Brighter sparks



What is your opin­ion re­gard­ing lux­ury hy­brid SUVs? Which is the over­all win­ner based on econ­omy, stan­dard gear, value, space and per­for­mance? I’m look­ing at the Mercedes GLE 500e, BMW X5 40e and Volvo XC90 T8.

Vu Via Plug-in hy­brids are a smart buy for those who travel rel­a­tively short dis­tances to and from work. They prom­ise the best of both worlds — elec­tric driv­ing for up to 30km with the back-up of an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine to al­lay range anx­i­ety. These three have a big phys­i­cal foot­print and weigh more than two tonnes, yet match or bet­ter the thirst of a Toy­ota Prius. We’re quot­ing mak­ers’ fuel claims but it is worth com­par­ing your po­ten­tial pur­chases on the green­ve­hi­ site where the ve­hi­cles are rated for elec­tri­cal con­sump­tion per kilo­me­tre … and the Volvo doesn’t do as well as the fuel fig­ure in­di­cates.


Mercedes-Benz GLE 500e, $124,900

The Benz wins the pace race at an im­pres­sive 5.3 sec­onds from rest to 100km/h. At that point you are tap­ping into a com­bined 325kW/650Nm from the elec­tric mo­tor and the 3.0-litre V6 turbo. The reg­u­lar GLE’s 690L cargo area drops to 480L here be­cause Benz, not un­rea­son­ably, put the bat­ter­ies in the boot. The extra load­ing height may be an is­sue with heavy items. Drop the seats and cargo space is 1800L. Claimed fuel econ­omy is 3.3L/100km us­ing pre­mium fuel. Ac­tive driv­ing aids are stan­dard and the Benz rides on air sus­pen­sion.

BMW X5 40e, $124,200

It trails the op­po­si­tion with a claimed 6.8 sec­onds for the 0-100km/h sprint. The 2.0-litre turbo en­gine pairs with an 83kW mo­tor for a com­bined 230kW/ 450Nm, claim­ing 3.3L/100km if you’re not try­ing to match the sprint time. The X5 wants 98 RON fuel, as does the Volvo. Cargo ca­pac­ity is 500L, grow­ing to 1720L with the rear seats folded. Lane de­par­ture alert and what BMW calls “light city brak­ing” are stan­dard, along with a 10-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen. The X5 also rides on adap­tive air sus­pen­sion.

Volvo XC90 T8, $120,900

The Volvo cedes a lit­tle on boot space at 430L but more than atones with seven-seat ca­pac­ity. Fold ev­ery­thing flat and it wins with 1868L. The XC90 was engi­neered as a hy­brid and the bat­ter­ies are packed along the chas­sis rather than mak­ing the cargo area smaller or higher. The 2.0-litre twin-charge en­gine, in con­cert with the elec­tric mo­tor, can crank out 300kW/640Nm. That dis­patches the 0-100km/h run in 5.6 sec­onds. Claimed fuel use is just 2.1L/100km (good luck with that in the real world). Rear cross-traf­fic alert and au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing are among the stan­dard fea­tures yet the likes of dig­i­tal ra­dio can only be found in the op­tions.


Porsche Cayenne S E-hy­brid, $145,500

Com­bined power from the su­per­charged 3.0-litre and 70kW mo­tor is 309kW/590Nm, de­liv­er­ing a 0-100km/h time of 5.9 sec­onds. Of­fi­cial fuel use is 3.4L/100km. Lug­gage space is 580L, ex­pand­ing to 1690L with the rear seats folded. Ac­tive driv­ing aids are a con­spic­u­ous omis­sion in this com­pany — you’re meant to drive a Porsche, not have a Porsche drive you — but the rest of the pack­age is on a par and the cabin, while fes­tooned with more but­tons, looks and feels hand-built.


If you can af­ford it,the Porsche is the best all-round drive. If the bud­get doesn’t stretch that far, I’d look closely at the BMW on the ba­sis it is a marginally bet­ter drive than the Merc. It might just de­pend on what value you put on the badge.

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