Extended fun? – Only in a BMW i3

BMW’s latest version of the (almost) iconic i3 is the best yet. It has more range, produces 170bhp and can silently whisk to 60mph in 7.3 seconds. It also costs more – £37,220 with the must-have Range Extender (RX) option.

The 33 kWh motor does a fine job but the i3’s secret weapon is that RX – a 647cc petrol engine that will serve up an extra 50 miles of range if the batteries run flat. It looks quirky but the i3 is a seriously useful piece of kit….

Range anxiety – it is every EV owner’s nightmare. I got used to it in the BMW but there’s always a calculation going on in my head comparing the distance to destination with miles left in the battery.

The funky i3 it comes with the option of the Range Extender, a tiny, two-cylinder petrol engine that offers an extra 40-50 miles to get you home. Brilliant.

If that sounds like cheating then save the extra £3,000 and go completely green because the latest 2018 model has plenty of power from the batteries alone.

BMW claim it will manage 186 miles on battery power alone – realistically, you can expect around 150 miles between charges.

The i3 isn’t that big but it’s the best small, premium electric vehicle you can buy. It looks great and drives even better.

Rear-hinged back doors make for a massive opening space into the cabin, which is a very cool and relaxing place to sit.

For most people it will come down to two things – the oddball looks and the price. It’s a more eye-catching alternative to the VW e-Golf but some might prefer to keep their green machine under the radar.

The hybrid BMW X5 is not the pick of the bunch


Are you a BMW or a Mercedes fan? You can’t be both. The motoring world is split between the two – with a little Audiness going on in the background.

I never considered myself old enough to drive a Merc, although I once owned a smashing W123 that was the coolest estate on four wheels. It took me to France and never missed a beat.

But I did have two 3 Series, which were fantastically user-friendly and sporty around the edges. I’d buy another (especially the 335d), which suggests I’m more BM than I might like to admit.

So feeling slightly unsatisfied with the X5 hybrid has rather taken me by surprise. An SUV that looks highly appealing on paper is actually something of a let down in the metal.

Really, it all comes down to the powertrain. Somehow that 2.0 petrol and electic motor combo don’t quite work. It’s not smooth enough, or economical enough to prevent me choosing a diesel version every time.

Shame. I was looking forward to the 4.0e a lot.

Hamster horror in the BMW X5


In days of old, when windows opened with a funny little handle in the door and intermittent windscreen wipers were but a dream, rain could be a bloody nuisance.

Wipers needed replacing all the time and would often shred themselves when confronted by anything bigger than a large fly. Replacing blades involved cut fingers and much cursing.

The X5 has wipers that doe everything, as you might expect for £56k. Surprisingly, they also have the X Factor – the uncanny ability to impersonate a hamster.

It’s been raining all weekend in the Shire and every drive has been accompanied by ‘squeaky hamster’ wipers. This was amusing at first, almost comical, then frustrating, and now I’m ready to rip the wipers off at the next available opportunity.

Got an enetrtaining set of windscreen wipers – let us know what yours sound like…

Chips with everything – just not the BMW X5 hybrid



Incredible how carrying a heavy load can affect mpg. Yesterday I loaded the X5 with 300kg of wood chips for my burner – the best I could achieve was 23mpg.

That’s quite a lot of chips but considering this hybrid Beemer is meant to top out at 85.6mpg, I was unpleasantly surprised.

The 111bhp electric motor was no use in this situation, the X5 was suddenly too heavy for anything but the 2.0-litre petrol engine which had to kick in – and it struggled.

Minus the wood chips, the X5 is a smooth and elegant drive. Power take-up can snatch under harsh acceleration and it also eats into the stored battery power.

So far I’ve experienced nothing in this car to tempt me away from the diesel…

I wish a hybrid car maker would tell the truth about miles per gallon – please!


I wish a hybrid manufacturer would actually tell the truth about miles per gallon. I’d really respect whoever did it first because right now, they are legally telling fibs.

They’re all at it – all of em. And it’s not really their fault. The official mpg test is the same for every car – petrol, diesel or hybrid – but massively favours hybrids.

It’s totally unfair because here in the real world, where everyone except Donald Trump lives, the kind of claims they make are totally unachievable and can often be bettered by the same model fitted with a diesle engine.

BMW claim our X5 can do more than 80mpg but really it will only achieve about 44mpg. That’s roughly the same as the 40d diesel.

Yes, you may save a few hundred quid on road tax and be able to drive in London for free but the hybrid already costs a couple of grand more to buy in the first place.

And after a day with the hybrid, I have to say the diesel is actually a much better drive…

Has the BMW X5 come of age – or is it now just another soft-roader?


The BMW X5 was something special at launch in 1999. We’d never had a SUV that was quite so exciting to drive – it was cool. Then BMW couldn’t decide if it was a sports car, or an off-road multi-purpose family-mobile thing and, perhaps not surprisingly, it all went a bit Pete Tong.

The current X5 is supposed to be the best of both worlds – not quite a Land Rover Discovery for practicality, not as entertaining as a Porsche Macan but a very good compromise all the same.

And then we have the hybrid version. It’s not a 4.0-litre diesel as the name suggests but a 2.0 petrol with four cylinders, plus a 111bhp electric motor that when combined churns out 309bhp.

The problem is, the 3.0 diesel X5 is cheaper and offers exceptional real-world economy already. What does the heavier ‘e’ add – apart from a chance to drive through town in complete silence (well, for the max range of 25 electric miles, at least)?

Join us over the next seven days to find out…

You will never fall in love with the capable BMW 225xe Active Tourer…


I feel sensible. Well, I do driving the BMW 225 Active Tourer. As hybrid four-wheel drive MPVs go, the Beemer is just about the most sensible car money can buy.

It will carry you and your family around the country, make you feel good about helping the environment and that BMW badge will always have the edge over the likes of Ford, Peugeot or Skoda.

This is premium MPV with a full load of technology on board. The hybrid powertrain works faultlessly, the cabin is refined and upmarket – even the infotainment system is a cut above and the air con was life-saver in today’s mini heatwave.

The question is – would you buy one at £35,000? I suspect for the many the answer is no, even with all the tax savings and benefits of a petrol-electric.

A likeable car but not a model you could ever fall in love with…



The BMW Active Tourer is expensive – and let’s face it, the MPV will still be trashed by your kids


I can think of more versatile MPVs than the Active Tourer but few are as well screwed together. This is, after all, a school run-mobile and will therefore be treated to a severe battering of sticky fingers and muddy feet.

My assorted step-children had a habit of taking a crayon to the fold down tables in a Renault Espace. They would press sweet wrappers into every nook and cranny. Back seat magazine pockets were really designed to be rubbish bins.

Whether you are prepared to pay £35k for the hybrid Active Tourer and then see it trashed, slowly, slowly over many months, is up to you!

I think I might be tempted to opt for the cheaper VW Golf SV diesel instead and bank the money I save. Even if I do then have to pay the London Congestion Charge…

Most BMWs are fun drives – the Active Tourer 225xe has missed out somewhere…


Clarkson described the new Fiat 124 Spyder as ‘an elephant on a unicycle’ in today’s Sunday Times. Basing the larger bodyshell of the Fiat on the smaller Mazda MX-5 chassis just ruined a great sports car.

There’s something of that about the Active Tourer. Underneath that bland MPV is a BMW 2 Series – the same basic platform that hosts the rather brilliant M2.

This is hard to comprehend as the one pleasure missing from the 225xe is the joy of driving. Despite a nippy 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds and all the inherent sportiness of BMW in general, it really sucks.

Dad or mum aren’t going to get many thrills after doing the school run. The hybrid technolog is great to boast about at dinner parties but really, the xe needs an injection of ‘fun’ to merit the price tag…

The BMW 225xe is a class act – even at the price


Don’t ask me why but I feel like I’ve driven the future today. The BMW 225xe is an unremarkable looking car – quite possibly the dullest Beemer that I’ve seen in years.

Yet beneath that MPV exterior is a technology packed drivetrain that does just about everything. Four-wheel drive, hybrid technology, slick auto gearbox, oh, and it’s front-wheel drive unlike most BMWs. Which means you won’t get stuck in snow, like most BMWs.

There are petrol and diesel versions too. The hybrid is going to cost you around £3,000 more than the equivalent petrol but if you keep the battery charged and use it around town, the xe won’t use any petrol at all.

It may be small and expensive at £35k but it feel like a classy car. And there’s so much technology going on – I like it!