Desire: The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

Updated: Mar 24

Let's establish this up front: I have never driven a bad BMW. From my first time, at age 17, behind the wheel of a friend's brother's 2002tii, to now, they've all been varying degrees of excellent. Yes, there's been some mission creep---BMW now is as much a maker of SUVs as it is of Ultimate Driving Machines, but times change and the SUVs make it possible for the sports sedans and coupes to keep rolling out of the factory.

The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is the first one in a long time that I wanted to keep. I had pangs seeing something else in my driveway. It's just that beautiful, that wonderful---that good.

Given that the X5 xDrive45e is a plug-in hybrid, and that I've been critical of BMW's other PHEVs recently (the 330e and the X3 xDrive30e ) for their limited all-electric range, that may come as a surprise.

But the BMW X5 is a bigger vehicle, capable of incorporating a bigger battery pack without some of the compromises of the compact 3-series and X3. I've suggested a PHEV should have at least 30 miles of pure electric range. The X5 xDrive45e has 31. Bingo. That means, if your commute is 15.5 miles or less each way and you recharge every night or during the day at work, you can do it without consuming a drop of gasoline or putting a particle of pollution in the air. And when you need to go beyond the electric range, you have a hybrid whose only limits are the same as any gasoline-powered vehicle---the distance to the next gas station.

And this year's model is a major leap from the outgoing X5 XDrive40e. Horsepower jumps from 308 to 389, torque from 332 pounds per foot to 443. There is no sense that you're dealing with the extra weight of the battery pack. Zero. Speaking of zero, the 3-liter inline turbo six, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, will move from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.3 seconds when you select "Sport" as your drive mode. That's fantastic. And on our 75-mile loop of Sierra foothill backroads, the X5 xDrive45e behaved like a BMW, hugging every curve and begging for more.

Moving up to the X5 not only brings more room for people, their things and battery packs, it also brings space and a level of refinement and elegance. Don't get me wrong---I like the X1, the X3 and for that matter, the big X7, but to me, it's in the X5 where the whole thing comes together at a Goldilocks-level "just right".

The base price of the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is $65,400. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are Ivory White Vernasca leather, aluminum trim, run-flat tires, privacy glass, and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

As with most European luxury marques, the real money comes in the extra-cost optional equipment. In this case, $1,700 for the Driving Assistance Professional Package, $5,500 for the M Sport Package, $4,050 for the Executive Package, $950 for 21-inch Y-spoke bi-colored wheels, $650 for M Sport brakes with blue calipers, $550 for a trailer hitch, $750 for multi-contour seats, $350 for front and rear heated seats and an extra $250 for heated front seats, armrest and steering wheel (details of the packages can be found on the window sticker below).

With $995 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e is $81,695.

My verdict? Worth it. Every penny. The pleasure of driving, being in---heck, just looking at---the 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e justifies that price tag.

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