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First Drive

First Drive: BMW X5 PHEV

The story:
BMW’s latest plug-in hybrid has a larger battery than its predecessor, and as of next April will sit in a BiK band of just 6% for cars registered from April 2020 thanks to its official range of over 50 miles
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:Audi Q7 TFSIe
BMW X5 PHEV 45e M Sport
MPG:235.4 mpg (combined)
On sale:Now

The next instalment of BMW’s new plug-in range has arrived, with the petrol-electric X5 large SUV following on from the new 330e. Those models themselves joined the updated tech already extending to the 745e, 530e and 225xe models, with the plug-in X3 also coming next spring.

But the X5 is, in many ways, the flagship, offering a huge battery-only range figure of 54 miles; a three-fold increase on the first X5 pug-in hybrid. That’s thanks to a new 24kWh battery, which combines with the 286hp 3.0-litre petrol engine to offer maximum power of 394hp. It allows a 0-62mph time of just 5.6 seconds, a full 1.2 seconds quicker than the old PHEV. Just 50 litres of boot space are lost to the battery packaging, although also worth noting is that the optional third row of seats available on other X5s can’t be specced on the plug-in.

First Drive-January 2020-BMW X5 PHEV-Image 1Hybrid setting lets the car decide which combination of electric and petrol power is needed – based mainly on right-foot input, but switch to pure EV mode and the acceleration is certainly numbed; there’s none of the instant surge that comes with electric cars.

There’s also a setting to preserve whatever percentage of battery the driver designates, allowing the charge to be saved for later in the journey, such as when the car leaves the motorway and enters an urban area, for example, where the electric element of the drivetrain will be most efficient.

Talking of efficient, the key driving force for this car will be the company driver market, because the tax situation makes it compelling. The X5 PHEV currently sits in the 16% Benefit-in-Kind band, and will drop to 8% as of the 2020/21 tax year in April. But that becomes 6% for any new cars registered after 6 April 2020, thanks to the Government’s 2% BiK cut to account for rising emissions as a result of the change to emissions test regulations. A year later, it becomes 7%, before levelling off with cars registered in this tax year at 8% BiK for the 2022/23 year.

Compared with a 265hp 30d X5, the 394hp plug-in is more than £6000 dearer than the diesel, but 40% tax company car drivers taking the plug-in now will pay £355 in monthly BiK until April, then £178 a month in the 2020/21 tax year. Take the car after 6 April and it’ll be £133 a month, compared with the diesel’s £743. Over three years, a company car driver taking the X5 in April will save more than £21,000 in BiK payments, while the company will pocket well over £6000 in saved National Insurance contributions.


paul barker

The verdict

Even if the car wasn’t so good, the costs case would make the PHEV compelling. Add in the impressive range and performance and it’s a winner.