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Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 530e iPerformance

Our Opinion

We like
Sumptuous ride comfort, intelligent driver aids and PHEV system, nimble acceleration when required, interior specification
Room for improvement
Battery capacity and charging times could be improved, driving experience not particularly dynamic, boot space compromised by drivetrain

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BMW logo23 Apr 2018

By ROBBIE WALLIS

Overview

THREE months after launching its all-new seventh-generation 5 Series, BMW bolstered the range with the addition of hybrid power, in the form of the 530e iPerformance.

The first 5 Series model to experience electrification, the 530e is also the fourth member of BMW’s stable to be offered as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), after the X5 xDrive40e, 330e and 740e.

With only one direct rival in its segment, the Mercedes-Benz E350e, the 530e has a chance to establish itself as the ideal choice for luxury car buyers wanting to benefit from the economy and quietness of a PHEV.

Does it have what it takes to convince buyers that electrification is the way to go?

Price and equipment

At $110,500 before on-roads, the 530e ticks its first box by easily undercutting its Stuttgart rival by $21,100, with the E350e checking in at $131,600.

Other offerings with varying levels of hybridisation include the mild-hybrid Lexus GS450h at $108,080 and the full-EV Tesla Model S, which kicks off at $130,331 for the 75 variant.

The 530e matches the price of its equally specified internal-combustion equivalent, the 530i – another boon considering electrified powertrains often attract a premium over their petrol and diesel-powered siblings.

With the addition of Bluestone Metallic paintwork ($2000), an electric glass sunroof ($2900) and tyre pressure indicator ($550), the asking price of our test vehicle is pushed up to $115,950 plus on-roads, still well below the Merc.

The 530e’s $110,500 sticker price is up slightly on the $108,900 cost it commanded when it was launched in mid-2017.

Standard specification in the 530e includes adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist, 19-inch M light alloy wheels, M Sport brakes, leather upholstery with fine-wood trim, a head-up display, comfort access system, dynamic damper control, a harman/kardon sound system, DAB+ digital radio, multifunctional instrument display, navigation system Professional, heated front seats and speed limit info.

Standard safety gear includes Driving Assistant Plus with Active Cruise with Stop & Go function, steering and Lane Control Assistant, front cross-traffic warning, crossroads warning and lane-keeping assist, Parking Assistant Plus that includes Parking Assistant with rear Active ParkDistance Control, Surround View, Panorama View and 3D View, speed limit information with speed limiter and a full suite of airbags.

The driver aids work well and are largely unobtrusive, with the lane keep function operating smoothly on highways, however it had a tendency to stay towards the left of the lane, which can cause some nerves when passing on the right.

Including a surround-view camera and high-definition front and rear cameras makes parking the sizeable 5 Series a much easier proposition.

As a mid-spec variant, it is a well-equipped vehicle and comes with just about all the goodies one would consider to be essential for their luxury large sedan.

For the price, the 530e gets a pass for undercutting the Benz, and with relatively few options specified, comes with a generous list of equipment that justifies its six-figure price tag.

Interior

From the moment you step into the cabin of the 530e, it gives the impression of a vehicle befitting of a luxury car tag.

The thick, heavy doors close with a solid thud and plastic trim is hard to find, while supple Nappa leather upholstery in beige, wood trim, gloss-black elements and a black headliner make for a premium-feeling interior.

Adding to the premium feel are the plush, comfortable seats with heating function (no ventilation though), which offer great support and cushioning, even on longer trips.

While the dashboard layout is less cluttered than previous BMW models, the range of buttons and readouts can be confusing to those unaccustomed with Munich’s finest.

The styling of BMW interiors can also contribute to the cluttered, confusing feel, with a mix of lines and edges making it feel a tad busy.

BMW’s latest iDrive6 user interface is projected onto a 10.2-inch colour touchscreen, which is one of the better infotainment systems in the industry.

Combined with the centre console controls, iDrive6 is an easy system to use with lag-free and tablet-like operation, and a sat-nav system that is aesthetically pleasing, well-defined and simple to operate.

The new iPerformance-specific instrument cluster features digital readouts of electric power usage and charging rates, which look great and are a big step up over analogue displays. Analogue speedometer and tachometer bezels restrict the customisation possibilities of the instrument cluster, however.

BMW’s chunky three-spoke M steering wheel is one of our favourites, and fits in the hands as well or better than any of its competitors.

Storage options include the centre console bin, glovebox, small driver’s side glovebox, door bins, two cupholders in the centre console and two in the rear.

Annoyingly, no sunglasses compartment is available.

In the front, two 12-volt ports, USB and auxiliary ports are available, while rear occupants have access to two 12-volt ports.

As expected of a car of its size, leg and headroom is ample for both front and rear passengers, however fitting three full-sized adults across the rear pews may be a stretch.

The inclusion of a space-consuming battery pack has resulted in a diminished boot size, which at 410 litres (down from 530L) results in a much shallower boot that compromises usability.

The boot floor can collapse to add approximately four inches of depth, however space is still disappointing for a car of its considerable size.

530e buyers should be pleased with its interior specification. Build quality is excellent, premium materials abound, the latest technological and safety features are all there, and space is plentiful (barring the boot).

Those who value an aesthetically pleasing interior may want to look at BMW’s German competitors, but if not, then the 530e ticks all the essential boxes.

Engine and transmission

Powering the 530e is a hybrid set-up consisting of a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine developing 135kW/290Nm, teamed to a synchronous 83kW/250Nm electric motor with a 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Developing a combined 185kW/420Nm, power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

This compares to the 185kW/350Nm in the 530i, meaning the hybrid gets a leg up with an extra 70Nm of torque.

Performance off the line is nimble without being breathtaking, with the electric motor helping the 1540kg 5 Series launch from standstill at a brisk pace.

The combustion and electric system works well in tandem, with the electric motor doing most of the low-speed work, with the petrol engine kicking in at higher speeds or when throttle response dictates.

Having a hybrid powertrain improves the 530e’s already excellent noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, making for a whisper-quiet driving experience. The only time the engine is heard is when a healthy amount of right boot is used.

The hybrid set-up works well overall and is an impressive piece of kit, however it is not without its faults.

Electric battery capacity can be improved, as after a solid day of driving the battery can be depleted entirely. If the owner has nightly access to a charging point then this won’t often be a problem, however usability is greatly compromised if frequent and consistent charging is not possible.

Furthermore, the battery also takes a long time to charge, needing a least overnight to replenish a fully drained battery. While we didn’t have access to a charging point at home, charging during work hours only ever brought the battery levels up no more than 60 per cent or so.

Therefore, much of our battery power was provided by the car’s regenerative braking system, which does an effective job of replenishing the battery through everyday use. At one point, up to ten per cent of the battery power was regenerated through an extensive downhill stint.

As a result of limited access to a charging point, our fuel economy result came out at 5.4 litres per 100km – well above the official 2.0L/100km combined cycle figure.

Teamed to the powertrain is an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, which works swiftly and intuitively – so much so that it almost goes unnoticed when working in tandem with the hybrid system.

BMW has done well with the 530e’s powertrain – it is sophisticated, quiet and gives the large sedan more than adequate motivation. A larger battery capacity and quicker charging times would make it far more palatable to the average buyer.

Ride and handling

One of the 530e’s greatest assets is its sumptuous comfort, with a supremely comfortable ride and suspension set-up.

It is able to soak up bumps extremely well, and the cloud-like ride combined with the generously-appointed interior give the car a truly premium feel and make for a great long-distance travel option.

When the adaptive suspension is set to the Comfort setting, the vehicle is prone to wallowing in corners and bouncy roads, but is able to soak up road imperfections with ease, even with the addition of 19-inch hoops.

Switching to Sport mode helps to remove the wallowy feeling, and handles the vehicle’s considerable heft much better when driving hard around corners. As expected, bumps are felt harder than in Comfort.

Dynamic ability is hurt by the car’s size and weight. While remaining firmly planted around corners, its weight is definitely felt, and pushing the car hard in anything less than perfect conditions brings with it a feeling of apprehension.

The car also feels very wide, which adds to the sensation of heaviness.

Helping the car feel smaller than its real size is the steering, which is precise, well-weighted and makes the car easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces and parking lots.

While not being the sportiest offering in BMW’s stable, the 530e is perfectly tuned towards being a plush luxury sedan, with premium ride comfort, breezy usability and a supple suspension set-up. Those looking for a more involving drive experience should look at the six-cylinder 540i, which tops the range of non-M 5 Series models and sets buyers back $138,610.

Safety and servicing

The 5 Series received a five-star safety rating from ANCAP when it was tested in April 2017, with it earning a 91 per cent adult occupant protection rating.

It also scored strongly in child occupant protection (85 per cent) and pedestrian protection (81 per cent) testing.

It comes with seven airbags, from and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera and a generous suite of aforementioned active safety features.

The standard warranty for the 530e lasts for three years with no limit on kilometres, while a BMW Service Inclusive package can be purchased for $1695, which extends the warranty to five years or 80,000km, whichever comes first.

Verdict

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future where vehicles with electrified powertrains will be the norm, but for now they are still somewhat of a novelty and struggle to capture the imagination of a majority of buyers.

However, vehicles like the 530e should help sway public opinion in favour of plug-in hybrids.

It is able to blend sublime cabin and ride comfort, a quiet and capable drivetrain, impressive technology and generous specification, putting a modern twist on a vehicle that has been on sale since the 1970s.

The hybrid engine is a smart unit and can deliver the same level of performance as the identically priced 530i with a much-improved fuel economy figure.

Hybrid technology has yet to be perfected, with charging times and battery capacity still giving room for improvement.

However the shortfalls shouldn’t be enough to deter buyers from considering the 530e, as it ticks all the boxes for a luxury large sedan, particularly for ride comfort and luxury appointments.

Rivals

Mercedes-Benz E350e from $131,600 plus on-roadsStuttgart’s hybrid E-Class offers a gorgeously appointed interior, sharp styling and extra boot volume. Its 2.0-litre hybrid system is down on power (155kW/350Nm), however, and it asks $21,100 more than the BMW.

Lexus GS450h F Sport from $108,080 plus on-roadsPowered by a mild-hybrid V6 system, the Japanese luxury offering is more powerful than its German competitors at 215kW/352Nm, however the interior appointments, infotainment system and ride quality struggle to match its Euro rivals.

Tesla Model S 75 from $130,331 plus on-roadsThe maverick American company’s range-opening model offers the most powerful drivetrain of its rivals, with 245kW/525Nm being pushed through the rear wheels via an all-electric motor system. At $130,331 it is one of the pricier options, and an extensive list of expensive options can quickly drive its price upward.

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