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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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Photo by Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

The annual Forbes World's Billionaires list ranks and categorizes the richest people on Earth. You can probably name a few in the Top 10: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison all make the list.

Sixty-eight of the billionaires have ties to the auto industry. Scroll down to see the top 15 heavy hitters and find out more about their rolls in the sector.

No. 476 - William Bin Li

William Bin Lee Li

William Bin Lee, chief executive officer and chairman of electric car maker NIO, looks on as he waits for NIO stock to begin trading on the floor of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

According to his Forbe profile, William Li is known as the "Elon Musk of China". In his lifetime he has co-founded and invested in more than 40 companies in the automotive space.

He is the founder and chairman of Bitauto (NYSE: BITA), a company that has three main areas of business: advertising and subscriptions, transaction services, and digital marketing solutions. Li sold the company in 2013.

The entrepreneur is also known for being the founder and current CEO of luxury electric car manufacturer NIO (NYSE: NIO). In addition to passenger vehicles, NIO is involved with FIA Formula E Championship racing.

His $5.8 billion net worth moves him up quite a bit form his 1,717 position on 2019's Billionaire's list.

No. 476 - Li Ping

You might not know Li Ping's name, but you're probably familiar with the company that he is the vice chairman of - Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) - if not by name then by the products that their batteries are in. Either via partnerships or sales, the company has supplied batteries for PSA Groupe (now part of Stellantis), Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Daimler AG, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, MINI, Next, BAIC Motor, Geely Automobile, GAC Group, Yutong Bus, Zhongtong Bus, Xiamen King Long, SAIC Motor, and Ford.

Ping's $5.8 billion net worth places him much higher on the Billionaires list than he was in 2019 and 2019 when he placed numbers 1063 and 1605, respectively.

No. 451 - Mong-Koo Chung

Chung Mong-Koo

Hyundai Motor Co. Chairman Chung Mong-Koo walks by reporters as he leaves after the first day of his appeals trial at the Seoul Central District Court on March 27, 2007 in Seoul, South Korea.

Photo by Getty Images

Mong-Koo Chung ushered in the new era of Hyundai Motor Corporation vehicles, moving the company from troubled upstart to a formidable foe for the likes of the Big 3, not just in America, but across the globe, during his 20-year tenure.

Chung's net worth is estimated to be $6 billion, which comes primarily from this family's business. He is the second son of the late Chung Ju-yung who founded the Hyundai Group. His second biggest holding is the auto parts company Hyundai Mobis, where he still serves as Chairman.

According to Forbes, Chung is known as the "bulldozer" because of his "blunt and forceful style."

In 2007, an appeals court suspended a three-year prison sentence for the Hyundai Motor Co. Chairman saying the tycoon is too important to South Korea's economy to go to jail for embezzlement.

In 2020, Chung was number 836 on the Billionaires list, quite the fall from his position at 452 in 2019.

No. 339 - Ernest Garcia III​

If you've shopped for a used car lately, there's a good chance that you've taken a peek at the website of the billionaire at number 339 on the Forbes list. Garcia is the CEO and cofounder of Carvana, an ecommerce platform for buying and selling used cars. The company is perhaps best known for its car towers, which display vehicles and where buyers can pick up their vehicle without having to visit a dealership.

Garcia is worth $7.4 billion according to Forbes.

The Stanford University graduate started his career as an associate in the Principal Transactions Group at RBS Greenwich Capital.

No. 308 - Shahid Khan

Shadhid Khan

Shad Khan Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on before the start of a game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Shahid Khan was trained as an engineer. In 1980 he purchased Flex-N-Gate from his former employer and set about building an empire, thanks in large part to the success of his one-piece truck bumper. The Flex-N-Gate now has 64 plants worldwide and over 24,000 employees.

Kahn's success isn't limited to the automotive industry. He is the owner of Fulham football club and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He and his son, Tony, launched All Elite Wrestling in 2019 as a competitor to WWE. He is a major financial backer of Black News Channel, a 24-hour cable news channel that launched in February 2020.

Kahn is currently worth $8 billion placing him in the 308 slot on the Forbes Billionaires list. In 2020 he was number 183 and in 2019 he was 224.

No. 256 - Lu Xiangyang

Lu Xiangyang and his cousin Wang Chuanfu teamed up in 1995 to launch BYD, a Chinese auto- and battery-maker. Prior to that point, Lu had been working at the People's Bank of China.
BYD currently makes passenger cars, buses, electric bicycles, forklifts, rechargeable batteries, and trucks. The range of products electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and gasoline-powered vehicles.
In addition his stake in BYD, Lu runs an investment firm, Youngy Investment Holding Group.
Lu's net worth is $9.1 billion according to Forbes.

No. 173 - Lu Zhongfang

The year was 1999. Lu Zhongfang retired from a pesticides factory in northern China's Jilin Province six years prior. He decided to invest in test preparation firm Offcn.

Today, Offcn Education Technology Co., Ltd. has over 35,000 employees across the globe and generates $1.3 billion in sales each year. There are 1490 companies in the Offcn corporate family.

Lu is worth $12.5 billion according to the Forbes list.

No. 133 - ​Georg Schaeffler

Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, Georg F. W. Schaeffler

The owner of the Scheffler Group, Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler (R) and her son Georg F. W. Schaeffler are seen prior to the Continental Shareholder Meeting on April 23, 2009 in Hanover, Germany.

Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Georg Schaeffler's link to the auto industry is less traditional than many of the people on this list. Schaeffler and his mother Maria-Elisabeth own Schaeffler Group, a global one of the world's largest producers of ball bearings and machine components.

In 2011, Schaeffler Group agreed to a staggered ownership deal with Continental AG and it currently owns over 46 percent. Schaeffler Group also owns the brands INA, FAG and LuK. Schaeffler is the head of the supervisory board of Schaeffler Group and a member of the supervisory board of Continental AG.

His net worth of $14.9 billion has moved him up on the list from his 2020 spot as number 241 and closer to his previous positions at 96, 31, and 36 in 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively.

No. 128 - Wei Jianjun​

Wei Jianjun is worth $15.5 billion, far more than he was worth in 2017-2020.

Wei is quite the success story. At the age of 26, he took over the debt-plagued Great Wall Automobile Industry Company after working at a carpet factory and a water-pump factory before joining Great Wall. Wei currently the head of Great Wall Motor, which has become China's largest SUV manufacturer.

No. 121 - Ernest Garcia II

Ernest Garcia II is 228 spots ahead of his son Ernest Garcia III. The elder Garcia is the largest Carvana shareholder, which has given him a net worth of $15.9 billion. In addition to his Carvana holdings, Garcia owns DriveTime Automotive, the nation's fourth-biggest used car retailer.

In 2020, Garcia was listed in the 875 position on the Billionaires list.

No. 118 - Wang Chuanfu

\u200bWang Chuanfu

Wang Chuanfu, Chairman of BYD, waits for the BYD press event to begin during the press preview for the Detroit International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Wang Chuanfu is Lu Xiangyang's cousin and BYD co-founder. His net worth is higher than Lu's - $16.3 billion. Like Wei Jianjun, Wang is a rags to riches success story. He was born in a farm village in 1966 and was orphaned as a teen. He set his sights on battery technology when he was in college and founded BYD in 1990.

Wang's worth is on the rise. In 2020, he was ranked at number 401 on the Forbes Billionaires list and in 2019 he was number 452.

No. 89 - Li Shufu

Li Shufu is the chairman of Geely Automobile Holdings. You might have heard the Geely name before. They're the parent company of Volvo and Polestar, among others, and they one of the few Chinese automakers not run by the government. Geely also owns stakes in Daimler, Lotus, and flying car start-up Terrafugia.

Li has been dreaming about making cars since he was a body, telling Forbes Asia in 2014, ""We couldn't afford any toys. I couldn't imagine making a real car."

Li was listed in the 96 position on the 2020 version of the Forbes Billionaires list. He was listed 91st in 2019. His current net worth is $19.7 billion.

No. 81 - Stefan Quandt

Stefan Quandt is worth $21.6 billion thanks, in large part, to his 23.6=percent stake in BMW. Quandyts mother, Joanna, was the third wife of industrialist Herbert Quandt whose biggest claim to fame is saving BMW when it was at the point of bankruptcy and earning a fortune while doing so.

Quandt is the deputy chairman of BMW's supervisory board. In addition to his BMW holdings, Quandt has holdings in Heel (homeopathic medicine), Entrust (digital identity and data security), and Logwin (logistics).

Quandt has made the Billionaires list since 2017 with positions as high as 42nd (in 2018).

No. 53 - Susanne Klatten

Susanne Klatten

Jan Klatten with his wife Susanne Klatten and Werner E. Klatten attend the German Sports Gala 'Ball des Sports 2017' on February 4, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Susanne Klatten is worth over $6 billion more ($27.7 million) than her brother Stefan Quandt despite owning just a 19.1-percent stake in BMW. Like her brother, she has been on the Billionaires list since 2017 with her ranking as high as 32.

Klatten is an economist by trade. She helped transform Altana AG into a world-class pharmaceutical/specialty chemical corporation. She is currently the sole owner and deputy chairman of that company, which has more than $2.5 billion in annual sales.

Klatten and her brother both hold stakes in Entrust. She has also invested SGL Group.

No. 2 - Elon Musk

Elon Musk

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses next to Axel Springer's Chairman of the Board Mathias Doepfner on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Photo by Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images

With a net worth of $151 billion, Elon Musk takes second place on the annual Forbes Billionaires list. Musk's holdings and links to the auto industry are pretty well known. According to Forbes, Musk owns 21 percent of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for loans. He also owns SpaceX, a rocket company.

Though much of the conversation surrounding Musk these days is in regard to Tesla and SpaceX, Musk is just as well known for building PayPal into the powerhouse company it is today.

Musk was first listed on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2012.

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