2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e: First Drive Review

This plug-in hybrid BMW is every bit as exhilarating to drive as its fossil fuel-fed counterpart.


Less than a generation ago, the idea of hybrid or pure electric cars behaving or performing as well as gas- or diesel-powered machines was deemed madness. Sure, such electron-happy vehicles would serve well enough for local commutes to and from the office or school, but no one would ever rely on such overgrown golf carts for driving enjoyment.

Fortunately, the luxury automakers from Germany through the UK and clear over to Japan decided to flip off that tired assumption. Now, we have electrified rides that are as pleasant (even fun) to drive as any fossil fuel beast of the not too distant past.


The high-end car designers out of Munich are holding up their side of the evolutionary process with creations like the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e Plug-In Hybrid. A crossover built for comfort and performance, its hybrid engine extends mileage and reduces environmental damage while you enjoy your drive. Neither environmentalists nor hedonists will be left out of the carpool.

Now, let’s take a moment and shake our heads at the name of this vehicle. You need to stop for a sandwich and run to the restroom in the middle of “2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e Plug-In Hybrid.” That’s just a BMW thing.


The Bavarians always insist on numbers over monikers for their builds. In this era of electrification, with fuel-driven and battery-powered drivetrain, the danger is it takes so long to brand all of those elements that you need an Enigma machine to tell anybody what you drive. We’re helpless to change that, but never forget.

Christening problems aside, the (…deep breath…) BMW X5 xDrive 45e Plug-In Hybrid puts in a definitive word that a fully electrified car can offer all the driving elements required in a $67,000 hybrid. It’s quick and provides ample power with a combined 398 horses.


The BMW engineers manage to balance the ride well, planting its considerable weight of almost 7,000 pounds (…weighty for a crossover because all of that battery capability gets heavy…) in the middle of the machine for ample grip.

The only potential fault found in this X5 (shortened for time) probably applies only to real driving purists. With the introduction of more electric elements, you lose some of driving’s sensory impact. The dearth of engine noise or exhaust note is the most noticeable, but as society’s motorized transport continues to evolve electrically, the roar of a good V8 will be heard as often as the roar of a good allosaurus. 


There’s also a reduced sense of engine braking, gear shifting and maybe even a little shake and shimmy you’d get from a traditionally powered performance machine. 

That said, once settled in behind the wheel of the well-built, beautifully engineered and technologically involved BMW X5 xDrive 45e Plug-In Hybrid (…heavy inhale…), you’ll be certain the onrushing era of entirely electric cars will still offer driving thrills.


You might even look forward to it.