Plug-in hybrid version of BMW’s 5 Series is well-placed to take sales away from its higher-end diesel siblings. Strong performance and handling with favourable running costs.
What is it?
This is the first plug-in hybrid 5 Series. It’s not the first hybrid 5 Series, that being the ActiveHybrid 5 available with the last-generation model range. Less than one percent of the 15,000 or so Fives BMW sells here yearly have been part-electric. The ActiveHybrid 5 was expensive, equipped with six cylinders and 302bhp, 149g/km CO2 performance to suit the US, which is why it made little ground here.
BMW hopes that will change, dramatically, with this new 530e iPerformance hybrid, which is a plug-in propelled by a 181bhp 2.0 litre TwinPower Turbo petrol engine and a 112bhp electric motor. The crucial difference lies in some key numbers: the 530e’s £44,765 list price is £770 more than for a 530d SE and £7405 more than for a 520d Efficient Dynamics, while its 46g/km CO2 emissions score it a 9% BIK rating compared to the 520d ED’s 23% and the 530d’s 26%. That’s vastly more competitive than for the ActiveHybrid 5 and enough, BMW thinks, to see it selling around 5000 plug-in 5 Series in a full year.
What’s it like?
Start your trip with a fully charged battery and it’s on electric power that you’ll initially travel unless you’ve heavy with the throttle, in which case the petrol engine momentarily assists.
The 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery will realistically allow a 22-mile range, and in near total silence, the only sound being the tyres’ hum. The car remains tranquil even when the petrol engine kicks in, although the four-pot produces a pleasing internal combustion rasp if you ask plenty of it. The transition from one to the other is tremor-free, as you’d expect, and it’s easy to forget that you’re in a hybrid car at all, the ‘Auto eDrive’ driving mode enabling the car to select the optimum mix of power sources depending on the driver’s demands and the terrain advice supplied by the sat-nav. And while it may be saving fuel, the 530e is not slow, breaking 62mph in 6.2sec: pretty rapid for a car that’s partly about economy.
This twin-engined zest is complemented by a lithe, confident chassis that delivers a supple and sophisticated ride that’s as pleasing as this car’s quiet agility. Only the steering lets it down, the weight at the rim feeling curiously mushy, although it points the car accurately. As always with hybrids, there’s diversion to be had from monitoring the car’s energy usage and the game of trying to see how far you can go on amperes alone.
Read more: Autocar