The Best BMW You Can't Buy in the U.S. Isn't the M3 Touring

You don’t have to be a BMW fan to know that this company made and still manufactures a couple of great cars. Like any automaker, it made some flops too, but its current portfolio comprises many cool options. But what’s missing from it for Americans?
BMW 545e xDrive 35 photos
Photo: BMW
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BMW customers may not have a strong community like Porsche or Ferrari, but they still get to enjoy the sensation of being part of something bigger than themselves. That’s, of course, if they want to. The BMW Car Club of America exists, after all. And European deliveries, which turn to buy a new car into a special experience, are a thing too!

But BMW owners enjoy luxury, power, and the brand’s rich history. These things come packaged nicely into many cool-looking automotive silhouettes, which are more accessible than what Aston Martin makes, for example. Moreover, passionate people like collectors or restorers are easily found throughout the country.

But one thing Americans don’t have is a couple of cars made by the company and sold in Europe and various other countries. For example, cool and powerful diesel-powered models like the X5 M50d (now discontinued in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world) did not reach the U.S. And that was a strange, yet understandable decision. Still, considering the SUV’s ability (or SAV, if you’re into BMW lingo) to pull itself firmly when the accelerator was pressed and the fact that it’s made in Spartanburg, South Carolina, there isn’t much that can be said here to defend BMW.

Alright, alright! I know! Americans don’t like buying diesel-powered cars. But the automaker didn’t have to try too hard with marketing. It could’ve just let it exist and allowed people to do all the saying in the matter. But making and selling cars is easier said than done, so we’ll have to let this one slide.

2021 BMW 545e xDrive sedan
Photo: BMW
However, what must not be overlooked is the fact that a particular variation of a very attractive sedan isn’t made available to Americans for whatever reason the manufacturer may have.

The one that (maybe) slipped through the cracks

Well, it isn’t the all-new M3 Touring or the all-wheel drive 540i Touring! Even though these two models are wanted by many fans of the brand from the U.S., they do not provide the same level of fun and versatility as one little-known luxury sedan! It’s the 545e xDrive! Let’s discover why together.

The BMW 545e xDrive is an all-wheel-drive sedan that packs a mean punch while being considerate of the environment. It’s a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that uses the well-known and smooth three-liter six-cylinder twin-turbocharged B58 gas-powered engine like its half-brother, the BMW 540i. The only difference is the power level – the unit installed in the 545e xDrive puts out 282 hp (286 ps), while the same engine found in the all-wheel-drive 540i makes 335 hp (340 ps).

The gearbox, however, is different! The 545e xDrive uses an eight-speed automatic made by the well-known ZF redesigned to suit hybrid vehicles. It can handle motors that develop up to 160 kW (214 hp /218 ps). It also manages the switch from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor with little to no hassle.

ZF Eight\-Speed Automatic Efficiency
Photo: ZF
Now that we know all this, we must look further at the 545e xDrive. Besides having a good, reliable engine hiding under the hood, the luxury sedan also comes with a 108-hp (109-ps) motor that adds 195 lb-ft (265 Nm) of torque to the total power output of 389 hp (394 ps) and 442 lb-ft of torque (600 Nm). That’s almost as much as the now defunct X5 M50d, which made 395 hp (400 ps) thanks to its three-liter diesel (the B57S) and four turbos – the smaller two worked when the engine was under 2,000 rpm, while the bigger ones joined in on the fun after the 2,000-rpm threshold got left behind during intense acceleration sessions. That setup was amazing, considering, for example, that it knew it didn’t have to activate the bigger turbos when the vehicle was running in the Eco Pro mode, and the speed limit was respected by the driver.

So, why is the 545e xDrive something Americans miss out on?

Now, if you kept reading until here, you might wonder why I keep circling back to the M50d engine. Well, that’s thanks to a good reason – the 545e xDrive is a similar propulsion system to what you can now find in the X5 xDrive45e, the plug-in hybrid SUV that (unofficially, at least) replaced the X5 M50d.

But the 545e xDrive and the X5 xDrive45e must not be confused. They bear almost the same denomination and have almost similar specs, but they’re very different in one truly important department – battery size. That’s right, the 5 Series PHEV has a battery of 10.8-kWh net capacity (12 kWh gross), which is similar to the one found in the 530e, while the X5 PHEV boasts an almost two-times bigger unit. The SUV comes with a 21.6-kWh (24-kWh gross) unit!

The thing with BMW is that it makes brilliant six-cylinders. The B58 is no slouch, even if it’s a little bit detuned. Add the ZF eight-speed into the mix and a potent yet efficient motor, and you get a very successful recipe. You might be tired of hearing it, but it truly is the best of both worlds. Yes, the vehicle is a little bit heavier than its 540i xDrive counterpart (4,436 lb/2,012 kg vs 3,682 lb/1,670 kg curb weight), but it makes up for it in the power and versatility departments.

2021 BMW 545e xDrive sedan
Photo: BMW
The 545e xDrive is capable of providing a guilt-free driving experience thanks to its battery and electric motors, which makes it perfect for everyday drives that are generally shorter. But the sedan can also change its entire personality when Sport mode is enabled, and you want to have some fun. Being a smart car, it can also balance everything out for you when you pick Comfort mode. There’s no need to pay attention to the onboard statistics. The vehicle does it all by itself. All you should do is charge it every time the battery runs out of juice to make sure that you keep your carbon footprint as low as possible. Also, it will help you save money on gas by doing 34 miles (54 kilometers) only in EV mode.

Let’s wrap it up

Now, even if you lose some luggage space in the trunk, there’s no reason to worry. The difference is almost unnoticeable. There’s just a 4.2 cu-ft (120-liter) difference between the 545e xDrive and the 540i xDrive.

Just like the M3 Touring and the 5 Series Touring, the 545e xDrive should have been introduced to the U.S. market. It would have most likely sold way better than the 530e xDrive, which hides a four-cylinder gas engine under its hood.

But the weirdest thing out of all this is that the U.S. got the previous generation 745e and 745Le. Both of these plug-in hybrid 7 Series used the same recipe – a three-liter, six-cylinder 282-hp (286-ps) engine, a 10.8-kWh net capacity battery, and a 111-hp (113-ps) electric motor.

At the end of the day, don’t worry too much about what Europeans are currently enjoying. They’ll have their exclusive fun for a couple of years. In 2023, the automaker is reportedly planning on introducing the updated version of the BMW X5 xDrive45e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) which could be turned into the xDrive50e model and boast almost 100 hp (101 ps) more. If this happens, then we might also see the 5 Series PHEV turning into a cooler, more powerful vehicle. BMW has the means to repack the X5 xDrive50e’s powertrain onto the 5 Series chassis for sure (even though it might use a smaller battery). We’ll see if it decides that it’s profitable to do so.

It is also rumored that an M5 Touring is in the works and this one will most likely join the BMW USA’s ranks in 2024. That may be when the M3 Touring joins the company’s American portfolio. But let’s wait and see if we’re going to put our hands on a high-performance Bavarian wagon or a more powerful PHEV in sedan form in less than two years. For now, there are a lot of other cool models to enjoy from this manufacturer.
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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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