BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport test drive: We took the new BMW X5 out for a spin over the North York Moors

Frederic Manby makes a return journey in the BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport and finds there is much to enjoy in this luxurious version of the its plainer predecessors in the X5 range.

The return to Grosmont. If you want to fit in with the locals, the s is silent and the t becomes a d. I had been in ‘growmond’ several weeks ago for a gathering in a lofty Victorian country house, looking down from the brow on to the village and the River Esk. Wealth and work once came from its ironstone mines.

Our weekender transport then was the redoubtable Jeep Wrangler. The car which took me back is the antithesis of the Wrangler, with much more refined manners and in most circumstances a capable off-roader, with adjustable ride height and air suspension.

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You’d swap the summer-rated Pirellis for something with more teeth if your habits took you to mud or snow or loose surfaces. The ride over the North York Moors roads was excellent and nicely controlled. The P Zeros are run-flat, designed to keep rolling and get you home after a puncture.

BMW  X5 xDrive50e M Sport. (Credit: Mark Fagelson Photography)BMW  X5 xDrive50e M Sport. (Credit: Mark Fagelson Photography)
BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport. (Credit: Mark Fagelson Photography)

I went back to pick up a forgotten Tibetan trinket, bought in Darjeeling 45 years ago. Grosmont Villa was under a skeleton of scaffold poles and planks. The owners were up from London to give it a spring revamp ready for letting (we had found it on

An early Series Land Rover soft-top in traditional bronze green, with a front winch and coiled tow rope, was helping with waste dispersal and looked grand.

At the gates was a grey X5, BMW’s recent overhaul of the 1999 pioneer of really sporting sports utility vehicles, more accurately a sports activity vehicle. What looked grey to everyone was properly called BMW individual tanzanite blue metallic. You may know it takes its name from a rare mineral mined in Tanzania.

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Even 25 years ago there was little you could call utility about the X5. I drove an early model around South Carolina, from its factory in Spartanburg to the Atlantic at Charleston. What felt special then will feel dated now, like the first Porsche Cayenne or the Mercedes-Benz ML feel dated. The body was plainer, more functional, more like something you’d take on trails.

That was before SUVs became luxury utility vehicles, LUVs maybe. Spartanburg still makes most of the BMW X models. Now the X5 has an off-road option pack which includes a limit slip differential. Various ‘packs’ had already added £20,000 to the bill for YH73 UXE.

That turn of the century X5 was before Big Fronts and flaring nostrils and gaping jaws became signatures of Audi and BMW and Lexus, as if for decades they hadn’t been getting enough air.

BMW sent us the xDrive50e M Sport which has a 3-litre six cylinder petrol turbo engine and plug-in hybrid electrical assistance, weighs 2.5 tons and has some remarkable and seemingly paradoxical stats. The combined power of the 194bhp electric motor and the 308bhp straight-six petrol engine gives you a kick. The torque is quick and lusty, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox with variable torque sensing.

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The cute thing with PHEVs is their high performance but very low CO2 emissions and remarkable economy ratings, combining to give low payroll taxation for the company driver. Viz: 0-62mph 4.8 seconds, 155mph maximum, 314mpg, 20g/km CO2, range of electric power 64 miles, a BIK tax band of eight per cent.

As always, these ratings are assuming you keep the electric motor batteries charged - easy for commuting mileage when charging at home or work, harder when driving long distance unless you hop and stop between compatible public chargers. My usual ones were not suitable.

With the screen showing 44 miles range on electric, I selected hybrid, which combines the efforts of motor and engine. The gauge was suggesting up to 99 miles a gallon on the moorland route to Eskdale. After 100 miles, and right at the villa gates, the motor batteries were virtually empty.

Trip average 62mpg. Motoring on, with modest self-charging recuperation, the figure fell to the low 30s. With the battery slightly regenerated I was able to drive through the market town of Pickering on zero pollution electric power.

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There is much pleasure to be had with a big, tall car like this. Its black on grey exterior palette and monstrous 21-inch wheels and M Sport detailing got easy attention. Inside, the dark wood, silver metal and carbon trim gave the fascia enough status, though a Range Rover it isn’t.

The ivory Merino leather for the seats is smart and is supplied from dead sheep: just a thought which may frazzle sensitive children.

The information displays of apps and maps and so forth are spread across a screen which takes up more than half the width of the dashboard and a fair amount of fiddling for beginners. You’ll need time to work it out.

Some physical switches remain, as does the useful I-drive rotary command wheel between the seats. Most of what is not immediately to hand can be operated by the voice control button, including opening the roof, heating and so on.

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I sometimes get a pain in the left buttock - I blame car seats but can’t be sure. A combination of the X5’s seat massager and heater dispelled the ache. Other irritations were few, but being told to turn slight left when it is a left turn or to take the XYZ when it means stay on the XYZ can confuse.

BMW X5 xDrive50e M Sport: £78,360 (£98,904 as tested); 3-litre turbo petrol and PHEV rechargeable electric motor; 483 bhp; Torque 516 lb/ft; Eight-speed automatic and 4WD; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.8 seconds; 314mpg (30 to 99 mpg in use); CO 2 emissions 20g/km; Tank 15 gallons; Length 194 inches; Braked towing limit 6,000lb;

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