Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG
The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave
So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
Winging it…on electricity
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.
The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.
The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers
1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.
Tesla Model X
2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.
3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.
4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.
5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG.
2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.
Lexus NX 300h
8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V – Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV Crosstrek – Subaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.
Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models
Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.
We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11 models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.
And coming soon:
The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.
Other similar stories you might enjoy:
First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X
Road Test: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e
Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV
Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h
Road Test: 2016 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek
BMW Takes the Guilt-Free SUV to New Levels
BMW plugs into the new trend
The American automotive market in mid-2016 is a study in schizophrenia. Plug-in vehicle sales are up 62 percent, outpacing a market that is up by less than 2 percent compared to last year. But
that overall market is shifting as well; light trucks, which includes pickups, SUVs and crossovers, accounted for 59 percent of the market in the first half of 2016, a bump up from 55 percent during the same period last year and 52 percent in 2014. We spent a week in an SUV—the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e that straddles those trends seamlessly.
Other than this great white whale of a BMW, light trucks are noticeably absent from the plug-in market (there’s the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid and you might be able to slip in the Volvo XC90 T8, which we’ve also driven). In that same first half of the year (January-June 2016) the BMW X5 clocked in as the fourth best-selling plug-in hybrid in the country, trailing only the Chevrolet Volt and Ford’s two Energi models—the Fusion and C-Max—none of which could be considered competitors.
What Does “X5 xDrive40e” Mean?
First, let’s decipher BMW’s classic meaningful, but obscure and idiosyncratic German nomenclature. X5 indicates the size of the vehicle, which in this case is midsize (tucked between the compact X3 and the rumored full-size X7, which has yet to appear). xDrive is BMW code for an all-wheel drive vehicle. Finally 40e has two meanings—the 40 telling you it’s a four-cylinder engine and the “e” hinting that it’s a plug-in model.
But what do all those letters and numbers really mean? BMW is now offering the closest thing to a guilt-free SUV. With this smooth beast you can get true luxury inside and out, 308 horsepower—and 56 mpge.
The “mpge” is always a little confusing because it’s a number pulled out of a test cycle. The problem with test cycles, of course, is that nobody drives test cycles—they drive in the real world. In the real world a fully charged BMW X5 xDrive40e will give you about 13 miles of driving on electricity alone, after which the hybrid system kicks in. Running on gasoline only you’ll get about 24 mpg from this 5,220-pound vehicle.
In our real-world driving we can verify the electric-only range and the BMW turned in 20+ mpg on the highway and 15-20 around town. It’s no Prius, but what Prius can carry five full-size adults and luggage around in such luxury, power and comfort?
Torque was plentiful and you were never reminded that there were only four cylinders under the hood, probably because the TwinPower Turbo four punched out 240 horsepower and the eDrive electric motor added another 111 horsepower (no, the numbers are not additive) and the low-end torque (a total of 332 lb-ft) you expect from an electric motor.
Real World Technology
The 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e was a dream to drive in the real world. The gas and electric motive systems were well-integrated and 9 KWh, 351-volt battery pack added its punch whenever asked.
The eco-luxury life in white
BMW’s advertised 0-60 of 6.5 seconds puts this good-sized SUV in the performance territory of many sports cars.
This car’s natural habitat is the highway. It’s a smooth runner that still keeps you connected to the road. You feel the changes in surfaces and have a steering system that instantly responds to any command. It takes a very light touch to ensure this car keeps on track. The “intelligent” all-wheel drive system, Dynamic Performance Control in BMW-speak, distributes the power between rear wheels and front-to-rear. Even though this is a tall SUV (Sport Activity Vehicle in BMW-speak), the two-piece anti-roll bars and Dynamic Damper Control give the BMW a more car-like ride.
Loaded with tech; homework for the owner
The tech in the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e is not all hidden in the undercarriage. The cameras and sensors in the car are state-of-the-art, covering the front, rear, side and top! With them the visible environment while driving and parking is expanded and safety is enhanced. You can get used to all of this assistance very quickly.
The SUV also has hill descend help, a parking assistant, night vision with pedestrian detection, advanced cruise control with stop-and-go capability and an active driving assistant, heads-up display, active blind spot detection, a navigation system and automatic high beams. It’s not all standard, but as you might expect the standard feature list is substantial and the options go on for tens of thousands of dollars. Our test car was loaded and every technology we tried worked well and made driving or parking easier. Even the once-despised iDrive (the knob that controls the variety of technology shown in the 10.2-inch touchscreen display) has shaped up and is now intuitive to use.
If you’ve got the time, the BMW offers its drivers a plethora of options and opportunities with 20-way multi-contour seats and programmable buttons scattered across the dash. Upgrades for the audio system come from Bang & Olufsen or Harman Kardon. Rear seat passengers can have their own entertainment systems, of course.
Make no mistake about the BMW X5; it is a luxury vehicle. The base trim level is called Luxury Line. From there you can move up to the xLine and finally the M Sport. The changes at each level involve different non-functional cosmetic adornments for the SUV, until you get to the M Sport level where you get a “sport” automatic transmission.
Approaching the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e at night you are greeted by subtle lighting around the door handles (a nice touch). Once inside you’ll have mood lighting illuminating the cabin, which will allow you to appreciate the heavy stitching found on the dash and throughout the interior. You might even be able to see the deeply grained wood trim.
The X5 is large. As we mentioned, fitting five adults in this oversize wagon is easily done. You lose the optional third row of seating because of the battery pack, but little storage space is sacrificed.
Batteries below, but functional space above
What is 23 cubic feet expands to 66 cu. ft. when the 40/20/40 split rear seat is folded down.
Access from the rear is through a two-part tailgate. The majority of it lifts up, but a smaller tailgate folds down to extend. The rear is equipped with cargo nets, a tensioning strap and several fastening points.
Safety and Warranties
We early detailed the standard and optional safety technology on the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e. As might be expected in a luxury car, on impact airbags will spring from virtually every angle around the interior to protect occupants. The Institute for Highway Safety rates the X5 as good in its two crash tests (moderate overlap front and side) and notes that with optional equipment (Driver Assistance Plus) is rated Superior on front crash prevention. Government testing NHTSA gave the X5 an overall 5-star rating.
Warranties on the plug-in X5:
Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
Roadside Assistance – Four years/unlimited miles
Rust Perforation – 12 years
High-voltage Battery – Eight years/80,000 miles
BMW Ultimate Service – Three years/36,000 miles
As close to guilt-free as you can get in a midsize luxury SUV
In its third generation the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e has entered the electric era. With a modest all-electric range augmented by a fairly efficient, small gas engine, the SUV delivers reasonable fuel economy along with a healthy dose of luxury trim and an abundance of helpful standard and optional technology. It’s a big, heavy machine, but remains nimble on the road. Dare we say it even retains the kind of sporty road feel and handling you would expect from a BMW vehicle. It’s quieter than your gas or diesel models, something you might notice cruising along the freeway. The reason behind the silence is revealed when you notice the tachometer is pegged a zero, indicating the car has shifted into all-electric mode. The guilt of spending so much on such a large vehicle melts away as you slip past another gas station and head for a charging station.
The 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e has a starting price of $62,100 plus a $995 destination charge. As tested, loaded with optional equipment, our model totaled $73,545, including that destination charge. All of the options were certainly not critical, but many were nice to have and most of the safety-related technology is highly recommended.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.