2020 BMW X5 xDrive 45e PHEV Review: Bigger Battery, Bigger Appeal?

The BMW X5 45e has a 24 kWh battery pack that provides a claimed pure electric range of almost 90 km (55 miles) on the WLTP cycle.

BMW has made important changes to its plug-in hybrid X5 formula between the older X5 40e model and the current 45e model based on the G05 model. Firstly, it’s ditched the 2-liter four-pot turbo for a six-cylinder (also turbocharged) that not only makes it faster than before, but it sounds better and is smoother compared to the previous model.

The next big change is the increase in battery pack size. Whereas the X5 40e had a 9.1 kWh pack that gave it an NEDC range of 31 km (19 miles) which was realistically around half that in the real world, the new X5 PHEV has a 24 kWh pack that takes it a lot longer in Electric mode. BMW says the X5 45e can travel for between 67 – 87 km (41.6 – 54 miles) on one charge, according to the newer WLTP test cycle.

You really notice the extra electric range the X5 45e has over its predecessor. I managed to drive it for around 65 km (40 miles) before the gasoline engine started up, without trying to drive economically at all; it wasn’t even charged all the way, but to 98 percent – I could have probably squeezed a few more kilometers out if it had it been fully charged

Design

The xDrive 45e version has no distinguishing features over any other BMW X5. The only way you can tell it apart is by the badging on the back and the flap on the front left fender that hides the charge port.

With that being said, the latest X5, the G05, is one of the better looking SUVs in its class, with an aggressive front fascia dominated by big (not huge) twin kidney grilles and typical angry looking BMW headlights. From the side, designers have really managed to emphasize the length of its hood and this really helps it look like a sporty SUV.

Another neat design touch that I found interesting is the character line running along the flanks of the vehicle. It passes below the front door handle, but then it kinks upward toward the rear, going straight through the middle of the rear door handle. It’s definitely a unique way of doing a character line, but it does work with the overall design.

My tester also had the M Sport Design package that not only gave the vehicle more aggressive bumpers and side skirts, but a smattering of M badges and 21-inch rims too. It’s definitely an option box you want to tick if you want your new X5 to look its most aggressive.

Comfort

All BMW X5 45e examples produced come with standard adaptive air suspension that helps it ride remarkably well over most uneven surfaces. It’s really good even at ironing out big dips and ruts on unpaved roads, allowing occupants to enjoy the scenery while being cocooned in luxury – this is something that only Range Rover offered until about a decade ago, but other manufacturer have caught on since and have softened their SUVs in the quest for making them as comfortable as possible.

My tester also had the fully electrically adjustable M sport seats that were both heated and cooled. They have an impressive range of motion and you can really dial in your ideal driving position – this may be a BMW, but you don’t really sit that low in the driver’s seat (even if you lower it all the way down, like I did).

And while you can adjust the electric side bolsters to hold you more firmly in place, the BMW X5 is a vehicle best enjoyed while cruising, so you may not want your seat to hug you like it does in a sports car. So even though the front seats look quite sporty, they’re actually more comfort oriented than anything else.

Life for rear passengers is pretty good too. There is ample room in all directions, and what impressed me most here is just how low and unobtrusive the transmission tunnel was – the middle passenger won’t feel like he or she is being punished, even on longer journeys.

What’s also worth noting is that even though the suspension has various modes you can put it in – in Sport it does firm up and body roll through corners is minimized – it is worth noting that even in its stiffest setting, it doesn’t feel like you lose that much comfort.

Technology, Connectivity & Safety

The BMW X5 has a full suite of active and passive safety aids, including adaptive cruise control with lane keep function, cross traffic alert, reversing assistant, surround-view camera system that even has a 3D model of the car. You change the view around the car when in the 3D perspective by using gesture control, a feature that’s now on all BMWs and it actually works pretty well once you get used to it.

My tester also had a full color head-up display, laser headlights with auto high beam, heated front arm rests (both on the doors and between the seats), heated rear bench, voice commands and an electrically adjustable steering wheel. And since the 45e is a plug-in hybrid, it gets some unique features, such as a Hybrid model in place of the usual Comfort mode, as well as a battery save function button that tells the car to charge the battery up to a specified level.

Performance & Handling

The X5 45e is unquestionably quick – it sprints from nought to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.6 seconds, but from the driver’s seat, it feels even quicker than that, as we’ve come to expect from powerful electric or electrified vehicles. Even though it weighs 2.5 tons, the vehicle accelerates very well, and it keeps accelerating all the way to its top speed of 235 km/h (145 mph) – the fact that acceleration remains strong even at higher speeds is unusual among SUVs, as their tall bodies encounter more air resistance at higher speeds.

The main source of power is BMW’s B58 3-liter straight-six which for this application has actually been detuned – it makes 286 horsepower and 450 Nm (331 pound-feet) and is aided by an electric motor built into the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. The motor makes 113 horsepower and 265 Nm (195 pound-feet) and, as a result, the vehicle is surprisingly nippy when in Electric mode.

According to BMW, they provide a combined 392 horsepower and 600 Nm of torque. And that’s not all – this vehicle has a remarkably intoxicating exhaust note which I recorded and you can listen to it in the video review.

Through the corners, it’s about as composed and surefooted as you’d expect an X5 to be, but the extra 300 kg (660 pounds) it lugs around compared to a 40i model does make its presence felt. It’s still good through corners, but you can definitely feel the extra weight, and it does dull the handling a bit. This is not what I experienced when , and that’s a vehicle that I think makes more sense as a plug-in hybrid than the larger X5 (even with its big battery and impressive pure-electric range).

Efficiency, Range & Charging

The X5 45e has one of the biggest batteries ever fitted to a plug-in hybrid and thanks to it, it is granted impressive real world range. However, it’s not really that efficient, as I found out on the return leg of my 400 km (250-mile) road trip when my trip computer was showing 12.2 l/100km (19.3 US mpg). And keep in mind that for the first 60 or so kilometers, it only ran on electrons.

There was no place to charge the car at my destination deep in the mountains, so I was forced to drive it back relying only on gasoline. And if you do so, it will actually be about 0.2 l/100km less efficient than the 40i model that runs essentially the same engine, but without electrification.

If charge the X5 45e and constantly keep its battery topped up, then sure, it makes sense, but if you’re not going to consistently do that, then it may not be the vehicle for you (or a PHEV may not be for you, generally speaking). When the time comes to charge it, another problem arises, though.

Its on-board charger can only muster up to 3.5 kW, which means that if the battery is fully depleted, it will need some 7 hours to be fully charged again. That is a lot of time to wait around, and it just doesn’t seem practical if you don’t have the option to always either have it plugged in at home overnight or at work throughout the day.

Pricing & Verdict

My tester cost €103,000 (around $120,000) and over €20,000 (around $23,000) were just the options. That is a lot of money to spend on an SUV and keep in mind the 45e has a starting price that’s around €8,000 higher than a 40i, a vehicle that will offer better performance and superior economy compared to a 45e with a depleted battery.

So make sure the 45e is the X5 you want. The current X5 is a great luxury SUV, one of the best on the market. It’s more comfort oriented than previous incarnations, but it’s still sporty and through all the available modes, you can tailor the driving experience to your preferences. It’s also packed with tech, it has a wide range of engines and, if you do choose the 45e and run it as intended, remarkable efficiency too.

Gallery: 2020 BMW X5 xDrive 45e PHEV


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Competitors

BMW X5 xDrive45e

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