference has always been a large vehicle. Of course we could start a discussion on the Model X, but with so much uncertainty there, we've made a decision to go PHEV. After watching the concept 40e for months, it was finally time to order, and being close to Spartanburg, SC I have decided to pick up the car (with my friend) there:
Few words about BMW Performance Center: Highly Recommended.
If you are planning to pick up an X5 (or perhaps an i8) you should see if that option is available to you. BMW really take cares of you, and you might learn a few new things about driving your vehicle. For instance, I never knew about X5's ability to steer while ABS is engaged, and it can make a huge difference in an emergency situation.
The first thing we tried to do of course with the 40e was to drive it in full electric mode, aka MAX eDRIVE mode.
Although you can use that in the urban areas and for a short trip to the store, the experience was just OK. It was quick to accelerate in the first second or so, but the weight of the car really made the experience marginal after that.
Unlike the i8, where the front wheels are electrically driven, the 40e has the electric motor located in the transmission, making 4x4 electric driving possible. Surprisingly, the transmission is shifting while in MAX eDrive mode. I can feel about 3 gears before the road response gets too loud to notice.
What we concluded is that you should let the car be in AUTO, which lets it decide when to fire the engine and when not to. BMW has done a great job on this, especially drawing on some great experience from the ActiveHybrid program.
The 40e shifts from EV to ICE without any hesitation, and is very unnoticeable. Even if you began acceleration in MAX eDrive (EV) and you just need to give it a bit more power, the ICE will rev up to the proper RPM and engage the transmission.
In Comfort mode and AUTO eDrive, the car will sort of teach you to keep acceleration low and thus keep the car in EV mode as long as possible, so as to not to engage the ICE. Again if you have to, it is very seamless. Even if the ICE is engaged, eBoost provides power from electric motor to decrease ICE load and save fuel.
You have probably seen the Auto Start/Stop Ignition button on BMWs for some time, and in the 40e it has been deleted. The AUTO mode takes over the management of that function. If needed, it can be quickly overridden by moving the gear lever into M/S mode and the ICE will be always on.
There is a SAVE battery mode as well. It was created for Congested Charge locations in Europe - like London, and it should probably stay there. Reason: MPGs. Once you engage the mode to bring the battery back to 50% (that is the max) the fuel economy drops to around 15MPGs (based on my own experience), so probably not going to be used often.
What is odd about 40e driving styles (Comfort/Sport/Eco Pro), is that the ECO Pro mode is designed for max coasting vs. max regen. To get max regen you have to be in Sport Mode. If you choose Sport Mode in AUTO eDrive, you are almost always firing the ICE, so I am not in agreement on this one with BMW. But if you are in MAX eDrive mode and Sport Mode, you can feel the additional regen. It would be preferable to have the choice of regen modes in settings.
Sure the 13 miles (*update: now upgraded/rounded up to 14 miles on window sticker - see below) seems very small (it is actually closer to 18 in real life), but you have to note the car does get 70 MPGs when the battery is fully charged. Once the battery is fully depleted, which is around 30 to 40 miles of driving in AUTO mode, you are down to 25 MPGs which is still not bad for this car.
The power comes from a 4 cylinder Twin Turbo Engine. Yes, it's a X5 with a turbo. But the SUV is still incredibly powerful as it uses the electric motor to give you that extra boost, and therefore you feel absolutely no Turbo lag. To get the max power out of the car make sure you select Sport in the driving style selector and change the transmission lever to M/S. This will disengage the Auto Start/Stop function and you will feel how powerful this 4 cylinder engine is. Rumor has it, the design is borrowed from the 3 cylinder i8 engine, but I have not been able to confirm that.
Typical X5, but with some changes because of the eDrive. Only one extra button is added, and the Auto Start/Stop is different. What you lose with the 40e is 2 vertical inches in the trunk; no 3rd row seating (Volvo XC-90 T-8 actually has a third row); Dynamic Handling Package.
I like how most PHEV manufacturers are moving the charging door to the upper left panel. It makes charging a lot easier and you can pull in and out from any charging stations better. (Of course Mercedes did not get the message, and placed their charing door on the rear right side of the bumper).
At 3.6 kW the car gets to full in about two and half hours. I do see other upcoming PHEVs from BMW to be at this rate, as it makes no sense to charge a 9 kWh battery at a 7.2 kW rate. However, the 40e team did not get the message from the i team about unlocking the charging port door when fully charged. Something they need to implement across all eDrive vehicles is to have the user select this preference in the vehicle settings.
This probably needs an entire new article. Message to BMW i3 app team: You should go see what 40e app looks like and take a few lessons. I think the app is designed a lot better. You can unlock doors, lock doors, initiate horn and flash lights. Check efficiency, see all electric mileage, and of course precondition and set departure times. A nice little function that enables you to have a the perfect temperature car when you want it. The 40e also allows you activate climate control when you leave for a short period of time.
Where the app shines the most is in the tutorials. You can read about all eDrive feature and techniques in the app's tutorial and I think it is a huge advantage of this app compared to i3.
Inconsistencies of eDrive ownership experience:
If you drive an i3, you will notice a few changes in features. For example, the i3 with tech package will only use emergency collision braking between 6 and 37 miles per hour. While the 40e with the same feature will do so even at highway speed.
The 40e also comes with lane departure assist and blind spot warning, something i3s should (and must) implement in the future since both cars use the same camera on the windshield. For some reason BMW decided not to include charging port covers in all front left doors, while the i3 has both J1772 and CCS cover.
I think BMW is going in the right direction to introduce their first PHEV vehicle on the US market. If other models follow this trend, BMW will have a big advantage compared to other manufacturers.
If your are thinking about buying a PHEV, you need to be certain about one thing: If your daily commute is 30 to 50 miles round trip, this car is for you; and if can charge at work even on 110v, you will get the most out of the car. However, if you put 1,500+ miles a month on your vehicle, you will not gain the fuel efficiency you would expect and you are probably driving tons of highway miles, therefore perhaps a diesel is better for you. After 1,200 miles my wife loves the car and as you know: Happy Wife = Happy Life!
*Editor's Note: As we were preparing this article for print a new Monroney sticker was mailed to the author. For yet unexplained reasons, the MPGs went down from 59 to 56 miles while EV range increased to 14 (likely a rounding up of the 13.X miles previous). As soon as we hear more we will report on this development.