By Peter Perrotta
If you ask me what my favorite car to drive is, I would have to confess, it’s a BMW.
I sold Mercedes for several years, so that confession doesn’t come easy.
But, as far as pure driving ability and nothing else, BMW fits what I like to feel when I’m behind the wheel.
BMWs are engineered to be driven hard, almost aggressively; their handling is spot on and you can drive most of their models at high speeds and still feel you have a very secure command of the vehicle.
I also like the way the suspensions of almost all of the BMW models I have ever driven are set up. They are designed to allow you to feel the road under you while you drive, giving you a real sense of control.
I am not a big fan of vehicles that offer up a pillowy suspension that makes you feel like you are driving on a cloud.
All that being said, I know there are a lot of you out there who don’t care for BMWs. I had clients when I sold Mercedes and later on when I worked for an all-brands leasing company that hated the ride of the BMW.
So, in the end, it’s just a matter of what fits your wants and needs.
As we start to transform into a new era of vehicle modes – hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric – it is going to be interesting to see how this power plant transformation affects the traditional way we expect these vehicles to perform.
Case in point, I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 BMW X5 xdrive45e – a multi-faceted SUV that can be driven as a hybrid, all-electric or in gas engine mode only – to see if this new PHEV (plug-in hybrid) carries the same pizzaz as what we have come to expect from the traditional BMW.
The short answer is yes, for the most part. However, there are some differences that make it feel and sound a whole lot different then what you may be used to from a pure combustible engine BMW.
When you first sit behind the wheel of this PHEV X5 and push the start button on the center console you will immediately notice the difference; it’s quiet as heck. In fact, it’s so quiet you can’t tell if the engine has started or not.
My assumption here is that the hybrid mode – which is the default mode the car drives itself in – puts it in electric mode automatically on start up and it’s not until you really get going and up to speed that the gas engine kicks in.
In fact, the only way to tell if the car actually started up successfully is to check on the dash where it will indicate if the car is “off” or “ready” to be driven.
Upon initial take off, the PHEV X5 is super quiet as it starts out using the electric motor only until you get up to speed and then the hybrid takes over.
If you are a traditional BMW motor head like me, this new phenomena takes a little getting used to, but it’s all good because at the end of the day this SUV still drives spot on just like its predecessors.
So the way this thing works is you can choose at start up how or in which mode you want to drive the car. If you do nothing it will automatically be in the hybrid mode.
In the hybrid mode the advanced electronics built into the BMW system will determine for you the most efficient way for it to drive – as an electric, hybrid or all gas.
As long as the auxiliary battery is charged – remember this is a plug-in fully chargeable electric as well – you can select the fully electric mode at start up by pushing a button on the center console.
And, finally, if you don’t feel like messing with hybrids or electrics at all, then you can simply put it in “Sport” mode at start up, in which the combustion engine will be engaged only.
Powering the new generation PHEV X5 is a 282 horsepower turbo charged 3.0 liter inline six cylinder engine that is paired with a single electric motor that is sandwiched between the engine and the eight speed automatic transmission.
The combined power of the gas engine and the electric motor help it produce an impressive 389 horsepower which I found to be more than enough to drive as aggressively as you want around town or on the interstate.
More impressively, the whole complicated set up works seamlessly and smoothly, even if it takes a bit to get used to.
The base price of the 2021 BMW X5 xdrive45e is $65,400. My tester version carried a bottom line sticker price with options and destination and delivery of $81,695.
Added options included: $4,050 for an executive package; $5,500 for the M Sport Package; $1,700 for the driver assist pro package; $950 for M sport 21-inch wheels and $650 for M Sport brakes.
The M Sport package includes a lot of sporty trim and aluminum as well as an upgraded leather.
The executive package includes: a panoramic moon roof; rear manual side window shades; 4 zone climate control; heads up display; wireless phone charger; a Wifi hot sport and enhanced blue tooth.
Driven on gasoline engine mode only, the EPA estimates this X5 gets about 20 miles per gallon overall with a 50 mpg rating on the combined gas/electric mode.
This vehicle has not received the government’s 5-star crash test safety rating yet.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.