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