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A plug-in hybrid is the perfect vehicle for someone who wants a little EV goodness, but isn't ready to make the fully electric commitment. Maybe you want electric power for around-town commuting and errand-running, but you need the convenience and added range of a gas engine for longer drives. If that sounds like you and luxury SUVs are your thing, allow me to introduce you to the BMW X5 xDrive45e.
The new 45e is an upgraded version of the xDrive40e BMW previously offered. It offers more range than before -- as much as 30 miles thanks to a 24-kilowatt-hour battery -- while packing a more powerful punch, as well. Where the 40e had a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 45e gets a 3.0-liter turbo I6. Total output is rated at a healthy 389 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque -- big increases over the 308 hp and 332 lb-ft from the older 40e PHEV. Power gets down to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
There are six drive modes to choose from, ranging from super-efficient to performance-above-all. Electric mode is for pure EV driving and only available when there's a charge in the battery. Eco Pro maximizes efficiency, while Hybrid blends gasoline and electric power for the easiest everyday driving. Sport puts everything on full attack and will allow the X5 xDrive45e to sprint to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Adaptive will, uh, adapt to your driving style and alter the X5's parameters on the go. Finally, there's Individual, where you can have it your way and set everything to your liking.
An air suspension allows for either a comfortable or firm ride quality depending on your preference, and can raise or lower the X5 1.6 inches above or below its standard 8.3-inch ground clearance. The plug-in hybrid X5 is about 800 pounds heavier than a base X5 xDrive40i, and I can definitely feel the weight with the body's added roll while cornering. But with the suspension set to sport mode, the extra torque from the electric motor pushing me out of turns and the eight-speed transmission working seamlessly in the background, the xDrive45e is still pretty darn fun to drive.
My test car has the optional M Sport package, which adds 21-inch wheels and all-season run-flat tires. These specific tires are a little too hard to provide substantial grip and the low profile means the ride quality is often harsh. The standard 19-inch non-run-flat wheel-and-tire package would undoubtedly improve everything. If you really want a sporty X5, maybe skip the PHEV altogether and check out the V8-powered M50i.
The X5 only has a 3.7-kW onboard charger, so while the battery itself isn't huge, BMW says it'll take about 4 hours to charge up to 80% on a Level 2 outlet. If you want the full 100%, you're looking at 5 hours and 20 minutes. If you have an EV charger at home and can plug in the X5 overnight, this won't be a problem.
The X5 45e comes with plenty of standard driver-assistance features including blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and front- and rear-collision warning. If you want things like adaptive cruise control or BMW's Traffic Jam Assist that combines the ACC tech with lane-centering capabilities, you'll have to pay extra. Ditto the front cross-traffic alert, which is very helpful when trying to pull out onto a road where cars are parked along the curb, obscuring your view of traffic. If you live in a city like San Francisco where everyone has to park on the street, you'll find it very useful.
Inside, a 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster displays every iota of information you could ever need to know about your X5, while the iDrive 7 infotainment system is housed on a second screen of the same size. I personally find iDrive to have a steep learning curve, littered with menus and submenus that could pretty easily be combined, but at least it's quick to respond to my inputs and the graphics are crisp and clear. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, too. That said, iDrive has a frequent tendency to disconnect from CarPlay while I'm on the go and using a wireless connection.
Front passengers have access to wireless device charging, one USB-A port and a 12-volt outlet. There's a USB-C port in the center armrest and rear passengers get two USB-C outlets embedded in the front seatbacks. There's another 12-volt outlet for backseat riders and a third 12-volt plug in the cargo area, too.
Because the hybrid battery is positioned in the floor of the SUV, cargo space is pretty much the same as a standard X5, but it's still not great. Behind the second row you'll find 33.1 cubic feet of space, expanding to 56.5 cubes when folded. That's less than the Lincoln Aviator, Land Rover Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90. If you need three rows of seats, stick to the full gas-powered X5 variants or look at the Aviator or Range Rover Sport.
My tester has a white interior, which makes for a sharp contrast with the silver-and-black textured trim. The glass shifter adds a touch of over-the-top luxury and the standard heated front seats are a boon for my bottom. Ventilated and massaging front seats are available, as well, if you're willing to spend a bit more cash (I am). In all, the X5 is a very comfortable, if starkly designed, place to spend day-to-day life.
The X5 xDrive45e starts at $66,395 including $995 for destination, and the one you see here costs $81,695. I'd definitely skip the M Sport package but would add all the driver-assistance features, massaging seats, heated armrests and upgraded leather. In other words, you can get a really nicely optioned X5 PHEV in the low- to mid-$70,000 range, no problem.
The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is a great option for those who want to dip their toes in the electrification pool. It might be slightly smaller inside than some competitors, but with its good on-road manners and tons of luxury and tech, it's one of the best all-around luxury PHEVs you can buy.