As I made my way back from an afternoon stroll, something resembling a tank caught my eye. Positioned rather proudly on my grandmother’s drive stood my uncle’s new toy; a 2019 BMW X5 45E X Drive, plug in to your heart’s desire, hybrid. Hmm. Now my uncle has long been a fan of PCP finance schemes, so it wasn’t such a surprise to see a flashy new car parked up. Similarly, he’s also been a fan of the SUV for some time. Rather like PCP plans, I’m sceptical about them. I’ll explain why later. Nor am I the greatest fan of BMWs. Well, BMWs of recent years I should say. I have a soft spot for old M3s, mainly the e30, not to mention the old M1 Pro Car; who doesn’t? Something about those sharp angular lines and rather petite BMW nostrils at the front just make me go, oooooohhh yea. I can confidently report however, that this was not my reaction to said beemer.
After a warm family greeting, my uncle very quickly asked what I thought of his new car. A bit like a parent’s counterfeit reaction to what their kid painted was my response. Wow! Looks amazing! I think he bought it. Anyway he was very quick to run me through the stats of his beast, and I must say I was rather pleasantly impressed. First and foremost, this is a plug in hybrid and BMW have made some significant improvements since the previous generation. In fully electric mode, the X5 can now achieve 50 miles instead of a measly 14 and can even reach 87 mph. For a car that weighs nearly 2 and a half tonnes, that’s mighty impressive. Well done BMW. The bulk of performance though comes from a 3-Litre 6-cylinder in line petrol engine creating 335 horse power, 394 combined with it’s new electric companion. The powertrain of BMW’s new PHEV range really does create a compelling argument for the hybrid. It’s great for reducing fuel consumption, saving the planet blah blah blah! But! If you want to have fun, 600NM of torque will propel you to 62mph in 5.6 seconds! The thing has a kerb weight of 2435KGs for goodness sake! You can drive the roads like a king too, it’s got air suspension that’s height adjustable and allows the X5 to glide over bumps effortlessly. Cornering? Well the beast can sink to a sportier stance, and stiffen up if needs be. Add some enormous ventilated brakes that hog the space inside the 19-inch rims, and you’ve got yourself quite the sporty setup to tuck into. It’s a big car though, and I’m afraid I can’t fairly comment on the X5 45E’s cornering capabilities. This isn’t a test drive review; I didn’t get to drive it!
BMW claim that the X5 45E can do between 188.3-235.4 mpg. Which is bonkers! Realistically though, the only way of achieving this is by charging your vehicle every night and staying clear of the motorway. Rather conveniently, my uncle couldn’t tell me how much his electricity bill had gone up. According to Green Car Guide, only 30mpg was managed on a motorway at 70mph. Hang on a sec, can’t modern engines do better then that? Yes, yes they can. Well now would be a good point to start with the X5’s problems, well, problems I have with it.
Now it’s all very well making Hybrids to increase efficiency, even to improve the driving experience. But if the car itself weighs 2 and a half tonnes and is shaped like a brick, it seems laughable to call the X5 PHEV efficient. It’s great that hybrid technology has come a long way but it does seem rather ironic to create such an efficient powertrain only to marry it to probably the least efficient type of vehicle. A gargantuan SUV. As I said earlier, I’m rather sceptical about them. Why? It just seems ridiculous to me that in an age where we’re supposed to be more conscious of our impact on the planet, that bigger less efficient cars are being made. Sure, engines and electric motors have come a long way, but ultimately more weight and air resistance makes an inefficient vehicle. Sure big cars have always been around and always will be. And obviously manufacturers wouldn’t be making so many SUVs if there wasn’t the demand for them. I just think car makers should think more about streamlining and weight saving if they’re going to make SUVs. I guess these brands have got to at least make it look like they’re doing something to save the planet. Perhaps the Germans think we’ll forget about “Dieselgate” if they make more hybrids?
Remember my counterfeit reaction? This was before my uncle went into the details of the hybrid tech. Why am I not a fan of recent BMWs you may ask? It’s all to do with the ‘visual identity’ brand philosophy of their design. And it seems that the designers of recent BMWs are suffering from some kind of authoritarian regime from their marketing department. My comment on the BMW nostrils on the M1 Pro Car? I think you can agree, same with the e30, you can see it’s a BMW because of the iconic two air vents on the front. They’re not offensive, and proportionally work well to complement the shape of the cars and even add personality. A little automotive design history for you. The nostrils I refer to are called the ‘kidney grille’ by BMW and they’ve been around since 1933. It’s hard not to think of BMW and think of this iconic design. A strong ‘visual identity’ seems essential to any global brand these days as any marketer will tell you. In the case of BMW though. It just feels like the iconic ‘kidney grille’ is being excessively bloated in proportion to whatever Beemer it appears on. In recent years BMWs just seem to shout out, “Look at me I’m a BMW!” And I hate them for it. I call them BMW nostrils for a reason. To me at least it best describes them; it’s like a facial feature. On my uncle’s X5, it’s as if the designers have taken these nostrils and, like a kid pulling a funny face on a window, have just smeared and stretched them outwards. I just feel you have to lack taste and care about image to buy a BMW these days, and that’s sad to say. Sorry Uncle Pierre.
It looks like they’re committed to this direction though. Just look at the new M3 and M4 that are coming to a dealer near you. I don’t mean dealership, I mean drug dealer of course, because that’s what they drive, in case you didn’t know. If you ask me, I think the marketing and design teams in Stuttgard are beginning to fund some of their customer bank accounts. Get the joke? It’s no laughing matter. Similarly, with the X5, it hasn’t really changed that much in terms of its look. It’s as if the designers are going through some sort of mellow come down and are lacking inspiration. No wonder they’ve made the nostrils bigger! As I have already discussed the irony of an efficient powertrain coupled to an SUV, there’s yet more irony to speculate with the X5. Those enormous “kidney grilles” have got something called an ‘active grille system’, whereby the grille is shut off to reduce drag and help the engine warm up when needed. Genius! The irony? Well they wouldn’t really need this gimmick (which I agree is quite cool) in the first place if those kidneys weren’t so bloated! Well I think it’s time to round off this rant. I’m exhausted, but I hope you’ve been entertained. But most importantly, I hope you petrol heads have had some provocation to your thoughts on BMWs, hybrids and SUVs. I aim to please. Let’s just hope for my sake that my uncle’s next car on PCP is something more tasteful but just as sporty!
By James Drujon
BMW X5 xDrive 45e 2019 – £65,760
|Average Fuel Consumption||148.7-235.4 mpg|
|Co2 Emissions||27-44 g/km|
|Power||389 bhp (combined)|
|Acceleration (0-62 mph)||5.6 sec|
|Top Speed||146 mph|