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Driven: BMW X5 plug-in hybrid lands

Spark plugged: BMW’s electrified X5 has finally arrived in Australia, but the car-maker is not expecting massive sales from its first plug-in SUV.

Petrol-electric X5 SUV will not be as popular as diesel, says BMW

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BMW logo6 Apr 2016

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

BMW Australia’s first non-‘i’-branded plug-in hybrid has arrived, with the X5 xDrive40e debuting a new iPerformance sub-brand, but the German car-maker is not expecting to break sales records with its first electrified SUV.

The premium large SUV, priced from $118,990 plus on-road costs, will be followed next month by the 330e mid-size sedan as a part of BMW’s global eDrive program.

Both will fall under the new iPerformance sub-brand, which is positioned as an offshoot of BMW’s specialist electric ‘i’ division that creates battery powered models such as the i3 and i8.

“It’s the technology and learnings from BMW ‘i’ that we’re taking and we’re mixing them with two of our best selling models,” BMW Group Australia head of product and market planning Shawn Ticehurst explained at the national media launch of the X5 xDrive40e in Canberra this week.

“We have BMW i as the ultimate in electrification of cars, then BMW iPerformance which will effectively be our sub-brand name for plug-in hybrids,” he added.

“Think of it in the same guise as we have M division cars like the M2, M3, M4 and so on, and then we have M Performance for things like M235i and X5M.”

Mr Ticehurst said he does not expect the plug-in hybrid version to be immediately popular with buyers, however.

“We’re not going out there thinking this will be our best-selling X5.

“We realise this one will take a while for people to understand how it fits into their lifestyle. Probably (the) 40d initially will sell a bit stronger in this market, but I think once this education process kicks in, let’s see where we’ll go”.

BMW Australia nominated the X5 xDrive40e as the premium large SUV for families who do a high number of urban kilometres and short trips.

Outputs of 230kW/450Nm from the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission-integrated electric motor result in claimed 0-100km/h of 6.8 seconds and combined cycle fuel consumption of 3.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

“We think this car is extremely relevant for Australia, and one of the reasons is average commuting distances,” commented Mr Ticehurst.

“This X5, we publish a figure of electric-only distance of 31 kilometres, but we’ve been driving these cars now for a few weeks, we’re getting around 25km to 27km of electric only driving.

“The average Australian commute one-way is 15.6km, so in a car like this you’ll be able to do a (round trip) on electric driving range, with the petrol combustion engine kicking in for the last bit.

“50 per cent of the population has a one-way commute of under 10km (and) that you could do all on electric with this car.”

Mr Ticehurst confessed that some buyers may be better off with a diesel, presenting a chart forecasting for the X5 xDrive40e a “through city” figure of less than 3.0L/100km, a “daily life” figure of less than 6.5L/100km, an “into weekend” figure of below 9.5L/100km and an “on vacation” figure of below 11.0L/100km.

By contrast the identically priced X5 xDrive40d, which uses a 230kW/630Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder with claimed combined cycle consumption of 6.0L/100km, proposes a “through city” figure of 16.0L/100km but narrows the gap to parity or better by the “on vacation” figure.

“We’ll be honest here, there will be some customers we’re going to say to them, a diesel car is better for your situation,” Mr Ticehurst said.

“When you get out on the highway, the gap (between plug-in hybrid and diesel) narrows and there will be some driving where the diesel car provides better fuel consumption.”

Mr Ticehurst also admitted the reason BMW did not choose to mate an electric motor with a diesel engine was primarily due to the significant popularity of petrol vehicles in primary X5 markets.

“The big one is the market for hybrids in the US, China and Japan, where those markets are not so focused on diesel (and it is) such a tiny part of what they sell,” he explained.

“Petrol engines will also actually produce less emissions, so it helps when you get down to the nth degree when you aim to get down to these gains that get harder and harder.”

With a charging cable included, from a standard household powerpoint an X5 xDrive40e will take five hours to recharge its batteries, double the time of a BMW i Wallbox fast charger that costs $1750 plus home installation.

Mr Ticehurst said most buyers would be aware of the benefits of recharging the vehicle using renewable energy, rather than predominantly coal-powered electricity used in most parts of Australia, however the company will run an education program highlighting ways to maximise environmental potential.

BMW Australia said it will cost about $2 to fully recharge the batteries with ‘green’ energy versus $1.20 using a standard energy source, however according to Mr Ticehurst: “The ideal way to own this car is to have solar panels on your roof, if you really want to live the concept the way it should be lived.”“It’s a fact here in Australia, particularly in Victoria, that your electricity is coming our of a coal-fired (power station),” he added.

“I think a lot of our customers know that, they’re making the decision to buy this car, they’re going to invest in solar power or something like that, (but) we’ve got an education process convincing people to buy this car.”

As previously reported, the X5 xDrive40e aligns in pricing and specification with the diesel-engined X5 xDrive40d.

Shared standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, keyless auto-entry, Harman Kardon 16-speaker audio with DAB+ digital radio, cruise control with autonomous braking function, head-up display, Driving Assistant with Approach Control Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Pedestrian Warning with light city braking activation, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, surround view camera, and leather upholstery with electrically adjustable front sports seats.

Multi-mode adaptive suspension is an exclusive addition to the plug-in hybrid version. However, compared with the diesel and other X5 models, it also loses seven-seat availability, a spare wheel and 150 litres of boot volume – now 500L – due to a 40mm-raised rear floor to accommodate 96 lithium-ion batteries underneath.

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