The big X5 SUV comes in four basic flavors. The two V8-powered M models get most of the attention, but for normal people who don’t dream of track time in their sport utilities, there are two X5s to choose from. The base turbo-six (sDrive40i and xDrive40i) is a good choice for those budgeting their BMW purchase with other family considerations. The xDrive45e plug-in hybrid, though, is where the eyes should be turning.
The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e (better known as the X5 Hybrid) combines the turbocharged six-cylinder found on the base model with an electric motor and a 24 kWh battery for a little more horsepower and about 40 miles of efficient, all-electric driving. For our money, that model is where it’s at.
Swerve Autos Score: 92/100
It can be an odd thing to say that a big SUV looks good, but damned if the 2021 X5 doesn’t. It’s got a combination of classic BMW lines with a flat hood, straight-lined bodywork, and beautiful wheels. The X5 hasn’t received the fascia treatment of newer models of BMW, so the beaver-toothed grille isn’t there. The grille is, instead, a wide, well-done version of the BMW kidneys that define the marque.
The overhang at the rear is small, the front overhang is predictable from the driver’s seat, and simplicity of form defines the overall design language for the X5.
The X5 Hybrid has an added fuel door at the right front fender for the plug, but is otherwise nearly identical to all other X5 models.
The interior of the X5 SUV is beset with quality materials and an elegant layout. Standard equipment is plentiful and all five seating positions are accommodating. Cargo space is also very good with plenty of access via the dual-opening rear tailgate (a nice touch). That dual opening allows the top portion to be opened on its own, creating a short wall behind which groceries or other items can be placed or removed without fear of them shifting and falling out. It can be lowered to form a tailgate over the rear bumper for easier loading as well.
The 2021 BMW X5 Hybrid is a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine that pairs with an electric motor to produce 389 horsepower. The eight-speed automatic transmission is all-wheel drive by default and, despite the large size of the X5, is capable of propelling the SUV to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. Imagine that in a big, plug-in hybrid sport utility!
Outside of that, though, the X5 xDrive45e has nearly doubled its all-electric range from the previous-generation, pushing to about 40 miles per charge on the same 24 kWh battery pack. Our real-world testing put this number at closer to 38 in city driving alone, but that’s very respectable and covers most people’s daily driving routine with miles to spare. And whether driving in EV mode or via the V6, the X5 Hybrid feels sporty and drives really well.
The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e offers a lot of cargo space at 33.1 cubic feet behind the second row and 71.2 with the second row folded. We note that the second row folds almost completely flat–something not always common in today’s vehicles. The hybrid model does forego the availability of a third row in order to accommodate the batteries, but the third row available in other X5 models is small and cramped. So the losses are minimal there.
The rear seats, which accommodates three adults readily, has LATCH connectors on the outboard for child safety seat installation and these are easily access by opening small plastic covers. The middle position has an overhead tether connection as well.
In practical terms, the X5 Hybrid requires about 6 hours to charge to full from a 240V outlet (it accepts up to 16 amps) and about twice that from a 120V standard household outlet. But since it’s a plug-in hybrid, if charging isn’t convenient, the gasoline engine can operate the X5 on its own. That’s super convenient and combines the daily drive needs of most via the electric motor for extreme efficiency and the longer distance needs of most via the gasoline engine.
The 2021 X5 is very comfortable with good seating and easy entry and exit. This can be furthered by going with the optional air ride suspension so the BMW can be lowered for easier access.
The multicontour seating and heated rear seat option are also worth having. The massage option is take or leave, but a nice touch. Synthetic leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated front seats are standard.
BMW’s infotainment is one of the best in the business for two reasons: gesture controls and voice controls. Standard in the X5 is a 12.3-inch touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, a simple touchpad controller, real-speak voice recognition, five USB ports, navigation, satellite radio, and proximity key access.
With Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as wireless, a user can just enter the X5 and if the phone is active, things just happen. Voice controls are very easy through these apps. Without them, though, the real-voice controls are still pretty good, allowing one to say “Hey, BMW” and ask for something like a radio station or navigation. It misses here and there and connectivity can be an issue (it’s largely cloud-based), but it works far better than the older “prompt to submenu prompt” tedious versions that are common now.
Gesture controls are another great option, allowing the user to wave a hand to answer the phone, twirl a finger to raise or lower the volume, and do a few other tasks without taking eyes off the road.
Connected Services 9/10
BMW’s ConnectedDrive services are well thought out, but not necessarily always accessible. Using the app, a user can check on the vehicle’s status, pre-load navigation, check on the hybrid’s charging status, and more. It’s a good system, but it’s sometimes hard to connect with even with a good cell network or wifi connection.
Active Safety 10/10
Standard safety items on the X5 xDrive45e include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and, of course, forward collision mitigation and braking.
A head-up display, adaptive headlamps, stop-and-go traffic assist and steering assist on the highway, and other items are available as upgrades. We highly recommend the stop-and-go assist as it reduces a lot of driver fatigue in heavy traffic, doing most of the work of keeping tabs on what’s happening ahead of the X5 so the driver doesn’t have to keep moving a foot from pedal to pedal.
The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is not a low-cost SUV. It’s a Bimmer, so the price tag will reflect that. Yet with the highly luxurious interior, excellent drive metrics and quality, and the extremely good efficiency of the plug-in model, the X5 Hybrid is still a compelling buy.
Editors Influence 9/10
The 2021 BMW X5 is a great SUV in all of its packages. The base model has a good feel and luxurious appeal, but the hybrid model ups that ante with strong efficiency numbers without compromising much in the way of convenience. It’s a joy to drive and easy to accommodate for charging as it’s not dependent on that to operate.