First Drive: Does BMW’s 530e xDrive deliver on all fronts?

PA

What is it?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


BMW’s revised 5 Series arrived in May this year, bringing a whole new take on one of the firm’s most popular models. Now, as well as a fresher face and a revitalised interior, a new hybrid powertrain was added to the 5 Series’ list of powertrains – the 530e.

The previous 530e never truly took off but with the focus on electrification even greater these days, BMW is putting more emphasis on its hybrid offerings than ever.

But can this 5 Series deliver those lower running costs as well as the refined and premium experience that people expect? Let’s get behind the wheel and find out.

What’s new?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


The latest 5 Series has brought more technical innovations than before, while the exterior look has been sharpened considerably over the older model. Inside, there’s all manner of high-tech functions, while premium materials have been used throughout to ensure that this 5 Series feels as high-end on the inside as it looks from the outside.

But the real talking point is the engine – which we’ll get to shortly – while BMW’s latest assistance systems have been fitted to ensure that the 5 Series takes much of the backache out of longer journeys.

What’s under the bonnet?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


While the ‘30’ badging might lead you to believe that there’s a 3.0-litre engine under the bonnet of this 5 Series, the reality is that the 530e makes use of a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol instead. This is then linked to a 12kWh battery and 94bhp electric motor for a combined power output of 249bhp and 420Nm of torque.

BMW claims that it’ll be able to return just over 30 miles of electric-only driving from a full battery, while fuel economy stands at a claimed 141.2mpg. CO2 emissions are impressively low at just 48g/km, too. Our car came in xDrive layout – meaning it’s equipped with all-wheel-drive – adding an extra layer of versatility to the car, particularly in the wet.

What’s it like to drive?

This is an unflustered hybrid to drive. Moving off, the 5 Series wafts serenely on electric power, scythes along in whisper-quiet fashion. But that’s continued as you gather pace, too, as the electric power stretches up to motorway speeds, ensuring that the quiet driving experience is extended.

It’s punchy, too, with the added zip of the electric motor combining with the surprisingly brawny four-cylinder motor to generate some decent acceleration. This is bolstered by steering which is nicely weighted and direct, too.

But the real champion of this is simply how easy the 530e is to live with. There’s no reason to fuss about with menus or settings, you simply ensure it’s got enough charge by plugging it in and then you’re off. Leave it in automatic modes and the car will judge for itself when and how to use electricity to its full potential.

How does it look?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


Clean, striking and well-judged, the exterior of the 5 Series is – in our eyes at least – a real success. It’s not as outwardly dramatic as more recent additions to BMW’s line-up like the 4 or 7 Series, but we’d argue that it’s no worse off for this. Our car, with its piano black exterior touches, looked particularly classy.

It doesn’t shout about its hybrid underpinnings, either. Save for the ‘e’ badge on the boot, the only real indication that this is anything other than a regular 5 Series is the charging port located on the flank of the car. It’s a great approach to the design of the car as it means it doesn’t shout about its eco credentials – something many drivers will find appealing.

What’s it like inside?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


The interior of the 5 Series represents one of the best evolutions of BMW cabins yet. The driving position is excellent, while all of the major controls are placed within easy reach of the driver which makes them simple to operate on the move.

It’s comfortable, too, with supportive seats for those sitting either up front or in the back, and both headroom and legroom are decent throughout, too.

When it comes to boot space, the 530e does lose out against its more conventionally-driven stablemates. Because that 12kWh battery is located under the boot floor, it eats into load space and reduces it by 120 litres over petrol or diesel-powered variants. It means you get a total of 410 litres. Though smaller, it’s still a useable area and is completely flat without any humps or intrusions into the space.

What’s the spec like?

BMW 530e
BMW 530e


Few are going to be left disappointed by the level of equipment which comes as standard on the 530e. The main infotainment offering is centred around a 12.3-inch screen which houses satellite navigation and media functions, as well as both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration system. We tried out the former and were pleased to see that the Apple display was orientated to fill the entire screen, rather than cropped as is the case with many other systems.

That said, ‘our’ test car wasn’t devoid of extras, either. Features such as the ‘comfort pack’ (£2,495) and the technology pack (£2,495) added equipment such as a heated steering wheel and a head-up display, but bumped the car’s price up considerably, pushing it from £52,630 to £65,010.

Verdict

The 530e succeeds by being so easy to live with that it’s often hard to remember that you’re driving a hybrid. For those drivers who want lower running costs or for business users who want lower rates of tax, then the 530e is going to look very appealing indeed.

While the lack of a silky six-cylinder engine might leave some BMW die-hards aghast, the reality is that this four-cylinder is the perfect fit when combined with an electric powertrain. It’s a package which feels resoundingly well-matched, and, when situated in a setup as classy and well-made as the most recent 5 Series, makes for a very compelling choice.

  • Model: BMW 530e

  • Base price: £52,630

  • Model as tested: 530e xDrive M Sport

  • Price as tested: £65,010

  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder

  • Power: 249bhp

  • Torque: 420Nm

  • Max speed: 146mph

  • 0-60mph: 5.9 seconds

  • MPG: 141.2-122.8

  • Emissions: 48g/km CO2

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