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Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 530e iPerformance

Our Opinion

We like
Same high-quality feel as other 5 Series variants, can be used as an EV if you have charging systems available, comfortable cabin, ride quality
Room for improvement
Smaller boot could put some off, still not enough public charging stations

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BMW logo8 Jun 2017

THE latest BMW model to get the iPerformance plug-in hybrid treatment is the 5 Series, with the German car-maker lobbing the new 530e just three months after its petrol and diesel siblings.

Sensibly, BMW has priced the plug-in identically to the petrol-powered 530i with which it shares its specification level, so it starts at $108,900 plus on roads.

The company says one of the many barriers to people opting for a hybrid has been the price premium over internal combustion models. It believes this strategy of price matching will eliminate that.

The other barriers are harder to overcome. There are still no government incentives for people buying green cars, and while the charging infrastructure is growing, it is still not as prevalent as it is in say, Europe, where you can charge your EV on the street in many cities and towns. BMW launched the 530e in Sydney at the Westfield shopping centre in Bondi Junction because there are a bunch of new ChargePoint charging stations there and there will be more at other Westfields around the country before too long.

Our previous experience with a plug-in BMW last year – the brilliant 330e – proved that as long as there are available options to charge a PHEV in public, and you have the facilities to charge at home and work, then you can easily get by on electric power on your weekly commute. Providing you are travelling under 30 or so kilometres a day.

It’s the same theory with the 530e, and it has three driving modes to use only electric power or a combination of electric and petrol.

The go-to Auto eDrive makes the most sense and you can drive up to 90km/h as an EV. Given that it can be a challenge to exceed 40km/h on a morning city commute, that number is fine.

We only had a very brief time behind the wheel of the 530e, but after coming out of a 540i the week prior, we were already familiar with the latest 5 Series.

The 530e cabin has the impressive look and feel of the new-gen 5 Series, with plush leather, high-quality materials and a true premium feel, but BMW has added some unique bits inside and out to highlight its green status.

The changes run from blue kidney grille slats, blue wheel hub covers, illuminated eDrive sill panels, eDrive badges on the C-pillar, to a different display for the instrument cluster and central display screen.

Without knowing this, it would be difficult to tell the difference between the 530e and the 530i.

Spec wise they match on every other front and it is a generously equipped car.

Interestingly, the 530e comes in at about $22,000 cheaper than Benz’s plug-in hybrid E350e.

The hybrid system in the 530e uses the same 135kW/290Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the smaller 330e, but the 83kW/250Nm electric motor and 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery are bigger than the 65kW/250Nm and 7.6kWh battery in the 3 Series.

While it has plenty of power and instant torque from the electric motor, the 530e doesn’t feel as quick off the mark as the 330e. It also doesn’t feel as nimble around town or pushed into corners, which is not surprising given the difference in size of the two Germans.

What it does have is a plush, quiet ride and a beautifully insulated cabin that protects you from the outside world. It also has the same sharp and direct steering as non-hybrid models.

The drive route only took us through Sydney’s suburban streets on a particularly wet and stormy day so there was no opportunity to stretch the 530e’s legs. That will have to wait for a full road test.

The boot space has dropped by 120 litres to 410L compared with the 530i because of the battery pack, but there is still more than enough room for a pair of large suitcases and then some.

There is loads of tech offered as standard in the 530e, highlighted by the latest iDrive system and big central screen, but it is the tech under the skin that impresses most.

A lot of people that buy hybrid cars do so not for the environmental credentials, but because it offers the very latest tech advances.

BMW has nailed that aspect once again and in the 530e offers all of the positives of the new 5 Series but with a green tinge.

If you can set yourself up with charging systems at your home and/or office then the 530e – like a lot of other PHEVs – makes a lot of sense.

But if you can’t successfully use it as a plug in, best just stick with the 530i.

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