RE: 2021 BMW 545e | PH Review

RE: 2021 BMW 545e | PH Review

Thursday 25th November

2021 BMW 545e | PH Review

A new 5 Series with a 286hp straight-six and 30-miles battery range should be the ideal PHEV exec - is it?



The plug-in hybrid isn't short of detractors, but the suitability of the technology for the current climate is clear enough. A PHEV offers its driver EV silent running when it suits, and petrol power for when that's preferable - and in a country where the public charge network is still not brilliant, that duality has plenty of advantages. Plus, let's be honest here - we'd probably all like to keep a petrol motor where possible, which means that what you really want is a PHEV built by a manufacturer renowned for both their combustion engines and EV technology.

Here we are, then, with a BMW 545e, a G30 5 Series powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-litre, 286hp straight six and a 11.6kWh, 108hp electric motor. With the best part of 400hp, xDrive all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic, here's an unassuming 5 Series with the performance of an E39 M5. Electric range is quoted at between 29 and 33 miles (depending on options) and overall fuel economy, officially, is from 122mpg. If any plug-in hybrid can convince the naysayers, the 545e ought to be it.

Hold that thought. Driving the 5 Series at a BMW range event means others had a go first, and by the time of our drive the battery was depleted. To zero. First blood to the detractors, as this is their favourite trope, lugging around batteries and motors without actually using them. Hardly ideal for the 5 Series' eco credentials, though useful for assessing the 545 against its conventionally powered stablemates as a petrol car.



Given Sport mode both replenishes the battery through regen and aims to deliver the most dynamic drive, that seems the logical place to start. By and large the 545e feels like a 5 Series, which is to say fairly hard to fault: it's capable, finessed, assured and luxurious. It's only when driving a bit harder, in those situations where the BMW saloons tend to distance themselves from rivals, that the 545e begins to fall a bit short. Some of that will be down to the test car's spec, as the M Sport Pro package with bigger wheels mandates the fitment of run-flat tyres. And, as we know by now, they spoil things - there's a reason RFTs are never found on M cars. Here it means a less settled ride than we've come to expect from this 5 Series (the softer damper setting buried in Sport Individual is worth seeking out) as well as a relative lack of precision - this just doesn't steer or grip as a 5 Series ought to. However good the car looks on bigger wheels, the dynamic penalty enforced with the run-flats means it doesn't seem worthwhile.

Other issues seem unique to the model. Throttle response is curious, very sharp at the top of the pedal then indecisive further down as the car seems unsure whether to draw on electric motor or not. Consequently, the slickness and cohesion of a BMW powertrain isn't quite there. And while the manufacturer has done a fair job of masking the additional mass of PHEV architecture, there's no escaping the fact that Autocar weighed this very 5 Series at 2,046kg. An equitable weight distribution is great, but even more kerbweight to balance is not, and the 545e simply doesn't drive with the poise of something like a 540i. Nor does it feel quite as fast as might be expected from a ยฃ60k 5 Series, either, however nice it is to have a large straight-six for company. With so many hybrids using fairly ordinary combustion motors, the charm of a 3.0-litre BMW engine is not to be taken lightly - especially with only 30e four-cylinder models available to this point. But you'd hope for more verve.

Of course, when you don't want or need a straight-six, an electric 5 Series is predictably pleasant. The Electric mode sits alongside Hybrid, Sport and Adaptive, keeping the car on battery power until the juice is either gone or the driver requests full throttle. Obviously, performance has nothing on a dedicated EV, though it'll easily be sufficient for urban errands, and can reach 87mph. And don't underestimate the appeal of a car this refined running on electrons - it's extremely soothing. A shame, therefore, that it can't be utilised more often; the EV range is rated at 30 miles on WLTP, so expect a touch less in reality, especially in poor weather. With the car already over two tonnes, it's hard not to think that the benefits in range of additional battery capacity might have been worth a few more kilos.



Significantly, none of these technical shortcomings dramatically limit the model's likeability as a 5 Series. The 545e can play the hushed long-distance cruiser, the electric urban runaround, the 400hp BMW (once charged) and the company car tax-friendly saloon. It does pack a lot of things under one roof, and does many things with aplomb. The not unfamiliar problem is that for its extra weight, cost, and complexity, the process of electrification is generally better at rewarding on-paper problems than real world ones. Short of another fuel crisis, no conventionally powered 5 Series owner is going to be overcome with jealously. Which is understandable - BMW has been making very good petrol and diesel executive saloons for decades, and has it down to a fine art; more often than not the 545e feels more like a very convenient tax solution than a concerted effort to move the 5 Series forward. The M550i has ten times the charm for much, much less than ten times the cost.

That must you probably guessed at. In fairness to it (and PHEVs in general) the usual provisos apply: presented with the right use case, the 545e will almost certainly prove cheaper to run than the alternatives, assuming you can charge it at home and keep within its limited range. And while anyone wanting the dynamic pleasure of a straight-six 5 Series will be better served by one unencumbered by batteries, business users will likely rejoice at BMW's decision to fuse the two together. The size and spending power of that audience meant that we expected a little more from what is obviously intended as a crowd-pleaser - but its disadvantages just serve to highlight how mightily good the current 5 Series really is. Which means that it's probably still the best six-cylinder, plug-in hybrid executive saloon you can buy. Go figure.


SPECIFICATION | 2021 BMW 545E

Engine: 2,998cc, straight-six turbo plus 11.6kWh electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 394@5,000-6,000rpm (286hp engine + 108hp electric motor)
Torque (lb ft): 442 (332@1,600-3,500rpm from engine)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,020kg (BMW 'not loaded' weight)
MPG: 128.4-156.9
CO2: 41-51g/km
Price: ยฃ60,260 (price as standard; price as tested ยฃ72,595, comprised of Technology Plus Pack (Driving Assistant Professional, Parking Assistant Plus, Head-up Display, Harmon/Kardon surround sound, BMW Drive Recorder, Enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, BMW Gesture Control, WiFi hotspot preparation) for ยฃ4,995, Comfort Pack (Steering wheel heating, powered bootlid, Comfort Access, Comfort front seats) for ยฃ2,495, M Sport Pro Pack (20-inch style 846M wheels with runflat tyres and adaptive suspension) for ยฃ2,495, M Sport red brake calipers for ยฃ300, Electric sunroof for ยฃ1,095, Split folding rear seats for ยฃ395, Piano Black BMW Individual trim for ยฃ560)







Author
Discussion

Twinair

Original Poster:

138 posts

113 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I’ve never run a hybrid - so can’t speak about the range and how it works day to day, but this seems like a lot of money for a 286bhp 5 series - when the 30 miles of battery is gone? £72k as tested?

TypeRTim

407 posts

65 months

Thursday
quotequote all
At first, I thought 'Make this in a Touring and it would be literally perfect' Then I saw the price! I know PCPs and PCHs mean no-one really bothers with the RRP figure any more - It's all about the monthlies - but £60k for a non-M 5 series seems a bit.....steep!

Demonix

201 posts

183 months

Thursday
quotequote all
It doesn't have the full angry beaver grill, g30 is not a bad looking car, quite understated but the main reason for buying a BMW is they are supposed to be a drivers machine with decent performance and handling. The halfway house of PHEV adds weight, complexity and blunts the handling plus decreases the comfort you'd expect, you get 394 horses but won't enjoy using them and pay £72k for the privilege once you've ticked a few options boxes. Be interested to see how this compares to a similarly spec'd ICE g30 and the full Bev in a group test?

Venisonpie

1,697 posts

53 months

Thursday
quotequote all
PHEV's are dead baby.

All the drawbacks of an EV but very little of the benefit. They end up being driven about like petrol cars with dead motion batteries.

Leon R

2,012 posts

67 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Venisonpie said:
PHEV's are dead baby.

All the drawbacks of an EV but very little of the benefit. They end up being driven about like petrol cars with dead motion batteries.
All of the drawbacks? Are you sure?

RicksAlfas

11,486 posts

215 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I don't regularly charge my PHEV but the engine is still off far half the time. I think that's what people don't appreciate with them.

If you were able to run one through your company, the tax payable on one of these is £2,649 a year.
A 550i is £10,282....

SidewaysSi

9,909 posts

205 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Just get a used M5.

T1berious

1,615 posts

126 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I can't help but feel this is exactly the worst way to assess a plug in hybrid.

Harry's Garage did a long term term test with the X5 45e https://youtu.be/Y__PfXB4f0g and as a real world car he found it an improvement on the I-Pace he ran as a long termer.

Think he found the charge rate a bit slow but as he was charging it over night it always had a full battery. I think his overall fuel usage was a genuine shock to him.

In much the same way Ferrari wouldn't launch a new super car in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, this launch event sounds like a bit of a farce.

Meh, what do I know? I just went full EV.


PistonTim

116 posts

110 months

Thursday
quotequote all
So did you actually test the 'e' bit at all?


Benstermin

31 posts

197 months

Thursday
quotequote all
T1berious said:
I can't help but feel this is exactly the worst way to assess a plug in hybrid.

Harry's Garage did a long term term test with the X5 45e https://youtu.be/Y__PfXB4f0g and as a real world car he found it an improvement on the I-Pace he ran as a long termer.

Think he found the charge rate a bit slow but as he was charging it over night it always had a full battery. I think his overall fuel usage was a genuine shock to him.

In much the same way Ferrari wouldn't launch a new super car in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, this launch event sounds like a bit of a farce.

Meh, what do I know? I just went full EV.
This exactly... I knew what the outcome of this article was as soon as I had read "by the time of our drive the battery was depleted. To zero."

georgeyboy12345

804 posts

6 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Venisonpie said:
PHEV's are dead baby.

All the drawbacks of an EV but very little of the benefit. They end up being driven about like petrol cars with dead motion batteries.
Utter nonsense. Do you have a PHEV? I do. They really are the best of both worlds. For commuting I run on battery power, which is cheap, silent, relaxing, with plenty of instant torque available for rush hour city driving. When i need to do a long journey I just jump in and go, with no planning required.

Does your car have a boot and 5 seats? Why does it need them if you are not even using that feature most of the time? It’s just dead weight.

Gad-Westy

11,977 posts

184 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Leon R said:
Venisonpie said:
PHEV's are dead baby.

All the drawbacks of an EV but very little of the benefit. They end up being driven about like petrol cars with dead motion batteries.
All of the drawbacks? Are you sure?
For our use a PHEV would be perfect. Most days it's 28 miles of school run (7 miles each way) with the odd trip to the shop. Frequent longer journeys for work and to see family of up around 250 miles. There are EV's that would do this but none that do it easily in all weathers at my normal motorway speed. We currently do it with a much older 3.0 petrol 5-series. 20mpg on the school run. So while it would never be cost effective to spend all that money on a new car just to save on fuel, when we do decide to replace it with something newer, a PHEV would make a lot of sense from the current offerings.

I've had several 5-series and do like the current one. I'd want a touring and ideally x-drive if that is coming to this model. I'd guess that would come out at nearer £75k with some options I'd want. Ouch! Mind you I also had a look at the V90 T6 which is very close in terms of power but doesn't have a straight 6. An optioned up one of those is similar money.

Edited by Gad-Westy on Thursday 25th November 09:25

DMZ

256 posts

131 months

Thursday
quotequote all
I don’t think I would bother with this PHEV, though. The battery is too small. This is very much last gen stuff. The leading stuff has 2-3x battery capacity and can be rapid charged. Then you’re getting proper daily EV benefits and can rely on ICE when actually needed without lumbering around with huge batteries for that occasional need. The V6 would also be a total irrelevance in that case. I’m not sure I get what BMW is up to with this one tbh.

Ocho

444 posts

208 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Having had a PHEV, which I quite liked, I still can't quite understand why all manufacturers seem to limit the battery-only range to just 30 miles max (think 22 real world). Am I alone thinking that it wouldn't be that much to ask to double the battery size and the extra zero emissions range for daily useage would surely be a win? Or at least make a bigger battery an option?

greggy50

5,415 posts

162 months

Thursday
quotequote all
People depend PHEVs but 80% are company cars that are never charged.

If it wasn't for company car tax sales then none would get sold.

They are incredibly inefficient in terms of consumption for the size of battery pack. One of my reports has a new 330e and gets around 22 miles to a charge from a 12kwh pack. If a Model 3 was that inefficient it would only do about 135 miles to a charge...

Full EV is the future for 90% of the population who don't have a round trip commute to Glasgow...

Itsallicanafford

2,450 posts

130 months

Thursday
quotequote all
why would you not buy an i4, trouser the £15K odd difference and enjoy next to nothing BIK if a company driver?

Its a segment down, but hardly small

gl20

949 posts

120 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Gad-Westy said:
For our use a PHEV would be perfect. Most days it's 28 miles of school run (7 miles each way) with the odd trip to the shop. Frequent longer journeys for work and to see family of up around 250 miles. There are EV's that would do this but none that do it easily in all weathers at my normal motorway speed. We currently do it with a much older 3.0 petrol 5-series. 20mpg on the school run. So while it would never be cost effective to spend all that money on a new car just to save on fuel, when we do decide to replace it with something newer, a PHEV would make a lot of sense from the current offerings.

Therefore a PHEV appeals massively to us at the moment. I've had several 5-series and do like the current one. I'd want a touring and ideally x-drive if that is coming to this model. I'd guess that would come out at nearer £75k with some options I'd want. Ouch! Mind you I also had a look at the V90 T6 which is very close in terms of power but doesn't have a straight 6. An optioned up one of those is similar money.
This is exactly us - family 250 miles away, but a good chunk of our driving through the year would be within electric range (even more so if we go for the X5 e45 as it has closer to 50 mile range). As there are none available to test I was wondering only this morning when walking the dog if BMW had the same engine in a different car so I could try it out.

Biggest problem for me is the grill (on the X5) so looking at XC60 / 90 too.

If PHEV works out for us for next two years and charge infrastructure gets much better in that period (I expect it will) then may well go full EV next time.

ghibbett

1,761 posts

156 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Venisonpie said:
PHEV's are dead baby.

All the drawbacks of an EV but very little of the benefit. They end up being driven about like petrol cars with dead motion batteries.
Our PHEV (XC40 T5-Recharge) is working very well for us. Charge every night (costing 50p if the battery is fully empty) and averaging 142mpg so far. In real world terms, we fill the 45L petrol tank once every 1000 miles.

annodomini2

6,416 posts

222 months

Thursday
quotequote all
gl20 said:
Gad-Westy said:
For our use a PHEV would be perfect. Most days it's 28 miles of school run (7 miles each way) with the odd trip to the shop. Frequent longer journeys for work and to see family of up around 250 miles. There are EV's that would do this but none that do it easily in all weathers at my normal motorway speed. We currently do it with a much older 3.0 petrol 5-series. 20mpg on the school run. So while it would never be cost effective to spend all that money on a new car just to save on fuel, when we do decide to replace it with something newer, a PHEV would make a lot of sense from the current offerings.

Therefore a PHEV appeals massively to us at the moment. I've had several 5-series and do like the current one. I'd want a touring and ideally x-drive if that is coming to this model. I'd guess that would come out at nearer £75k with some options I'd want. Ouch! Mind you I also had a look at the V90 T6 which is very close in terms of power but doesn't have a straight 6. An optioned up one of those is similar money.
This is exactly us - family 250 miles away, but a good chunk of our driving through the year would be within electric range (even more so if we go for the X5 e45 as it has closer to 50 mile range). As there are none available to test I was wondering only this morning when walking the dog if BMW had the same engine in a different car so I could try it out.

Biggest problem for me is the grill (on the X5) so looking at XC60 / 90 too.

If PHEV works out for us for next two years and charge infrastructure gets much better in that period (I expect it will) then may well go full EV next time.
Yes because you are going to drive 4-5hrs non stop. rolleyes

What most people coming from ICE to EV fail to understand is that with an EV you graze rather than fill up.

Also you plug in and walk away, do something else while it's charging. You don't have to stand next to the car while fuelling as you do with a conventional ICE vehicle. You get the choice to do something else with the 5-10mins you would spend filling up.

So you stop for toilet or food break, plug in, go do your thing and when you're finished come back and unless you specifically need to fill right up, charge a bit and drive on to your next stop and charge a bit more.

The 72k for this thing would get you into a base Porsche Taycan or a top spec Tesla model 3 with £12k change.

Muzzer79

5,610 posts

158 months

Thursday
quotequote all
Itsallicanafford said:
why would you not buy an i4, trouser the £15K odd difference and enjoy next to nothing BIK if a company driver?

Its a segment down, but hardly small
Because, much like a PHEV doesn't suit everyone, a full EV doesn't suit everyone either?

This car is probably aimed at a company car driver doing a lot of miles, with limited access to charging.

For them, a PHEV is perfect.