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2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e: Test Drive

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e
2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e in Arctic Grey Metallic (a $550 option)

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

Class: Premium Midsize Crossover SUV

Miles driven: 213

Fuel used: 5.8 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 36.7 mpg

Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceB+
Fit and FinishA
Fuel EconomyA
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyA
Tall GuyA
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs389-hp 3.0-liter
Engine TypeTurbo 6-cylinder plug-in hybrid
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Drive WheelsAWD

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 50 MPGe/20 mpg city/highway combined

Fuel type: Premium gas recommended

Base price: $65,400 (not including $995 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Arctic Grey Metallic paint ($550), Drivers Assistance Pro Package ($1700), M Sport Package ($5500), Executive Package ($4050), 21-inch M wheels style 741M w/ performance run-flat tires ($950), M sport brakes with blue calipers ($650), trailer hitch ($550), front and rear heated seats ($350), heated steering wheel and front-seat armrests ($250), multi-contour seats ($750)

Price as tested: $81,695


Quick Hits

The great: Satisfying power with excellent fuel economy; polished ride/handling balance

The good: High-class cabin; cargo versatility

The not so good: Some complicated controls; plug-in-hybrid powertrain doesn’t feel particularly “BMW-esque”

More X5 price and availability information


John Biel

A lot of vehicles would be fortunate to ride and drive like a Honda. A BMW just shouldn’t be one of them.

That, however, is the comparison that can be drawn after wheeling the xDrive45e plug-in hybrid that joins the BMW X5 line of premium-midsize SUVs for 2021. The Bavarian is the scion of a dynastic line of athletic and engaging vehicles prized for their sharp steering and handling with buck-stops-here braking. While there’s absolutely nothing amiss with the sophisticated subtlety of ride comfort and ease of handling built into most Hondas—a zillion customers can’t be wrong—it’s just not the BMW way. In anything wearing the blue-and-white roundel such performance simply feels anodyne.

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The BMW X5 lineup sees the return of a plug-in-hybrid model for 2021. Compared to the previous-gen X5 PHEV, the xDrive45e makes about 80 more horsepower and offers about twice the pure-electric driving range.

At a starting price of $66,395 with delivery, the hybrid Bimmer has all the looks and features of its brandmates, and engine performance is true to form but with the benefit of much better fuel economy. Dynamically, though, it somehow feels uncharacteristically soft, muted . . . “safe.” Braking is no worse than in any other hybrid and a darn sight better than most, but there still is some of the usual vagueness in the energy-capturing regenerative phase that isn’t very BMW-like.

The all-wheel-drive X5 xDrive45e is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor for a system total of 389 horsepower (that’s 54 more ponies than the inline six generates in the gas-only 40i models). The engine is smooth and strong with plenty of torque. The velvety 8-speed automatic transmission, which comes with steering-wheel paddle shifters, kicks down smartly for prompt and smooth highway passing.

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Like all X5s, the xDrive45e boasts a sleek, sophisticated dashboard design, but our testers found some controls tedious.

As a plug-in hybrid, the 45e has a drive battery large enough (24 kWh) to support limited all-electric operation. BMW says that when fully charged it is capable of traveling an estimated 30 miles on electric power alone—a range that’s still within the scope of many drivers’ normal commutes. When this driver started his test stint with a full charge, indicated electric range was 33 miles and out on the road it essentially lived up to that. A partial charge from home yielded 11 indicated miles, but with regeneration from braking kicking in to the kitty that lasted 13.6 miles. In fact, of the 67.4 miles he drove, 53.8 of them were reported as having been under electric power. When the charge does run out, the transition from all-electric to hybrid operation is almost imperceptible.

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There’s excellent space in both the front and back seats, and the seats themselves are comfortable and supportive. Upholstery materials are top-notch, too; our test vehicle was trimmed in Ivory White Vernasca leather.

BMW claims it takes from four to 5.3 hours to attain a full charge from a 240-volt “level-2” charger. The 45e is equipped with a cable (though not an especially long one) that permits charging via 120-volt household current, but that takes a reported 17.7 hours. With the assistance of all-electric and hybrid driving, this reviewer’s gas mileage in a stint consisting of 60 percent city-type driving worked out to 49.2 mpg. (The EPA MPGe figure for the vehicle is 50 in combined driving.) Another CG editor plugged in only once and drove almost 150 miles on a single full charge, bringing our aggregate fuel economy down to 36.7 mpg. An automatic stop/start function is standard to help with gas savings.

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The X5’s cargo volume is about par for the two-row premium-midsize-SUV course, but the two-part liftgate arrangement gets mixed reviews from our editors. While the lower gate makes for a longer loading floor and can serve as a tailgating seat, it also makes it more difficult to retrieve items from farther back in the cargo area.

Newly standard for all 2021 X5s is SiriusXM satellite radio. That’s great, but to use it means going through “Live Cockpit Pro,” the reigning generation of BMW’s iDrive infotainment center. It is viewed on a 12.3-inch screen that rises out of the middle of the dash but is operated via a console dial, and good luck with that. Things are packed into things. Where, logically, is the function that you wish to access? Under “Car?” Under “Settings?” Where? There are so many places to look, and descriptions are not always clear as to what lurks within. Inputting radio presets was easier than actually finding the radio display in the first place.

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The xDrive45e’s charging port is located on the driver’s side front fender, and there’s a shallow underfloor storage bin in the rear cargo area that serves as a storage spot for the included charger cable.

The new hybrid settles into an X5 series that dates its current form to 2019. This by-now-familiar design provides ample legroom and headroom for five (including the potential for seating for three adults in the rear), a high degree of cabin comfort, and lots of good sightlines for drivers. Convenient personal-item storage facilities are scattered about the cabin. A power 2-part tailgate eases loading onto a flat cargo floor. Underfloor space in the 45e’s cargo area is pretty much taken up by the charger cord. The cargo floor rises at a slight angle but this helps it to sit flush with the backs of the second-row 40/20/40-split seats when they are retracted to expand loading capacity.

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A turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder pairs with an electric motor for a total system output of 389 horsepower. Our test vehicle was equipped with 21-inch M wheels ($950) and M Sport brakes with blue calipers ($650).

An extensive option load raised the final price of CG’s test vehicle to a considerable $81,695 and it replaced some standard features with items like 4-zone climate control, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, and 21-inch alloy wheels. It might surprise some buyers to find out that things like wireless charging, a WiFi hotspot, and heated seats and steering wheel cost extra on a vehicle that starts above $65,000. Other standard items included LED headlights with automatic high-beam control; Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility; 16-way-adjustable front seats with driver’s-seat memory; rear-axle air suspension; ambient lighting; and a suite with frontal collision warning, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot detection. Further driver assists were installed through the $1700 Drivers Assistance Professional Package with lane-keep assist; Active Side-Collision protection; and Extended Traffic Jam Assistant that provides light-autonomy capability on limited-access highways.

The X5 line covers a lot of bases through its various models, and the xDrive45e stands out from the pack by dint of its considerably heightened fuel economy at no real sacrifice to luxury. It’s just too bad that it can’t seem more like them from behind the wheel.

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The BMW X5 xDrive45e offers notably improved fuel economy over the rest of the X5 lineup–particularly in short-trip daily commuting, if you’re diligent about plugging in–and it’s every bit as luxurious too. However, the plug-in-hybrid powertrain sometimes compromises the athletic, engaging driving character that is a BMW hallmark.

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2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

BMW X5 xDrive45e

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BMW X5 xDrive45e

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