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Driven: BMW plugs in with 530e iPerformance

Blue illusion: The 530e gains a few flourishes to differentiate it from its 530i sibling including blue kidney grille slats.

Measured expansion of BMW’s iPerformance range continues with 530e sedan

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BMW logo9 Jun 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

BMW Australia says it is taking a slow and steady approach to the roll out of its iPerformance range of petrol-electric hybrid models by prioritising an increase in brand and technology awareness over chasing outright volume.

The German car-maker has just launched its 5 Series-based 530e plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in Australia, which marks the fourth model in its iPerformance range of plug-ins following the launch last year of the X5 xDrive40e and 330e, as well as the 740e earlier this year.

Its i3 city hatch and i8 sportscar, that fall under the company’s ‘i’ sub brand, brings its electrified model count to six.

More PHEVs are on the cards for Australia, with the company still considering whether to introduce the plug-in version of the recently launched Mini Countryman later this year, while the i8 Spyder will lob next year and the electrified version of the third-generation X3 SUV is a likely starter for 2019.

BMW Group Australia chief executive Marc Werner was coy on sales targets for the new 530e sedan and the other iPerformance models, but acknowledged that a wider consumer understanding and awareness of the cars and their tech “is going to take time”.

“It is nothing that we are pushing in terms of volume,” he told GoAuto at the 530e media launch in Sydney this week. “It is definitely a new technology where we need to create first of all the necessary awareness, but also get the buy-in from the consumers. So that is going to take time.

“If you think about it we just launched the BMW ‘i’ brand at the end of 2014, so it is still fairly new and it is still fairly new technology and it is going to take time when we see the necessary traction. Having said that, with now six cars available and more than 20 dealers that have actually been trained on this particular technology and all the marketing and corporate communication activities that we are doing, it is a 360-degree approach, including the most recent Westfield activity.”

BMW’s tie-in with Westfield shopping centres incudes the roll out of ChargePoint EV charging stations, with more set to open in the coming months.

Currently, there are about 200 ChargePoint stations in shopping centres and car parks around Australia.

“We will see more and more momentum coming through now and by that creating even more awareness, and more awareness usually then translates into more sales,” he added.

“The message is, we are not pushing this. It would be the wrong approach. We need to build the brand, we need to build the awareness for the consumer.”

BMW has priced the 530e at $108,900 plus on-road costs, which is identical to its petrol-powered 530i sibling with which it shares the same specification level.

It is the first time BMW Australia has offered a plug-in hybrid variant for the same price as its internal combustion equivalent. The 330e adds $3000 to the price of the 330i and the 740e carries a $4200 premium over the 740i.

According to the latest pricing figures, the X5 xDrive40e now matches the $124,200 pricetag of the X5 xDrive40d.

BMW’s pricing for its electrified 5 Series undercuts its main rival, the Mercedes-Benz E350e, by $22,700.

Audi and Jaguar are yet to offer electrified versions of their A6 and XF contenders, but Audi is set to roll out ‘E-tron’ versions of many of its key passenger models and the next-gen A6 due before 2019 is a likely starter.

The only other real rival is Tesla’s full electric Model S sedan that ranges in price from $151,281 to $270,809 driveaway.

Under the bonnet of the 530e is a 2.0-litre TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine delivering 135kW/290Nm combined with an 83kW/250Nm electric motor for a total system output of 185kW/420Nm.

The 530e is fitted with a 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack and power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission.

BMW’s big sedan – the 530e will not be offered in wagon guise – can crack zero to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds (the same as the 530i) and its official combined fuel consumption figure is 2.3 litres per 100km, while CO2 emissions are rated at 53g/km.

It is offered with three different driving modes, including Auto eDrive for electric driving up to 90km/h, Max eDrive for electric driving up to 140km/h, and Battery Control mode which allows the driver to nominate the charge level for the battery.

According to BMW, the 530e can be driven on electric power only for up to 43km.

Charging via a standard domestic socket be done in less than four hours for an 80 per cent charge, while BMW’s I Wallbox home or office system can ensure an 80 per cent charge in less than three hours.

BMW says that the fuel tank has dropped by 22 litres to 46 litres compared with the petrol-powered 530i due to the location of the battery pack ahead of the rear axle.

This positioning helps ensure a weight distribution of 48:52 for the 530e which enables a similar dynamic driving experience to its internal combustion siblings, according to the car-maker.

The battery pack has also meant smaller boot capacity, dropping from 530 litres in the 530i to 410L in the hybrid.

A number of flourishes differentiate the 530e from the 530i, including blue kidney grille slats, blue wheel hub covers, illuminated eDrive sill panels, eDrive badges on the C-pillar, as well as a different display for the instrument cluster and central display screen.

Depending on what drive mode is selected, the instrument cluster changes and the 530e also includes Acoustic Protection so pedestrians can hear the car approaching.

A Driving Experience Control switch lets drivers change between Eco Pro, Sport and Comfort mode, which alters the characteristics of the suspension and steering.

The 530e features the latest version of BMW’s iDrive with the 10.2-inch screen that is accessed only via the iDrive controller. All navigation, phone, entertainment and vehicle functions are accessed through this system.

Other standard gear includes Navigation System Professional, wireless smartphone charging, head-up display, automatic tailgate, Dynamic Damper Control, 16-speaker Harman/kardon sound system, sports seats with heating function, anthracite roof liner, an M leather steering wheel, 19-inch M light alloys, adaptive LED headlights with High Beam Assist and Selective High Beam and the M Sport package with M aerodynamics package and M sports brakes.

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, the Parking Assistant Plus that includes Parking Assistant with rear Active Park Distance Control, Surround View, Panorama View and 3D View, speed limit information with speed limiter and a full suite of airbags.

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