Behind the WHeel

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e Review: Electrification gives the X5 a boost but it's not enough

The new plug-in hybrid variant of the BMW X5 gets its electrified components right, but other features wrong.

Photo courtesy of BMW

The BMW X5 is very nearly a perfect luxury SUV in many regards. It blends the utility of a true SUV with the power and performance of a modern day crossover. It's been a staple of the BMW lineup for generations now, improving with each refresh.

What makes the BMW X5 so good each go-round isn't an absolutely loaded-up, tech-heavy cabin. It isn't the fuel economy or split liftgate utility or comfortable seating, though it has all of those. It isn't even the fuel economy. The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive 45e combines every one of those factors into a fabulous two-row SUV package, but there is more than one catch.

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e The car looks like a bigger X3 or a smaller X7. Either way, it's not unique.Photo courtesy of BMW

2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e

The problem with the BMW X5 is that it's just never as good as I want it to be. I want to like it more, but I just can't get there with it. Some of that may be the sameness factor. The X5 looks like it is wholly a product of the BMW parts bin. The exterior is just a bigger X3 or smaller X7. It's fine, it's just not unique, even when equipped with the M Sport package, which adds black accents to the exterior.

The sameness issue persists in the interior, where nearly every switch, dial, and display has been brought over from the BMW parts bin to execute a design that looks like it could have been pulled from nearly any of the brand's cars or SUVs.There's an abundance of dark plastic that easily collects dust and drop from liquid but there's also plenty of leather and soft-touch surfaces.

The X5 xDrive45e's plug-in hybrid powertrain is new for the 2021 model year. It gets 389 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque from its 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, which is paired with a 24-kilowatt-hour battery. The battery affords 30 hours of all-electric range and helps with the car's acceleration off the line. To take full advantage of the extra get up and go, you have to press firmly on the accelerator and hold on. The X5 then takes off, making pulling out into traffic and getting up to speed a breeze.

Seats in the X5 are suitably plush and spacious.Photo courtesy of BMW

However, and this is a big however, the cabin doesn't seem stable enough to handle the oomph. There's plenty of lane wobbling before the car straightens out in the lane.

This isn't the only time drive dynamics are an issue in the X5. At low speed, the SUV steers like a full-size truck with plenty of wheel play. That's fine. At higher speeds, even with the Sport drive mode selected, the SUV's dynamics appear out of step with what BMW is known for. The X5 doesn't deliver the connected drive experience and engaging handling other BMW SUVs do. In this respect, the model's dynamics are very Lincoln-like.

The X5's cabin is a quiet and serene place. Not much road noise permeates the cabin of the SUV and the car's suspension is quick to absorb the road's bumps and dips. Over speed bumps, the weight of the xDrive45e's battery did not impede the drive or ride experience.

This model takes five hours to charge on a Level 2 (240-volt) charger. The EPA says that you're like to get about 400 miles of driving range when fully topped off but charging between stops can easily drive that number up. When the car's 30 miles of electric range are used up, it seamlessly switches from electric to hybrid power.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen provides a good view of the necessary infotainment system options..Photo courtesy of BMW

Other issues with the car are common with the rest of the BMW lineup. Chalk it up to the sameness factor once again. The infotainment system finds itself taking over all musical operations of the vehicle when a phone is plugged in, even when not called upon to do so, immediately playing music when a user simply reads a text message or is browsing online, whether in the driver or passenger seat, even when the music functionality has not been activated. The only fix is to get the vehicle and phone to "forget" each other. In other manufacturer's vehicles, charging functionality does not perform like this.

Seating is comfortable and relatively spacious for an SUV of its size. There's nothing atypical there.

The X5's other big issues are safety related. The company's hands-on (as opposed to hands-free) Driving Assistance Professional Package includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality. In testing, the system did not appear to react to stopped traffic in time for a comfortable stop. This required human intervention, which canceled the assistance and required resetting.

Additionally, even a mild amount of sunshine seemed to interfere with the car's cameras' ability to "see" lane markings. This rendered the system mostly useless during daylight hours on a sunny day. Frequently, when sunshine appeared on one side of the vehicle, that side's lane-keeping system would not work, causing the vehicle to swerve.

The interior of the BMW X5 xDrive45e is similar to every other BMW SUV.Photo courtesy of BMW

At night, the problem persisted though not as badly. A light rain aggravated the situation causing the car to do a ping-ponging maneuver from lane line to lane line while traveling at speed requiring the system to need to be disengaged due to safety concerns.

The BMW X5 is so refined and polished in so many ways, but it just as many others, it's not ready for prime time. There are some really great things about the X5 xDrive45e, but it's certainly worth cross-shopping other vehicles to see if you like them better, especially considering the model's $65,400 price tag.

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New compact luxury SUV

2022 Lexus NX gets new tech and PHEV drivetrain

The NX is all-new for 2022.

Lexus

The NX may not be Lexus' most popular SUV – that title goes to the RX – but it's got a lot to offer in a compact package. Lexus redesigned the NX for 2022, and the big stories are its new PHEV powertrain, updated tech, and improved safety features.

The 2022 NX 450h+ is Lexus' first plug-in hybrid vehicle. It's expected to deliver 36 miles all-electric range, 84 MPGe combined, a 0-60 mph time of six seconds. It's joined in the NX lineup by the NX 350h hybrid, which uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two high-torque motor-generators that produce a combined output of 239 horsepower. The NX 350h is capable of returning 39 mpg combined and a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds.

2022 Lexus NX New tech and updated safety features are headline changes for 2022.Lexus

A turbocharged gas engine rounds out the NX powertrain selection. It's a 2.4-liter unit that makes 203 horsepower and 184 horsepower. Surprisingly, it's weaker than both of the hybrid powertrains, and is only capable of a 0-60 mph time of 8.2 seconds with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy lands at 28 mpg combined.

The new NX comes standard with a 9.8-inch touchscreen that employs a new Lexus interface to make interactions smoother and easier. A 14-inch touchscreen is optional, and includes a three-year trial for a bundle of connected services. Lexus offers a new connected smartphone feature that allows drivers to store their vehicle profiles in the cloud and take them to other Lexus vehicles equipped with the tech.

2022 Lexus NX The NX gets a PHEV powertrain option for the first time.Lexus

The Lexus Interface also offers advanced voice controls and a new voice assistant feature. The automaker says that it was designed to recognize natural speech, and uses two microphones with noise cancellation, seat detection, and speaker location capabilities. Drivers can ask for the weather, traffic situations, control the audio system, and more with their voice.

The NX's safety features got a boost for 2022 as well. Standard features now include risk avoidance emergency steer assist, left-turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection and braking, and dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management.

2022 Lexus NX F Sport models get sporty interior finishes.Lexus

The 2022 Lexus NX should begin arriving on dealers' lots in December 2021. Pricing for the NX 250 FWD starts at $39,025, which includes a $1,075 destination fee. The range-topping NX 450h+ starts at $56,635.

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The Grand Cherokee gets a plug-in powertrain for the first time.

Jeep

Jeep just announced the all-new fifth-generation 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, featuring a new exterior and interior, updated tech, and class-leading capabilities from its optional engines. However, the big headline here is the new Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in hybrid SUV that follows the Jeep Wrangler into electrified off-roading.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 4xe makes all-electric off-roading possible.Jeep

As it did with the Wrangler, Jeep electrified the Grand Cherokee for the new model year. The new 4xe powertrain is available in the Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims. It uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and features an all-electric driving range of 25 miles, fuel economy of 57 MPGe, and a total combined driving range of 440 miles. The powertrain also produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe All Grand Cherokee models get a more upscale interior for the 2022 model year.Jeep

With the water and terrain involved in off-roading, an electric motor and plug-in components could be a recipe for disaster, but Jeep took steps to protect sensitive parts of the drivetrain and vehicle. All high-voltage electronics are seats and are waterproof, and Jeep says that the Grand Cherokee 4xe can ford water of up to 24 inches in depth. The battery also comes with its own heating and cooling system to hold it in the ideal temperature range for optimum performance. The powertrain delivers impressive capability, as Jeep says a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe was able to tackle the Rubicon Trail on electric power only.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 2022 Grand Cherokee gets updated tech and safety features.Jeep

The 4xe's charging port is located on the front fender to allow easier charging in tight spots. LED indicators show the charging status and there's an LED battery monitor inside the vehicle on the instrument panel. Three driving modes allow the driver to select the right vehicle and powertrain behavior for the situation. Hybrid mode combines both the electric motor and gas engine, and balances the two for the best fuel efficiency and performance. Electric mode operates on electric power only until the battery's power is depleted. eSave prioritizes the gas engine to preserve battery power. As with all PHEVs, the Grand Cherokee 4xe functions like a traditional hybrid once the battery's power is mostly depleted.


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