2017 BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance review

BMW’s X5 xDrive40e adds the fun of electric torque and efficiency of EV driving to the already stellar X5 SUV.
BMW’s X5 xDrive40e adds the fun of electric torque and efficiency of EV driving to the already stellar X5 SUV.
BMW’s X5 xDrive40e adds the fun of electric torque and efficiency of EV driving to the already stellar X5 SUV.


  • Tranquil ride quality
  • Upscale design inside and out
  • Stupendous seats
  • Efficiency without sacrifice


  • Limited cargo capacity for its size
  • Lofty base price

Driving efficiently is no longer the painful task it once was. Though there are still holdouts on the path to higher mpg (I’m looking at you, full-size pickups), most passenger cars have crept towards respectable EPA estimates.

Those who want to do one better than internal combustion have plenty of options. Diesels and gas-electric hybrids offer similar fuel economy, without demanding any lifestyle changes from their owners. Pure electric vehicles, on the other hand, don’t quite yet have the range to accommodate all driving behavior. This makes plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) the perfect fit for those who desire the perks of an EV without the major drawbacks.

Though plug-in hybrid tech has been part of the auto industry for years, it’s only recently transcended the mass-market to merge with luxury vehicles. Premium brands are now in a hurry to retrofit their best-selling models with plug-in tech, and that means SUVs are first to go under the knife. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche now offer midsize SUV models with a short, all-electric range.

To experience the difference in fuel efficiency and performance, we decided to take a crack at BMW’s entry, the 2017 X5 xDrive40e. Just before the Northeast would dip into sub-freezing temperatures, we saddled up for a road trip between New York City and Boston.

Uptown funk

Our journey starts among Manhattan’s skyscrapers and congestion – a perfect setting to sample the xDrive40e’s electric torque between red lights.

Though its name sounds more like a strong password than a vehicle nameplate, the plug-in X5’s badge does stand for something. All BMWs equipped with all-wheel drive wear the xDrive moniker, while rear-wheel drive X5’s use the sDrive name. The ‘40’ doesn’t really equate to any performance attribute, as far as we can tell, except that the PHEV X5 is slotted between the 35i and 50i versions in price and output. Finally, the ‘e’ is short for eDrive, which BMW associates with every iPerformance (plug-in) model.

Silently zipping us through New York’s streets and avenues is a 111-horsepower electric motor, powered by a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery and connected to a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Combined output is 308hp and 332 pound-feet of torque, channeled to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In addition to the X5’s standard chassis modes, which include comfort, Eco Pro, and Sport, the xDrive40e features specific eDrive modes to adjust dependence on the electric motor. Though we start in Auto eDrive, which lets the computer find the most efficient balance between the gas and electric motors, we quickly become addicted to Max eDrive’s pure electric power. The instant torque is a velvety smooth rush that’s best enjoyed from a standstill, and feels all the more impressive when you factor in the plug-in X5’s 5,200-pound curb weight.

As we emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel, however, our electric shenanigans have caught up with us. The xDrive40e’s 14 miles of pure EV range are just about tapped. Without the time to charge (7 hours at 110V and 2.5 hours at 220V), we opt for the SUV’s gas generator, switching the eDrive to “Save” and the chassis mode to Sport. The performance drive mode may sound counter intuitive, but Sport actually translates to more aggressive energy recovery in this case. Think of it like an enthusiast’s approach to recharging: fast.

Eco cruising

As we hit the open road, we find Comfort mode’s mild energy recapture and less regenerative braking pairs well with Auto eDrive’s intelligent powertrain management. As you’ve likely concluded by now, it takes a bit of effort to optimize the xDrive40e’s driving experience, but as we discover, even effort-free travel is efficient.

Once at a steady velocity, the plug-in X5 feels just like a standard model. Its plush seats, attractive cabin, and serene ride translate just as well with an e-motor on board. Along our route, the road narrows and winds, giving us a chance to evaluate the SUV’s steering response and chassis control. Predictably, sensation through the X5’s rudder is depressed, but inputs find their way to the front wheels extremely fast. Hefty machine that it is, the xDrive40e feels nimble through mid to large curves, but we expect its big body would roll to a more uncomfortable degree in acute corners. Highest among our praise for the plug-in X5’s driving experience is the transition between gas and electric power. In the moments when traffic slows to the point where the electric motor chimes in, the hand-off is barely discernible.

It takes a bit of effort to optimize the xDrive40e’s driving experience, but as we discover, even effort-free travel is efficient.

Our tester features a generous list of optional equipment, including Mocha Nappa Leather ($1,950), which brilliantly contrasts the X5’s Alpine White exterior, ventilated front seats ($1,350), 4-zone climate control ($2,550), striking 20-inch black gloss light alloy wheels ($1,100), a Harmon Kardon sound system ($875), heated rear seats ($550), and Surround View Camera ($750). Notable absent from this feature set is BMW’s available Driver Assistance Plus ($1700) package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, a head-up display, pedestrian detection, and collision mitigation. With four hours of driving ahead of us, we especially miss these intelligent safety technologies, and wonder why some of them aren’t standard at the $60K+ price point.

Strip away all the optional niceties and the X5 still feels high-end. Its standard 10.2-inch infotainment display is crystal clear, and paired with the iDrive controller, navigating to every main function is a breeze. Passenger volume is stellar, with ample room for rear seat occupants to stretch their legs and generous headroom for all. Trunk space, on the other hand, is modest due to the battery stored beneath the parcel shelf. Stowing the rear seats, however, affords up to 73 cubic feet of cargo volume – more than enough to accommodate a trip to Ikea.

Crunching the numbers

By the time we’ve explored every feature, pressed every button, and tried every XM radio station, Boston is upon us. We beeline to the nearest charging station, scramble into a coffee shop, and crunch the numbers from our journey.

EPA estimates for the 2017 BMW X5 xDrive40e are 23 city, 25 highway, 24 combined, and 56 MPGe. Our real world test churns up 27 mpg from 190 miles of mostly highway travel (and no plug-in recharging). To put that figure another way, we’ve only used 30 percent of the X5’s 22-gallon fuel tank. You may officially label us impressed.

Our Take

The xDrive40e may seem like a gap-filler to some, with limited all-electric range and only slightly higher mpg on paper. However, as we learned, BMW’s engineers have optimized the interplay between gas and electric powertrains to give a midsize SUV the real-world fuel economy of a much lighter, much smaller vehicle. Until battery technology renders PHEVs useless, there isn’t a more efficient option that ignores range limits.

BMW’s eDrive X5 price tag may seem steep at $63,095 (including destination), but factor in the $4,585 federal tax credit (and any available state incentives), and it becomes a much more attractive proposition. The silent joy of instant electric torque alone is worth a small price bump.

What are the alternatives?

BMW’s X5 xDrive40e has two main rivals. Mercedes-Benz ‘s GLE550e boasts 436hp, 12 miles of pure EV driving, and 21 combined mpg. Porsche’s Cayenne S E Hybrid has similar performance: 416hp, 14 miles of all-electric driving, and 22 combined mpg. Both vehicles, however, cost more than the BMW ($66,300 for the Mercedes and $78,700 for the Porsche), and neither can match the X5’s combined or MPGe estimates.

How long will it last?

BMW’s plug-in X5 debuted for the 2016 model year, and barring dramatic improvements in battery technology, expect the xDrive40e to continue in its current form for a couple more years. The next update will likely improve the X5’s all-electric range considerably.

Should you buy it?

Among its competitors, the plug-in X5 makes the least power, but is the most efficient and affordable. If you don’t absolutely need 400 horsepower to run errands, there’s no reason not to choose the xDrive40e. The plug-in X5’s greatest competition may actually come from within its own ranks. BMW’s X5 35d (diesel) offers better fuel economy, more torque, and is slightly cheaper (before the PHEV’s tax incentives). Still, we’d choose the xDrive40e for its fuel-free driving capability and electric torque.

Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.

The redesigned 2020 Passat shows Volkswagen still believes in sedans

The sedan segment in America is shrinking, but Volkswagen still believes in it. The German firm has released a teaser sketch to preview the redesigned 2020 Passat it will introduce during the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti has released a teaser image to preview a concept it will unveil at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The yet-unnamed design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language.

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.