The big plug-in hybrid SUV has come a long way in five years. Back then a real-world electric range of less than 20 miles wasn’t unheard of, and a diesel would annihilate it for economy when the battery emptied. Now, all these contenders have decent economy whether you're using just electric, just engine or both.

Transition­s between e-motor and engine occur smoothly and swiftly, and the increase in range hasn’t come at the expense of cabin space. Real progress.

You could argue a compelling case for any one of these cars, but in this test we’re particular­ly focused on their qualities as plug-in hybrids, which makes it easier to pick a winner.

Its PHEV figures are just enough to tip the Cayenne into last place. Yes, it performed slightly better than the Range Rover for e‰ciency, but the electric range is the smallest here. That said, it’s a wonderful car, with great handling, and its bulk disappears except under heavy braking. Would the more powerful S E-Hybrid version have finished higher? Maybe.

Narrowly beating it is the Range Rover, despite having the biggest thirst for both petrol and volts. It possesses all the Range Rover attributes we already know and love. It’s far pricier than the others, but it’s money well spent if you want a luxury vehicle with high levels of comfort and class. The powertrain in this test car will soon be replaced; we expect great things from the updated P460e and P550e.

However, it’s the X5 50e that wins this test, picking up where the 45e left off. Yes, this one is fitted with an awful lot of options, yet it still undercuts this Range Rover by £30k despite having so much equipment. Does it feel as luxurious? No, but it’s certainly not as far away as that price gap would have you believe. It’s not far off the fun provided by the Cayenne, either.

And then there’s the hybrid bit to consider. We know BMW’s six-cylinder engines are uncannily e‰cient, and it seems to sprinkle the same special sauce on its batteries and electric motors. The X5 really is an astonishin­gly effective PHEV.

On top of having the longest range and best electric e‰ciency of these cars, it’s also the most frugal when being driven with an uncharged battery, and feels the punchiest in electric-only mode. It satisfies both head and heart, and is head and shoulders above the other two, even though both are very good, and much improved on previous generation­s of SUV PHEVs.

 ?? ?? Hybrid power makes these SUVs part of the solution, not the problem
Hybrid power makes these SUVs part of the solution, not the problem

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