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2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV First Impressions

MIRAMAS, France -- Although we are told (repeatedly) that the X5 eDrives we're in are "prototypes," we're pleasantly surprised by the fit and finish of the interior, and the seamless performance during our test drive. Over several laps of the BMW-owned Circuit of Miramas -- a 1,168-acre facility that once hosted the French Grand Prix -- it became clear that this was probably the best X5 yet. The telltale camouflage cladding was the only clue that it wasn't a production-ready vehicle.

With its release date set for some time in 2015, there's still a year left for improvement.

What is the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV?
The 2015 BMW X5 eDrive is a prototype Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) version of BMW's midsize utility vehicle, and the first of their mainstream lineup to get the technology developed with the i3 and i8 vehicles. The plug-in parallel hybrid is also the first X5 to feature a 4-cylinder engine.

Under the cargo floor is a lithium battery pack. Although hybrid technology tends to be heavy, the X5 PHEV has several aerodynamic features to compensate for the extra 250-300kg. Aside from the reshaped exterior, the 2015 BMW X5 PHEV features "air curtains" which help prevent turbulence by redirecting air around the wheel wells through special vents, valves, and active grill shutters that close at slower speeds.

2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV Price and Specs
Based on the third-generation BMW X5, the 2015 eDrive PHEV is powered by a 245 hp, 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, and a 70kW/90 hp electric motor. Its electric-only range of 30km should suffice for most European commuters -- Canadians with their longer average commutes will probably have to rely on the combustion motor kicking in more often. The lithium-ion battery pack can be charged via standard 240V outlets in three or four hours, and half that through a wall-mounted fast charger.

The gasoline 4-banger is mounted low in the engine bay, behind the front axles, for excellent balance and a low centre of gravity. The integration of electric motor and ZF 8-speed automatic transmission does away with the need of a torque convertor, and the advantage is quicker response and weight savings.

The target fuel economy rating of 3.8L/100km will make the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV one of the most fuel-efficient utility vehicles on the market, while offering SUV practicality and the ability to sprint from 0-100 km in under 7 seconds.

Driving the 2015 X5 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV
Over the looping circuit of the Miramas test track, we drove the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV during pure electric and combined operation. In "Max eDrive" the PHEV operates on electric power only until the pedal is pressed to the floor. There's an excellent transition between power modes, with none of the telltale shuddering when the combustion unit kicks in. You can opt to travel on gasoline alone and preserve battery power should you choose.

Thanks to the low-mounted 4-cylinder (its placement behind the front axles effectively makes this a front, mid-engine vehicle) the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV has a 50:50 weight distribution and a much snappier cornering ability than expected.

Just like the regular X5, the PHEV has three drive settings to choose from: Eco Pro, Comfort or Sport that remaps throttle and shift response accordingly. In "Sport," the PHEV is responsive enough to be genuinely fun on the track.

A display screen shows which power source is being used, and also charts the flow of regeneration. BMW's xDrive AWD system distributes torque between all four wheels, but it's an unlikely candidate for off-roading. However, the PHEV should have the same 3,500kg tow rating as the conventional X5.

Another interesting piece of fuel-saving technology is the proactive drive system, which using Navigation and on-board sensors, anticipates the drive route ahead and automatically selects the transmission's appropriate gear.

Inside and Out of the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV
There's not much to differentiate the PHEV's cabin from the rest of the X5 models, other than a couple of buttons on the centre console (covered with black electrical tape during our test) and the hybrid display screens. The battery pack eats into rear storage space somewhat -- but in a visual comparison between the PHEV and regular variant the load floor looks only slightly higher.

From what we could see under all the camo tape, the 2015 X5 eDrive doesn't really look that much different from the gas-powered SUV, other than the plug-in port on the front fender. Production models will probably feature bespoke rims and the "iBlue" trim developed for the BMW i brand.

Comparing the 2015 BMW X5 eDrive PHEV
As BMW's first plug-in variant of their regular, mainstream lineup, the X5 eDrive is an important vehicle for the automaker. It faces stiff competition from Audi's Q7 E-Tron plug-in hybrid, also arriving next year, while the Lexus RX450h could also be considered a competitor.

 

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2015 BMW X5
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2015 BMW X5
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