Plug-in hybrid BMW cleans up the image of premium SUVs

First drive: BMW X5 xDrive45e promises a realistic electric-only range of 67-87km

Make: BMW

Model: X5

Year: 2019

Fuel: Hybrid

Date Reviewed: November 7, 2019

Thu, Nov 7, 2019, 17:18


A plug-in hybrid BMW X5 is a car that many people might not know exists, but BMW has been making one for a few years. With greater awareness of emissions now would appear to be the perfect time to take serious notice of the second generation X5 xDrive40e called xDrive45e.

The new petrol/electric X5 loses its four cylinder engine to gain a smother six. Thanks to its electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery pack the 45e falls in to, and you may not believe this, the second lowest emissions tax band of A1.

Apart from the rear badge and an additional fuel flap on the nearside wing housing an AC electric plug socket, the PHEV X5 looks just like any other X5. Its electric only driving range in nearly tripled compared to its predecessor. BMW quotes a possible EV range of 86-97km (NEDC) or a more likely 67-87km using the stricter WLTP measurement. Fuel consumption and emission levels have almost halved also to make the big X5 PHEV greener than most small cars.

Inside the cabin only comes with five seats format. That’s the greatest weakness in the offering.

Connectivity is enhanced, with music fans now able to log in to subscription services like Spotify to access their own account. Only two additional drive mode buttons, inscribed hybrid and electric, located between the sport and adaptive settings, hint that this X5 is a gentler giant.

Only two additional drive mode buttons, inscribed hybrid and electric, located between the sport and adaptive settings, hint that this X5 is a gentler giant.

A less noticeable feature is the PHEV’s smaller boot. A 500 litre capacity is still useful andis expandable to 1,716 litres. The X5’s under floor storage area is lost due to the necessary repositioning of the 45e’s large 69 litre petrol tank.

On the road the 45e is super smooth to drive. Two axel air suspension and electronically controlled dampers are standard. Thanks to the low positioning of the weighty electrical components the xDrive45e has a comparatively low centre of gravity. Active steering is optional and this feature allows precise positioning of the car in a variety of driving conditions.

City driving is a joy while autobahn use delivers surprisingly enthusiastic performance. On unrestricted sections we were able to effortlessly travel at over 200km/h in total comfort.

On twistier roads the hybrid’s torque proved fun especially when exiting corners as power deliver is near instant. Add in xDrive traction to the dynamic performance and the combination is quite sporty. During our test we averaged higher than the official fuel consumption and were closer to a mid sized family diesel car (low 5 l/100km). We did explore the car’s potential and drove with more gusto than a driver late for the school pick up. Most urban runs can be done in EV mode alone with a light right foot. When running at slow speed in electric mode the car emits a noise from a speaker system to alert pedestrians that you can’t hear in the insulated cabin.

A classic BMW in-line six cylinder petrol layout is under the bonnet. The 3 litre twin-power turbo charged petrol engine pushes out 286hp and 450nm of torque. This would be absolutely fine in any SUV, but the X5 PHEV delivers much more.

The synchronous electric motor that gets its power from the X5’s 24kWh rechargeable battery pack (20.9kWh net) produces a further 113hp and 265nm of torque. When you factor in the usual hybrid power losses along the way the X5’s combined petrol/electric output is very impressive at 394hp and 600nm.

As the PHEV has xDrive all wheel drive the 45e takes only 5.6 seconds to go from 0-100km/h. Top speed is 235km/h. Its electric-only top speed of 135km/h is a 20km/h improvement on the car it replaces. An 8-speed ‘steptronic’ gearbox delivers smooth gear shifts at all speeds. Plug in hybrids tend to be heavier than no hybrids due to the weighty battery pack and electric motor. In many cases the tyres used have to be upgraded to take the extra weight but not the X5 PHEV. At 2.5 tonnes the 45e weighs a little less than a 7-seat V8 X5, and can run on standard tyres. There is good news for horsebox pullers too as the 45e is certified to tow 2.7 tonnes braked.


When plugged in to a 3.7kW home charger (the minimum home EV wall box power output, newer boxes are 7.5kW) it will take 6.8 hours to charge the battery pack fully from empty. In hybrid driving mode the car sorts out the battery charging on the move. If you are travelling to a town or city centre where you need or want to run in zero emissions mode you can set a minimum electric charge reserve from a display menu.

The 45e is also be capable of identifying zero emissions zones and will be able to switch automatically from petrol power to electric motor as dictated by ‘geo-fenced’ areas. Anticipatory hybrid drive is another novel feature (in adaptive and hybrid drive modes) that is integrate with the navigation system and can optimise the way the X5 is powered and how it recuperates power e.g it will recognise downhill sections of the route to maximise regenerative braking. BMW is also looking to introduce an incentive programme called ‘BMW Points’ to encourage efficient driving. Rewards such as free charging, free parking etc. would be offered.

BMW’s Gerhard Thiel, project leader of the X5 xDrive45e told The Irish Times: “We see substantial growth in the premium sector up to 2030. We see plug in hybrid vehicles as an effective way of reducing emissions sustainably. For emissions free driving in cities and peace of mind for longer journeys a PHEV fits the bill”. Thiel says nobody knows how the demand for EVs will grow globally and car firms in general see demand for various types of power trains to be maintained for the foreseeable future.

The BMW X5 xDrive45e may be the cheapest X5 you can buy it is still an expensive mode of transport in anybody’s book. You will however save big on fossil fuel use while also reducing emissions at the tailpipe.

The fact it is a really good car is a bonus. The usual X Line (€83,185) and M Sport (€87,815) grades will be available with the 45e. BMW says the new 45e’s CO2 footprint is 40 per cent smaller than a regular combustion engine car and up to 70 per cent smaller if green energy is used to charge the battery. The plug in hybrid X5 is perhaps the only acceptable form of the luxury car going forward.

BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport

Power: 394hp

Torque: 600nm

0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds

Top Speed: 235 km/h

Claimed fuel economy: 2.0l/100km (141mpg)

CO2 emissions: 41g/km

Motor tax: €170 (Band A1)

Price: €87,815

Verdict: The hybrid X5 is the acceptable face of premium SUVs for the next few years at least.

Our rating: 4 stars