Electrifying SUV
Richard Augustin 
Priced at RM388,000, the X5 Hybrid is RM15,000 cheaper than its closest rival, the Volvo XC90 T8.

Very few consumers will buy a plug-in hybrid just to save fuel. In fact, most of us won’t even bother with pulling out the power cord to charge up the battery.

That is because plug-in hybrids work well enough with a regular petrol engine, so the chore of charging the car can be overlooked even if the vehicle may not be functioning at its optimum.

Thanks to tax incentives, plug-in hybrids are priced cheaper and more competitive against their conventional combustion engine siblings. And therein lies the appeal of the hybrid model. The incentives are appealing to both manufacturers and consumers as it allows brands to creatively package their models for the market, thus allowing owners, especially potential new ones, to enjoy the benefits of owning a state-of-the-art premium automobile without the hefty price tag.

This is why in recent years we have seen a surge of plug-in hybrids from big names. One of the first to capitalise on this was BMW, which introduced several locally assembled models to our shores. One of the most significant offerings is the BMW X5 xDrive40e, the largest SUV currently in the BMW Malaysia fleet and it just so happens to be assembled in Kulim, Kedah.

Priced at RM388,000, the X5 Hybrid is RM15,000 cheaper than its closest rival, the Volvo XC90 T8. Despite being cheaper, the large Bimmer SUV still resides close to that RM400,000 bracket, which is occupied by a number of appealing choices. However, the BMW X5 Hybrid packs a whole lot of tech and features for its asking price.


High tech

Technology is what you will be mostly paying for and the X5 Hybrid is packed to the brim with it. The model is powered by a 2.0-litre TwinPower turbo petrol engine and a synchronous electric motor, which affords the SUV a total system output of 313 hp along with 450 Nm of torque.

By keeping the 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery on full charge, drivers can benefit from tapping into the model’s all-electric drive mode, which delivers a range of 31km with a top speed of 120kph.

Owners can charge the X5 Hybrid via regular power socket, which takes under four hours to get a full charge. BMW plug-in hybrid owners also benefit from tapping into the ChargeNow service, which provides access to 20 ChargeEV stations around the country. The petrol engine and regenerative braking will also charge the battery when you are out driving but only marginally, and does not maximise the vehicle’s full EV capabilities.


Power meets efficiency

Plug-in hybrids are designed for low carbon emissions and to save fuel, and this is done without compromise on power and driveability in the X5 Hybrid. Despite its size and weight of over 2.3 tonnes, the model is remarkably limber and light on its wheels.

The century sprint is clocked in at less than seven seconds, which is certainly fast for an SUV. The model is equipped with an eight-speed Steptronic Automatic Transmission and comes with Comfort, Sport, Eco Pro driving modes as well as Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save eDrive, to intelligently use the electric motor for optimum efficiency.


Stylish luxury

Not much has changed on the outside when compared with the petrol-powered model. However, it comes with the M Sport Aerodynamic Package, which includes Adaptive LED headlights, Adaptive Air Suspension, an Electric Tailgate and 19-inch M Double-spoke alloy wheels. There is no faulting the styling and design cues of this German SUV, as slight tweaks to the overall design such as the new trapezoidal tailpipes have improved its looks.

Inside, the model is the epitome of luxury and refinement. The well-appointed cabin comes with the full array of high-end features such as leather seats, a panoramic roof and advanced in-car technologies like the iDrive system and controller, Heads-Up Display, 16-Speaker Harman Kardon infotainment system and customisable coloured LED ambient lights. The centre console has also been tweaked slightly to incorporate the eDrive switch.

The model also comes with Intelligent Emergency Call, BMW TeleServices and Concierge Services as well as two 10.2-inch entertainment screens for the back seat passengers. The safety list includes a total of six airbags, crash-activated head restraints at the front seats, ABS, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, Hill Start/Descent Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Collision Warning as well as a 360-degree parking camera for added driver convenience.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 277.