BMW X5 xDrive45e hybrid SUV review
"An electric range of up to 54 miles makes the BMW X5 xDrive45e an impressive plug-in hybrid"
- 50-mile electric range
- Clever hybrid mode
- Interior quality
- Reduced boot space
- Plug-in tech adds weight
- Unproven reliability
While the previous BMW X5 plug-in hybrid was a niche choice, the German manufacturer is hoping the all-new xDrive45e will form a key part of the X5 range, accounting for a good proportion of sales. A price of around £60,000 helps - that's not much more than a six-cylinder diesel model - but it's the low running costs that will help cement the deal for business and private buyers alike.
Using a large capacity 24kWh battery pack, BMW claims the xDrive45e can manage around 50-54 miles on a single charge, a range that is sufficient enough to tackle the average commute. Not only that, but in hybrid mode its computer will intelligently work out how best to juggle its petrol and electric motors for your route, using navigation data to assess the sort of roads you'll be driving on.
The switch between electric and petrol is so smooth as to be virtually unnoticeable, and the combined maximum power of the electric motor and six-cylinder petrol is a considerable 389bhp, resulting in 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. That's not bad for a 2.5-tonne SUV that claims to be capable of up to 235mpg with 27-32g/km of CO2 emissions.
Business drivers will also appreciate its much lower Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating, which is in single digits. This makes the xDrive45e a far more attractive proposition as a company-car over the diesel or petrol versions of the X5, which sit in the upper echelons of the BiK bands.
Despite the added weight of all the hybrid tech, the xDrive45e is as good to drive as a regular X5 with impressive handling for a car of this size. It boasts one of the best interiors on the market, with loads of kit and two 12.3-inch digital displays provide useful information and comprehensive entertainment - with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto contained in the Connected Package Plus. The battery pack does have one negative; it cuts the boot's luggage capacity by 150 litres. Luckily the size of the X5 PHEV’s boot is still large enough to cope with most scenarios, so this shouldn't cause too much of a headache.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The most important news for the latest BMW X5 plug-in hybrid is the sheer size of its battery pack. With a capacity of 24kWh, it equals the size of the battery fitted in the original Nissan Leaf and gives BMW's SUV a range between 50-54 miles at speeds of up to 83mph. It remains to be seen how realistic this is the real world, though - we managed around 28 miles using only electric power during our test drive with a mix or town driving and faster motorway and A-roads.
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For now, those figures are superior to the plug-in hybrid versions of the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, badged TFSI e and Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 respectively, and should be sufficient to cover the daily trips of many drivers. However, the Mercedes GLE 350de looks set to go even further, with a 31.2kWh battery and claimed range of over 60 miles.
There's more good news because while some PHEVs have been eye-wateringly expensive, the X5 xDrive45e is priced quite competitively. In fact, it slots into the model range just above the xDrive30d diesel and shouldn't be out of reach for a good number of prospective X5 buyers. Of course, there are also significant cost savings after you drive off the forecourt. Thanks to its low 27-32g/km CO2 emissions, the plug-in hybrid sits in the lowest BiK band, compared with the 30d diesel that sits in the highest band, and its official fuel-economy figure is 201-235mpg depending on specification. This last number is, of course, dependent on how often you use the petrol engine.
Once the car’s battery was depleted, we were only able to achieve around 28-30mpg when running purely off the petrol engine. On the move, the car harvests the energy normally lost when coasting and braking to top up the battery, which allows for a small amount of electric running at low speeds and when parking without plugging in.
Perhaps the weakest link is the fact the xDrive45e lacks any fast-charging capabilities, and topping the battery up using its 3.7kWh charger takes a sluggish seven hours. The idea is that you charge up the batteries overnight on your driveway or in the garage, but it would be nice to have the option of quicker charging in other scenarios.
Engines, drive & performance
One disadvantage of a plug-in hybrid is the added weight of its battery pack and electric motor, and the X5 xDrive45e ends up tipping the scales at over 2.5 tonnes. At least the electric motor wins back some points by offering instant acceleration, helping the X5 feel a bit lighter on its feet.
Power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine, 11.2kWh battery and an electric motor, which is all shared with the BMW 545e saloon. This powertrain ensures the X5 xDrive 45e is certainly no slouch, with a total output of 389bhp getting it from 0-62mph in an impressive 5.6 seconds.
By default the X5 plug-in is in its hybrid mode, allowing you to get underway silently, with the six-cylinder petrol engine only springing to life if you push the accelerator harder. BMW has worked hard on making the way power is juggled between the electric motor and petrol engine as intelligent as possible, and it uses the sat-nav to help decide; using battery power in a village or city centre and switching to the petrol on the motorway. The transitions between them are very unobtrusive, helped by the smooth six-cylinder engine. While it can be handy to 'lock' the car in EV mode in city centres, we reckon most drivers will be content to simply leave Hybrid mode active.
There's also a battery saving mode, but interestingly you can cap the amount of power the battery can use at the start of a journey, if for example, you want the same amount of zero emissions driving on the way home.
Interior & comfort
The BMW X5 has one of the best all-round interiors in its class, with excellent materials and build quality, along with lots of technology to keep its occupants connected, entertained and heading in the right direction.
Twin 12.3-inch screens (one behind the steering wheel and another in the middle of the dashboard) rely on BMW's ever-improving iDrive infotainment system which boasts crisp graphics. This is one of the best interfaces in the business; it’s powerful, logical and supports gesture and voice control, as well as offering more traditional controls.
BMW’s Connected Package Professional is standard, adding an array of remote services and functions including a 24-hour concierge service all operated via the BMW ConnectedDrive smartphone app. It also adds wireless Apple CarPlay but lacks Android Auto compatibility, which won’t become available on BMW’s cars until later in 2020.
Essentially a trim level in its own right, the xDrive45e is based on the standard xLine model, and you get 19-inch alloy wheels, a five-meter charging cable and eDrive driving modes. There are also standard features like LED exterior lighting, air suspension, parking aids, leather upholstery and a power tailgate.
Practicality & boot space
Fitting such a large battery pack does have some consequences, reducing boot space by 150 litres. Fortunately the X5 is a large car, so the remaining volume should satisfy the majority of families.
Passenger space is pretty good too, with ample room for adults in the back seats, helped by the lack of a large transmission tunnel. Headroom in the front and rear is good, but the large battery pack means there's no option to add a third row of seats in the boot of the plug-in hybrid X5.
Reliability & safety
BMW reliability scored poorly in our 2020 Driver Power survey finishing 27th out of 30 manufacturers overall, so the fact the BMW X5 xDrive45e is so complex could be a worry. A glass-half-full way of looking at the electric battery and motor, however, is that they should take some strain off the combustion engine and brakes under acceleration and deceleration, improving the life of quite a few components in the process.
Euro NCAP awarded the BMW X5 a top five-star score following extensive crash-testing. Just about every modern active and passive safety system is on board, from autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, parking assistance, and evasion aid that can help you steer to try and avoid a collision.