2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e review
Luxury and power are as ubiquitous as peanut butter and chocolate. BMW knows that and blends the two with just a smidge of social consciousness in its latest X5 mid-size SUV/crossover.
Its full name is X5 xDrive45e.
What that means is that the power now comes from a plug-in hybrid system that combines a mild 48-volt hybrid’s electric power with a silky 3.0-liter inline-6 with twin turbos. The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e has 389 horsepower and it’s as smooth and seamless as any engine or hybrid system on the market.
Stepping on the accelerator still delivers a velvety romp up to triple digit speeds, but now with the hybrid’s electric power you can toddle around town for 30 miles using only the electric power. The BMW X5 xDrive45e can toggle between Sport, Hybrid, Electric or Adaptive on the console and use or conserve your electric charge.
I switched to Sport as I was heading onto the freeway knowing I’d need that electric power when I got downtown. If you’re going to be cutting your car’s emissions, doing so in a more congested urban area makes the most sense.
The plug-in works like all others I’ve driven. Pull the plug and charger from the compartment under the hatch’s floor and plug into a standard 120-volt outlet in the garage. You get about one mile of charge per hour of plug-in time. Charging it overnight I ended up with 15 more miles. That means I can use no gas running to the grocery store, running errands, or wherever in the neighborhood. Plug in again and the next day I’m likely at a full charge for a longer drive.
Combined with the gas power I got 28.3 mpg and this is rated from 20 mpg gas-only, up to 50 mpge on electric.
Forget about the hybrid system, which is easy to do while driving, and the X5 still remains one of the top mid-size luxury SUVs. It’s big and feels it at 5,646 pounds. This is a BMW, so it handles well, turns into corners with a fair amount of precision and is easy to keep in its lane on the freeway.
Most surprising was the excellent ride, but it does feature an air suspension system that once you’ve ridden on it you’ll wish it were on every SUV in the market. Trust me, I’ve had nice SUVs in the past, but few coddle like this one.
The xDrive moniker means the BMW has AWD so it is great in sleet, slush and snow. The $650 M Sport brake package gives it excellent stopping power plus the calipers are a snazzy blue, which was a nice accent to the Arctic Gray Metallic, $550 extra paint scheme. That’s dark gray with a hint of blue sparkle in it.
Boosting the X5’s looks is the M Sport package itself that adds $5,500 to the price, an already stout $66,395. For that you get all sorts of trim and appearance upgrades — including Shadowline exterior trim, aluminum tetragonal interior trim, high-gloss Shadowline roof rails, Vernasca leather seat trim, an M steering wheel and M Star-spoke bi-color wheels and an aero kit to smooth out airflow over the boxy body.
The other major add-on is the Executive Package, which from its name lets you know who may not be able to afford this. At $4,050 it adds a huge panoramic Sky Lounge sunroof and shade, rear manual side sunshades, 4-zone climate control, a head-up display, wireless phone charger, Harmon Kardon surround sound system with gesture control, a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth and Icon adaptive LED headlights with Laser light.
Gesture control means a driver can rotate a finger clockwise in front of the infotainment screen and it will turn up radio volume, or the other way to crank down the sound. While on the stereo, the big 12.3-inch touchscreen also includes eight radio memory buttons under the screen, getting back to old-school channel selection.
The X5’s interior is, as you’d expect, a snazzy leather stronghold with white leather seats in the test vehicle, plus white lower trim on the doors and dash, the tops of which are black. That Vernasca leather is real leather but with a stamped artificial grain and artificial coatings that makes for easy cleaning.
There’s also a spectacular jewel-like metal trim — tetragon shaped and part of the M Sport package — that graces the dash and console, with a metal clad cubby door able to retract over much of the console to reveal the wireless charger and cup holders. Satin chrome trim also accents the leather-clad steering wheel and the door releases.
Seats are comfy, as they should be. But BMW enhances its power controls here with $750 multi-contour seats, meaning they have multiple lumbar and side bolster adjustments. Plus the lower seat cushion can be extended to aid long-legged drivers. Seat memory buttons are included too.
To add heated front and rear seats costs $350 extra and $250 more for the steering wheel and armrests to be heated. I’d expect heated seats and wheel to be standard at this high-end luxury pricing, and the armrests. Oh, and no cooled seats here, which most $50,000 vehicles offer those as standard now.
As for safety equipment, the X5 includes what you’d expect, plus adds a Drivers Assist Pro-package with extended traffic jam assistant and active driving assistant, semi-autonomous aids. I find these often are too intrusive and push the vehicle hard toward the lane’s center often when not wanted. Also it happens when in a work zone with lanes that shift and when other cars sag into your lane and you try to dodge them — this pushes you back toward the other car. I couldn’t turn this feature off altogether.
Add to that a cruise control system that was much more complicated than others I’ve tested. I've pushed a button and set a speed. That should do it, even on these smart cruise systems.
There are a few other points to consider.
First, the X5 is not just beauty, it’s also powerful enough to tow 7,200 pounds. So trailering is very possible, but you’ll pay $550 extra for the trailer hitch.
Cargo space is fine at 33.9 cubic feet behind the second row seat, or 71.2 cubic feet if that seat is folded flat. A release under the power hatch allows quick rear seat folding too. A third row seat is available on some X5 trim levels, but it appears that only offers room for small kids in row three. As is, this one will haul five adults comfortably.
Underneath the test ute added 21-inch M wheels with performance tires for $950. Certainly, the tires aided grip, but to me these looked a bit outsized for the X5. That’s a personal taste thing as the 19-inchers that are standard would do just fine.
Finally, the test vehicle hit a Rockefeller-like $81,695 after adding 10 options. A base, xDrive40i, starts at about $60 grand and includes AWD and a fine 335-horse 3.0-liter I6 twin turbo.
Move up to the M50i version and the price jumps to $83,795, but you get a monster V8 pumping 523 horsepower and you can thumb your nose at the environment, and nearly everyone else as you rocket away from a stoplight.
Overview: 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e
Hits: Excellent power, ride, handling plus AWD and plug-in electric to aid emissions and mpg. Four drive choices, panoramic sunroof, heated wheel/armrest and front/rear seats, wide touchscreen, multiple seat adjustments, 8 stereo memory buttons.
Misses: Heated seats and wheel cost extra, no cooled seats, complicated cruise control ties into semi-autonomous driving system.
Made in: Spartanburg, S.C.
Engine: 3.0-liter twin turbo I6, 389 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,646 lbs.
Wheelbase: 117.1 in.
Length: 194.3 in.
Cargo: 33.9-71.2 cu.ft.
Tow: 7,200 lbs.
MPG: 20/50 (w/electric)
Base Price: $66,395 (includes delivery)
Options: Arctic Gray Metallic paint, $550
Drivers Assist Pro pkg. (extended traffic jam assistant, active driving assistant pro), $1,700
M Sport pkg. (See story), $5,500
Executive package (panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof, rear manual side sunshades, glass controls, 4-zone climate control, Icon adaptive LED w/Laserlight, head-up display, Harmon Kardon surround sound system, wireless charging, gesture control, WiFi hotspot, enhanced USB & Bluetooth), $4,050
21-inch M wheel with performance, $950
M Sport brakes w/blue calipers, $650
Trailer hitch, $550
Front/rear heated seats, $350
Heated front armrests/steering wheel, $250
Multi-contour seats, $750
Test vehicle: $81,695
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.