The BMW X5 plug-in that costs just €170 a year to tax
First drive in Munich: BMW M PHEV
I've just yoked up my mobile phone to a little charger for enough of a boost to get me home as I write this at Munich airport.
It is appropriate in a way because charging up has been the theme of the day. Since morning I've been driving the first main BMW brand production plug-in hybrid, the X5 PHEV. We gave it a boost too (at lunchtime). Like the phone, it means you get more mileage out of it.
Unlike the phone, however, it doesn't rely solely on electricity - though having the ability to be charged is its claim to fame. The four-wheel-drive X5 PHEV is a hybrid combination of a 2-litre 4cyl turbo petrol engine and an electric motor (within the 8spd transmission). But you can also plug it in for 30km-worth of a charge. That's what differentiates it from your ordinary hybrid and contributes so much to its official lower MPG and emission figures. They claim this X5 is capable of doing up to 85mpg.
Others have already ploughed this furrow, of course, and claim extraordinary figures too.
It is a wonderful concept, no doubt. But will people buy PHEVs? It's early days but there are positive signs; and BMW expect 150 of you to buy one next year.
Much of the technology on the X5 is taken from the shelf of the remarkable plug-in i8 supercar and electric i3.
In this, the 2-litre engine and electric motor produce a combined total of 313bhp. That pairing can push it to 100kmh from a standing start in just 6.8 seconds. From my drives I believe those figures. And we found it exceptionally quiet; not a ruffle of reaction from gearbox or engine when I kicked down.
The battery pack at the back is supposed to add balance. Not so sure I noticed much difference by way of handling or behaviour but it's a hefty lump to carry for 20km to 30km electric cruising. So make use of the facility; charge that SAV. You can top up the lithium-ion battery pack from a home power socket, public charging station or BMW i Wallbox.
One of the (several) eye-catching figures is the road tax: €170 a year (lower than most city cars, superminis and diesels). Emissions are just 77g/km (85.6mpg is claimed).
The plug-in dimension helps push the overall range to 830km.
Key to the whole concept is your readiness to regularly charge up so you avoid using the engine during heavy-consumption city driving, for example.
Better still, you can let the system devise the most economical mode. Auto eDrive is the basic setting. Or you can choose MAX eDrive for it to run on electric power only or SAVE Battery mode which keeps the charge at a certain level so you have it for city driving.
Prices will start at €73,670 ex-works for SE and €80,450 for MSport versions. A €2,500 VRT rebate cuts the price to €71,170. The diesel xDrive25d SE, by comparison, starts at €72,760.
Sadly, its emissions are just two grammes above the 75g/km mark that would have knocked €5,000 more off in the form of an SEAI grant.
The main drawback is that you can't have seven seats because the battery pack takes space at the rear (boot capacity is down too). With non-PHEV models you can fit a third row (€2,289).
There is a six-year/100,000km warranty with the pack. I'd have expected more; 17,000km a year isn't huge for a car like the X5. And I think you'd be lucky to get 20km on pure electricity. There is little doubt, however, that will stretch as technology improves range.
This arrives in October/November but that is just a start. Virtually every mainline BMW model will have a PHEV option: starting with the 3-series, 7-series and 2-series Active Tourer.