Automotive

Review: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, the return of a pioneering plug-in hybrid

Review: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e,...
Despite its large size, the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is surprisingly nimble and quick
Despite its large size, the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is surprisingly nimble and quick
View 8 Images
Despite its large size, the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is surprisingly nimble and quick
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Despite its large size, the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is surprisingly nimble and quick
Because the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is so large, the beaver tooth grille on today's BMW models looks less toothy
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Because the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is so large, the beaver tooth grille on today's BMW models looks less toothy
The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, unlike combustion-only models, does not have a third row option and loses about 1 cubic foot of cargo space
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The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, unlike combustion-only models, does not have a third row option and loses about 1 cubic foot of cargo space
The dual tailgate setup on the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, a commonality amongst larger European models, is beneficial in many ways
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The dual tailgate setup on the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, a commonality amongst larger European models, is beneficial in many ways
Rear seating in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, while not as adjustable as up front, is comfortable enough for everyday use
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Rear seating in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e, while not as adjustable as up front, is comfortable enough for everyday use
Dual 12.3-inch screens in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e make the instrument cluster easier to read and the infotainment more
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Dual 12.3-inch screens in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e make the instrument cluster easier to read
The controls layout in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is easy to understand, but the M Sport package (shown) adds little
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The controls layout in the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is easy to understand, but the M Sport package (shown) adds little
Obligatory plug pic of the electrified vehicle, this time a 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e
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Obligatory plug pic of the electrified vehicle, this time a 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e
View gallery - 8 images

When BMW redesigned the X5 in 2019 it became larger and more accommodating while retaining its driver-centric nature and smart interior, but the hybrid model went missing from the lineup. This year sees the return of the plug-in hybrid, along with some efficiency upgrades ... and losses.

Dubbed the xDrive45e, the plug-in X5 is part of the fourth generation of the X5 and is the second generation of the hybrid model. This version has far more range than its predecessor, with all-electric driving set at about 30 miles (48.3 km) per charge. It’s larger than many other mid-sized SUVs , offering more interior room, but it’s worth noting that the hybrid model drops the third row option.

BMW X5 xDrive45e at a glance:

  • Efficient for its size, but not as efficient as might be advertised
  • Far more all-electric range than its predecessor
  • Very drivable; almost sports car-like
Obligatory plug pic of the electrified vehicle, this time a 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e
Obligatory plug pic of the electrified vehicle, this time a 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is not quite as fuel efficient as its predecessor, being EPA rated at 50 MPGe with a fully charged battery. The non-hybrid X5 is highway rated at 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km). With a full battery on a 42-mile (67.6-km) loop (about half of which was electric-only driving), our X5 hybrid returned 46 mpg (5.1 l/100km). Those numbers, while not quite as impressive as the previous-gen X5 plug-in, are still very good for the class, but fall short of the city-heavy EPA rating on the sticker.

Changes to the powertrain are the main difference between the X5 xDrive45e when compared to the rear-wheel or all-wheel drive combustion-only models of the X5. The four-cylinder engine of the previous-gen hybrid was dropped in favor of the more standard six and the battery pack is now a heavier 17.1-kWh (usable capacity) unit to provide the longer range. The electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and transmission, which means that the standard all-wheel drive in the plug-in works whether in EV mode or hybrid.

Combined system output is 389 horsepower (290 kW) and 443 pound-feet (600.6 Nm) of torque, which are higher numbers than in the previous-gen hybrid X5. The straight-six is turbocharged and the transmission is an eight-speed automatic tuned for the combined total. Both are the same units used in the non-hybrid model. The motor adds about 111 hp (82.7 kW) and 195 lb-ft (264.4 Nm) to the six’s outputs to get the combined rating.

Together, the combination of engine and motor give the X5 hybrid a surprisingly fast sprint of under five seconds to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) to go with its nimble driving quality. BMW definitely wanted to keep the X5 a driver’s car despite a curb weight of nearly 5,700 lb (2,585.5 kg) in the hybrid model.

Like most plug-in hybrids, the X5 charges at a slower rate than a full EV. Our level 2 charger, capable of up to 40 amps of output, charged the X5 hybrid in about six hours due to the Bimmer’s maximum input of only 16.6 amps. This makes having a level 2 charger somewhat pointless with the X5, as a 120V/15A standard outlet charges the battery from empty in about nine hours – assuming no circuit sharing. But that is the point of a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) – it offers the best of both worlds and doesn’t require added investment in equipment. It just runs as-is. If the battery’s not fully charged, or even charged at all, the PHEV will still run.

Because the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is so large, the beaver tooth grille on today's BMW models looks less toothy
Because the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is so large, the beaver tooth grille on today's BMW models looks less toothy

Standard features in the 2021 X5 are plentiful, starting with adaptive headlamps, 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a like-sized touchscreen for infotainment (with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and a lot of other niceties. Lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise are also standard. A handful of options are available à la carte, and some packages add a few useful things like four-zone climate, a Wi-Fi hotspot, rear window shades, and stop-and-go traffic assist for the cruise control. The M Sport package adds larger wheels and M Sport decor.

For us, though, the act of driving the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e was the most enjoyable part of it. The X5 is car-like in its handling: nimble and responsive. It’s comfortable for everyday driving and easy to understand when maneuvering and parking. In all-electric mode (the default whenever there is enough battery juice), the BMW X5 works up to 84 mph (135 km/h). That and the 30 miles of range cover most user’s daily driving needs without using any gasoline. Which, again, is the point of a PHEV.

The 2021 X5 xDrive45e is priced starting at US$65,400 before tax credits and delivery charges. Only very minor changes are expected for the 2022 model year.

Product page: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

View gallery - 8 images
5 comments
5 comments
DB
Love my X5 45e! I was surprised with the pep of the motor and it provides a quiet, luxurious ride around town. I do a lot of highway miles. Even so, I’ve averaged 44mpg over the last 7 months. My experience with changing is different. A wall outlet takes about 24 hours to charge from zero and my level-2 unit does it in just over 4 hours. Mine is the same color as your tester but has the blacked out trim, which makes the big grill blend in well.
Aaron MacTurpen
@DB: charge times vary considerably when the plug in question is dedicated vs shared. My 240V charger is on a dedicated circuit and so it produces the maximum amps every time. When I test a vehicle using a 120V outlet, I use a dedicated circuit there as well, which most people will not. No doubt your 120V household plug also has things like freezers, lights, etc. also running on its same circuit, which lowers amperage output to the vehicle. I have a friend with a Volt who usually just charged via his garage wall outlet (120) and it routinely takes over 15 hours because of the other things also on that circuit.
MJB
We love our X5 45E. After 20,000 miles, the battery (and power grid) provided 25% (5,000 miles) of power. This varies based on driving patterns: for the first few months, battery powered 60-70 percent of miles driven. With a change in driving including several cross country trips and frequent 100 mile round trips across town, we have averaged down to 25% battery power. Our experience charging the BMW X5e on low voltage (wall outlet, 110-120) in the US takes close to 24 hours (from zero) and is not practical. The level 2 charger charges in 5 hours or so.

Level 2 charging has not been practical when traveling cross country: leaving the car for five hours at a charger while we are in a hotel is not practical. We have plugged in low voltage while camping and at air bnbs, --- and we get a few miles for electric driving each day.

We have become a real fan of the self-driving feature. With the bimmer, you have to keep your hand on the wheel (for safety reasons). For long trips on interstate, we have driven 100+ miles without needing to steer. We arrive much less fatigued at our destination after 8-12 hours in the car.

Living in a large city (40 miles one-way trips necessary), a plug-in hybrid works for us. The internal combustion engine gets us home, and is available for frequent long trips. The battery is great around town.


Pritam Saha
Drove over 15000 miles on mine and i have a 50.2mpge. So, i would say its living up to its advertised efficiency pretty well.
foxpup
This would have been fanatstic with 100 miles EV range so you would never have to use gas for (reasonable) regular commuting but would have the gas capability for going on long trips, far from (not so always available/reliable) charging stations. Such vehicles could actually be practical in ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX where something in an EV would be nice but the charging situation is unacceptable with little chance of becoming otherwise any time soon no matter what Biden/Pelosi say or try to do.