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2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e - Review by Larry Nutson

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Performance, versatility and economy

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

A few years back I drove the first iteration of BMW’s X5 plug-in hybrid (PHEV), the new-for-2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e. This was BMW’s first PHEV core production model.

Now for 2021 the X5 has been updated to its 2nd-genertion PHEV with the new xDrive45e. Performance is greatly enhanced over the previous X5 xDrive40e with a new 282-hp 3.0-L 6-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged internal combustion engine coupled to an electric motor. This engine replaces the previous generation’s 2.0-L 4-cylinder TwinPower turbocharged motor. Also added is BMW’s latest eDrive technology and a larger, more advanced high-voltage electric battery.

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The new PHEV drivetrain has a total system output of 389-hp, a bump of 81 hp over the previous generation. Torque is now 443 ft-lb, an increase of 111 ft-lbs. 0 to 60 mph acceleration time is 5.3 seconds, 1.2 seconds faster than before. The significant increase in torque also allows for a factory-installed optional trailer hitch rated for 7,200 lbs. of towing.  

The high-voltage battery grows in size to 24 kWh, up from the previous X5 xDrive40e’s 12 kWh capacity. As a result, electric-only range doubles from a previous EPA rating of 14 miles to a new EPA estimated 30-mile range. Electric-only top speed increases from 75 mph to 84 mph.

The battery is positioned in the underbody of the 5-passenger X5, minimizing impact on cargo space. With the rear seats up, cargo space is only 0.8 cubic feet less than the standard X5. With the rear seats folded, cargo space is 1.1 cubic feet less. Total cargo area volume is 33.1 cu.ft.

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An eight-speed Sport Steptronic automatic gets the power to the rear-biased xDrive all-wheel drive system. Transmissions have gotten smarter these days by having them use data from the navigation system and available smart cruise control systems radar sensors to adapt its shift strategy according to the route and driving situation. This allows for the transmission to shift proactively instead of reactively ensuring that the vehicle is always in the correct gear for the upcoming road conditions.

The X5 xDrive45e features three drive modes: Hybrid – the default mode upon start up that selects the best performance-oriented combined use of gasoline and electric power based on driver input. Electric – this electric only mode can be used at speeds up to 84 mph. Sport – this keeps the combustion engine engaged for particularly sporty driving and allows for more aggressive energy regeneration from engine and mechanical braking.

The EPA combined electric plus gasoline fuel economy rating is 50 MPGe. That equates to 1/10 of a gallon of gas plus 63 kW-hours per 100 miles. The combined gasoline-only EPA rating is 20 mpg.

Battery charging time is 5 hours using a level 2/240v charger. During my drive I charged the empty battery for about two hours on a Level 2 charger to 50% charge level.

Ride and handling is true to BMW being refined, compliant and sporty. Steering has good overall precision. The standard two-axle air suspension provides individual control for each corner to balance out an unevenly loaded car. The X5’s 8.3-inch ride height can be changed among five selectable levels at the touch of a button. Ground clearance for off-road driving can be increased 1.6 inches. The X5’s height can be lowered by 1.6 inches to make loading and unloading easier.

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A full array of standard and optional advanced drive-assist systems (ADAS) are offered. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto as well as Google Assistant, Google Maps, music streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music and the WhatsApp messaging service are now available to both iPhone and Android users.

More details, facts and figures on the BMW X5 can be found at

Base price of the X5 xDrive45e is $65,400 plus a $995 destination charge. The car I drove was heavily optioned with an Executive Package, M Sport Package and more for a total price of $81,695. The Federal Tax credit of $7,500 is applicable to this model.

Some surprise and delight features included heated front seat armrests, glass controls (such as the transmission selector), a panoramic sky lounge six-color LED roof, multi contour seats and Harmon Kardon surround sound.

All-in-all, the X5 xDrive45e delivers higher performance levels of acceleration as well as handling and braking balanced with low fuel consumption. All this is packaged in a vehicle that’s roomy with a refined and classy cabin for carrying five people while also providing plenty of versatility with its large opening rear hatch and cargo area. Lots of sport for lots of activities.

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BMW of North America is doing fairly well in this post-pandemic, microchip-shortage time. Third quarter 2021 sales are up 8.7 percent. Year-to-date, BMW brand sales total have increased of 35.4 percent over the first three quarters of 2021.

The X5 is one of BMW’s best selling models in the U.S. It’s manufactured in Spartanburg, South Carolina where BMW also produces the BMW X3, BMW X4, BMW X6 and BMW X7. The BMW Group produces BMW X models in Spartanburg for the U.S. as well as global markets. 

The plant exports more than 70 percent of this total production volume and has a maximum production capacity of 450,000 vehicles per year. Employing 10,000 people, the BMW plant has brought about 70,000 jobs to the surrounding community through suppliers and support industries.

Happy Motoring!

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy