Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Reviews 2021 BMW X5 45e Review: Always Excellent But Skip The PHEV

2021 BMW X5 45e Review: Always Excellent But Skip The PHEV

The BMW X5 continues to impress with quality, luxury, and a spotless drive but the 45e is too compromised to justify itself

  • Pricing for the X5 in Canada starts at $77,500, $59,400 in the US.

  • The 45e version features plug-in hybrid technology.

  • The X5 remains the best BMW but the PHEV version is not really worth considering.

Had you asked me in the early 2000s what my favorite BMW was, I would have answered that I’m not sure. I would have specified that my least favorite Bimmer would land between the two SUVs. Fast-forward to the last three years or so and the story changes completely. The BMW X5, especially the current 4th generation, is nothing short of fantastic.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The explanation for this about-face is directly linked to BMW’s change of focus. So popular and lucrative have these SUVS become that they are deserving of the most attention. The resulting G05 X5 is the finest, most refined, and satisfying midsize luxury SUV on the market. This statement comes only with a warning: Ideally, you should skip the PHEV 45e.

Designed with purpose

The 2021 BMW X5 is positively handsome. From every angle, the SUV’s strong and distinct lines are purposeful and entirely premium. An X5 is instantly recognizable to a point where it’s become the face of BMW despite what the car company might think or say.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The only downside to my black sapphire tester is that it’s black on black over black with black. Typical buyers like this colour combination but it’s anything but special. It does allow the massive grille to blend into the background but honestly, on the X5, the oversized kidneys suit the SUV well.

The cabin is also perfectly attractive. In every respect, it’s all BMW as well, meaning that fit and finish are beyond reproach. It also refers to the fact that there’s a lot going on visually. The familiar pod-like approach to various controls, namely HVAC and audio, are sufficiently user-friendly, as is BMW’s iDrive 7 user-interface. For the most part, and in time, menus become easy enough to navigate.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The tested unit featured merino leather, from BMW Individual, on the seats with contrasting stitching. The perches are extremely comfortable offering support for every limb and types of backsides. The rear bench is also accommodating and able to handle three adults. The boot is capacious and, as always, the 2-piece hatch is genius as it stops anything from falling out of the trunk.

Hybrid Advantages?

The vast majority of all-new BMW X5 SAVs (Sport Activity Vehicle, remember?) are sold fitted with the TwinPower turbocharged inline-6 cylinder 3.0-litre engine. It might the most affordable powertrain for the X5 but it’s also the smartest. I say this as, although the 45e is endowed with total system-combined 389 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque (from 335 and 331 respectively for the 40i), it’s no faster to 100km/h, in 5.6 seconds, than the 40i.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The reason to opt for the X5 45e comes down to, and only to, the approximate 45 km (30 miles) of full-electric driving range. With a full charge, the onboard 24kWh battery enables the 800lb-heavier 45e (over the 40i) will truly permit the X5 to cover this distance. Unlike most PHEVs I’ve driven in the past, BMW’s numbers are real-world-like. Now, if your typical commutes exceed this range, you’ll quickly find yourself paying the price. BMW reports that the 45e’s actual combined fuel mileage will be 11.5L/100km which happens to match my numbers. In contrast, the 40i, according to BMW, will return 10.4L/100km thanks in part to its integrated 48V mild-hybrid system.

Still great to drive

Despite these limitations, the boosted straight-6 is wonderfully peppy and responsive. As explained above, there is no noticeable performance advantage to the 45e but even so, the X5 is quick and plenty entertaining. The best aspect related to driving the X5 is its ride quality and control. The standard air suspension smooths out the road’s surface with uncanny ease. Whether comfort or sharp handling reflexes are desired, it delivers on all accounts.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The tested unit was fitted with the M Sport package which includes the M Sport brakes. Like steering, and the drive as a whole, the components and related controls provide confidence in the SUV’s abilities. The 2021 BMW X5 feels good and solid.

Skip the 45e and get options instead

I say it in my video and will repeat it now: I really like the BMW X5. I’d select one ahead of its main competitors including the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Audi Q8, and any others. I would not, however, get the 45e.

The extra $6,000 should go towards options like the M Sport package or one of the Premium packages. I will say that, if you must get a PHEV SUV in this segment, avoid the Lincoln Aviator at all costs and stick to the X5.

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 BMW X5 45e | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


  1. I find the take on the X5 45e in this article odd. For many people, this SUV is the perfect compromise. Personally, I work from home, and my daily runs around town are 20 miles or less, far less mileage than the electric-only range. Having the extra power for my longer weekend trips and vacations to be just what I need. Admittedly, if your daily commute were quite long, the use of the gas engine would offset the PHEV benefits. But this is unlikely to apply to that many people. Add in the fact that in the States, this car is eligible for a $7500 tax credit (and even more in some states that offer additional incentives), and the 45e becomes an easy choice.

  2. Jees, you’re a dinosaur mate. ‘Skip the PHEV and get a bigger steering wheel…’ – seriously? I get that you’re probably some die hard petrol head, but the planets on fire, like actually on fire. I suggest to you that you have a responsible to promote change and future best practice, to show people alternative ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The 45e is an amazing option for a 0 emission commute. You know it, so showcase it. Grow up mate. Please. Jim

    • The responsible thing to do with PHEVs is plugging them in at every opportunity. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that many PHEVs owners do not plug them in. This means that owners and their “green” PHEVs are in fact consuming more fuel than an equivalent non-PHEV vehicle – batteries and electric motors are heavy. The planet is indeed on fire and it’s obvious that PHEVs are not an answer or the best practice. What’s more, BMW’s own fuel consumption figures show that the 45e consumes more fuel than the 40i. Full EVs on the other hand…


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