BMW's X5 plug-in hybrid is a 'green' crossover

BMW deserves credit, though, as the X5 xDrive40e has a leg-up on the sedans with its full-time all-wheel drive (AWD) system that's perfect for inclement weather, winter activities, dirt and mud.


Steering is precise with minimal body roll and the driving dynamics BMW is renowned for. The experience isn't hindered by a hybrid powertrain at all - not that a quick jaunt to Starbucks would benefit from the CUV's athletic nature.

Despite hammering on the throttle and enjoying every minute of it, the onboard computer (OBC) never reported less than an average 30 MPG. The magical 30 MPG is easy to achieve in smaller, lighter and more aerodynamic compact cars, but it's tougher for a CUV that weighs over 5,000 lbs.

The technology

BMW iDrive is front and center for the X5 xDrive40e infotainment system. The only input method is via control knob installed in the center console. The vehicle I tested didn't have the optional gesture controls or touch screen, unfortunately.

The user interface is a clunky mess that requires navigating too many sub menus for simple tasks, like inputting an address or setting a radio preset. The control knob supports character recognition, but I found it quicker to navigate the keyboard mapped to the rotary dial than attempting to draw letters with my fingers.


Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported, but the Microsoft Azure-powered BMW Connected North America and other BMW apps is supported by the X5 xDrive40e. When paired with the BMW app, the X5 infotainment system can read you news or display tweets (while the car is stopped), too.

I'm not sure why anyone would want to hear 140 characters at a time while driving, but the X5 can do it if you're into it.

Final verdict

I'm usually not a fan of CUVs – I prefer minivans and station wagons for family cars or rugged body on frame sport utility vehicles for going off the unbeaten path – but I enjoyed the time spent with the X5 xDrive40e. Maybe I've gone soft since turning 30, but I place more importance on fuel economy and saving money at the pump than the sheer rush of adrenaline.

Its striking looks are subtly aggressive with smooth Bavarian lines. The trademarked kidney grilles make it instantly recognizable as a BMW.


BMW's electrified powertrain is fantastic and provides a performance boost over the base twin turbo six-cylinder while providing 12 miles of pure electric driving range or over 30 MPG if you're not too aggressive on the throttle.

It's a big comfortable car that has good fuel economy for your daily commute to work and consumes zero gasoline if you're running errands around town - if you charge it at home every night. As an owner of a Nissan Leaf, I don't mind plugging a car in once the sun goes down: I treat it no differently than a smartphone.

The driving dynamics are unhindered by the hybrid power train and the car is entertaining on windy roads. I wish BMW would reinvent the interior, however. I once owned a 2000 528i (E39) sport wagon and the X5 interior feels the same, just with a larger LCD.


BMW iDrive could use usability improvements that eliminate the need to go through so many darn sub menus - just give us Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support already.

Ultimately, the BMW X5 xDrive40e lets you have your cake and eat it, too. You get a large CUV with an excellent full-time AWD system, fuel economy, athletic driving dynamics and plenty of power on tap. It does come with a hefty price tag, but that's the price you pay for a luxury CUV, not for the hybrid powertrain.