BMW's Concept X5: A Plug-In Hybrid, Maybe for Production

By · August 22, 2013

Think City

BMW's Concept X5 eDrive: Have plug, will travel. (BMW photo)

BMW is going all-out at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, with no less than six model debuts. The company’s electric i division has been concentrating on the i3, which was launched with galas in Beijing, London and New York, and which will finally be available for U.S. media drives at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. But, in the meantime, BMW will roll out in Frankfurt a second eDrive plug-in hybrid concept, in this case based on the new version of the X5.

The all-wheel-drive Concept X5 eDrive sport utility vehicle follows in the footsteps of the BMW eDrive Concept Active Tourer, a crossover unveiled in 2012 with lots of flashy high-tech. The new X5 plug-in hybrid has a lithium-ion battery and BMW’s own 95-horsepower electric motor that can carry the car to 75 mph on its own (for an estimated 19 miles of all-electric range).

Fast, Maybe Not so Furious

The e-motor is also there to act as a power booster for the gas motor, which is a turbocharged four. As the company said when showing off the Active Tourer, "Depending on driver requirements, the synchronous electric motor’s boost function can also be used briefly to achieve particularly powerful acceleration—for instance, when overtaking." BMW isn’t releasing the horsepower rating of the X5 Concept's gas engine, but the combination can propel the car to 62 mph in under seven seconds.

BMW eDrive Concept Active Tourer

BMW's eDrive Concept Active Tourer: High-tech attributes. (BMW photo)

The X5 Concept's emphasis is on performance, but BMW is claiming 62 mpg in what is likely to be a fairly heavy vehicle. There are three driving modes: automatic, all-electric and a “save battery” option that allows the driver to save the electric range for later.

Production Clues

There appears to be a minimum of auto show glitz around the plug-in X5—no fanciful interiors or gull-wing doors—which could mean that the concept is fairly close to becoming a production car. It does make sense as a competitor for Ford’s C-MAX Energi, with the added bonus of all wheel drive. BMW is promoting the sport activity vehicle (or SAV) concept as road competence in all weather, and even off-road—should you decide to take the car there.

"At this stage, it's only a concept," said BMW spokesman Julian Arguelles. More could be forthcoming.

If the Concept X5 does make it into production, BMW’s challenge will be keeping the price in the affordable range. The C-MAX Energi, with 21 miles of electric range, starts at $32,950. The current BMW X5 starts at $47,500. When you add the plug-in hybrid premium on to that, the car could be priced out of many buyers’ reach.

Yes, I realize that the BMW is a luxury car with a long list of standard features and appointments, but the ranks of plug-in hybrid utility vehicles are pretty small. The only other car buyers might consider beside the Ford is the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is slated to appear in the U.S. in early 2014.

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