2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV on Test: A Greener Luxury Sport SUV

2021 BMW X5 X5 xDrive45e PHEV

RRP $62,900.00

“Go green with the further developed BMW X5 xDrive45e PHEV without even noticing it.”


  • Outstanding hybrid drive

  • Cheaper than pure gas versions with incentives

  • BMW luxury, comfort and sportiness

  • Hands-free jam assistance


  • Slow charge rate

  • It lacks the latest BMW infotainment system

New car buyers have made it very clear that they want SUVs. People want to sit higher, feel more secure, and have enough room for trips to Costco, Home Depot, and Target. The problem: SUVs tend to suck more gasoline than, for example, a sedan. But there’s a way to have a large luxury vehicle that’s also kind to your bank account and the environment.

The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) takes what people like about the German automaker’s luxury SUV and adds a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s a nifty integration that lacks any of the occasional weirdness we’ve seen with the BMW 330e PHEV. Instead, it highlights the work BMW has done to ensure its PHEV transition vehicles just work without sacrificing the BMW experience.

Starting at $63,700, the AWD (all-wheel drive) X5 xDrive45e is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax incentive. That’s the same amount you would get for an electric vehicle. The reason for the big discount is its battery pack with a capacity of 24 kWh – 17 kWh of which can be used. This large pack saves a potential customer money not only on sale but also in everyday life.

BMW X5 PHEV in a parking lot.Roberto Baldwin/Digital Trends

This tax incentive also lowers the price of the vehicle below the price of the all-gasoline X5 xDrive40i, which starts at $62,900. That’s with no state or local incentives to stack on top. Like the 330e PHEV, the X5 PHEV is the more cost-effective option, both at the door and while driving.

Of course, the EV mode would be the cheapest. The reason the vehicle gets the government’s full tax incentive is the same reason it’s good at getting around without gas.

In EV-only mode, the X5 xDrive45e has an EPA range of 31 miles. In our testing, we achieved 27 miles of range in mixed driving conditions, including freeway, neighborhood and back roads in 51-degree weather. Cold weather can reduce the efficiency of a battery-powered vehicle, but it seems it was warm enough not to really affect the BMW. The range should be sufficient to bring at least many commuters to work without petrol.

BMW X5 PHEV charging port.Roberto Baldwin/Digital Trends

However, charging is really a pure at-home experience. The X5 only supports charging up to 3.7kW, making charging on the go a waste of time. During our testing, I had no trouble charging at home while I slept, waking up in the morning with a full battery.

Driving in EV mode has been improved over previous hybrid X5s. The SUV will now cruise at speeds of up to 84 mph, an increase of 9 mph over the 75 mph found on the previous version of the vehicle. With speed limits in some states being 70 mph and up, it’s good to know that in the eight states with speed limits of 50 mph, the X5 PHEV can keep up with traffic in EV mode if needed.

Outside of the pure battery drive mode, BMW has done an excellent job of merging the two powertrains in the X5. Where the BMW 330e had a few odd things, the transition from petrol to electric was always seamless during my week with the X5 xDrive45e PHEV. In all six available modes (EV only, Eco, Eco Pro, Adaptive, Sport and driver-set individual mode), the vehicle drove exactly as you would expect.

For those who demand maximum acceleration from their SUV, Sport mode delivers a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, according to BMW – half a second slower than the gas-powered version. We haven’t been able to properly test this on a track, but accelerating from a standstill that number seems likely to be right. In other words, it’s not as fast as the regular X5, but the PHEV is still fast enough for the majority of drivers. For those looking for something very sporty there is always the X5 M50i. This is where you stake your cash on an SUV with sports car excitement.

Regardless of the mode, ride quality is adeptly managed thanks to BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control and air suspension. The ride quality adapts to the situation, whether in one of the aggressive Sport modes or the calmer Eco and Adaptive modes. The steering is also given impressive mapping, with just the right amount of firmness to push the car to its limits, but also more relaxed for city driving.

BMW x5 PHEV in the parking lot.Roberto Baldwin/Digital Trends

Inside, the X5 xDrive45e matches the interior of almost every other BMW of this generation. The seats are comfortable but have enough side bolsters to keep the driver and passenger in place on tight corners. There is enough head, leg and shoulder room to accommodate my six foot frame in all but the center rear seat. Not that a large person should ever be seated there, regardless of what “shotgun” game you play to secure a seat in a vehicle.

In the driver’s seat, BMW offers a driver-oriented control center with a 12.3-inch infotainment display tilted towards the driver. The automaker’s latest iDrive 8 hasn’t made it to the X5 yet – so get iDrive 7 – but what you lose in the latest system you gain in physical climate control, media controls and programmable buttons. In the center console next to the shifter is the iDrive knob, surrounded by quick buttons to the main infotainment system. Once you memorize these, the infotainment system is much easier to use.

If you’re more concerned with connecting your phone, BMW offers wireless CarPlay support, but also Android Auto support, starting with vehicles manufactured since August 2020. If Android is your platform of choice, you should make sure the vehicle supports your phone before driving off the lot.

BMW X5 PHEV infotainment screen.Roberto Baldwin/Digital Trends

BMW’s voice assistant lags behind offerings from Mercedes, Android Automotive-enabled Volvos, and even BMW’s updated system. Its natural language system is good, but there are better digital helpers out there. This is especially true after driving a vehicle with iDrive 8.

On-the-road tech is still top-notch with BMW’s optional hands-free Extended Traffic Jam Assistant system for $1,700. At low speeds on selected motorways, the X5 allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel in certain situations. The driver still has to keep an eye on the road, and a sensor in the car tracks their face to make sure this is happening. During the standstill, it worked well with no issues and easily handled cuts.

For those who commute in horrific traffic on a daily basis, it’s probably worth the extra money just to reduce at least some of the cognitive burden of traffic. Just make sure you don’t lull yourself into not paying attention to the world around you.

At the very back, the X5 sits in the cargo area with 33.1 cubic feet of space midway between competitors from Volvo, Mercedes and Audi with the second row up. When folded, that expands to 72.3 cubic feet. There is no option for a third row, but I’m fine with that. A third row in this vehicle would be a terrible sitting experience. Those looking to fit more people in their vehicles should jump to the larger SUVs on the market.

Standard safety features include Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rollover Detection and Emergency Brake Assist. The 2021 BMW X5 is a top safety pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The AWD X5 has a four-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The X5 PHEV variant has not yet been tested at the time of publication of this report. While we don’t expect the PHEV version of the vehicle to deviate too far from the X5’s overall rating, the added weight of the battery and electric motor could be a variable enough to affect the vehicle’s ratings.

On the warranty front, the automaker offers a four-year, 50,000-mile limited warranty, a 12-year, unlimited kilometer rust-perforation warranty, and an 8-year, 80,000-mile battery warranty.

How DT would configure this car

With only one trim level for the PHEV version. The all-wheel drive X5 xDrive45e is ready for daily city trips and inclement weather. The added security of hands-free driver assistance makes it worth the extra $1,700. The M Sport package at $5,500 is too rich for our blood, but we’d definitely throw in the $350 heated seats and $250 heated steering wheel, which also comes with heated armrests. Finally, if you want to tow with the X5, the tow hitch is $550.

Our opinion

With an impressive pure EV range and enough room for a family and their gear, the X5 xDrive45e PHEV hits all the right spots. It’s fast, livable, and requires no more than someone pocketing it at night to save some money on the commute. Its price point also makes it cheaper than the other non-M-drive X5s available – all while making all-wheel drive standard. The slow load rate is a bummer, but not a deal breaker.

Inside, the vehicle is comfortable both front and rear, with a good mix of sportiness in a driver-focused package. The infotainment system feels a bit outdated as BMW’s latest version is available for its new electric vehicles. But the inclusion of Android Auto should make many potential buyers very happy after years of BMW only supporting CarPlay.

On the road, the xDrive45e PHEV delivers a BMW experience without the compromises we’ve come to expect from hybrid systems.

should you get one

Yes. The X5 xDrive45e is a wonderful blend of BMW’s sport-luxury SUV and electrification technology. It works both as a family van and as an excellent first or only vehicle for the individual who wants German luxury and sport with enough space for mountain trips or lunch with co-workers.

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