Plugging into a better future | 2018 BMW 530e iPerformance First Drive

The Germans often stumbled during their first forays with plug-in hybrids. They were so fixated with not being the Toyota Prius, they overcompensated and stuffed big engines under the hood that weren’t all that efficient, even with electrified assistance. BMW in particular tried to convince the world hybrids were still enjoyable to drive.

To some extent they were, but BMW missed the point. Many consumers actually did want range and fuel economy, and Bimmer watched as its competitors rolled out efficient small displacement plug-in hybrids. With the 2018 530e iPerformance sedan, it looks like the company is finally getting it.

BMW 530e iPerformance

The sedan achieves up to 31 miles on electricity and the total range is claimed at 404 miles. Power comes from a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder with variable valve lift, which teams with an eDrive AC synchronous electric motor for a total output of 248 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Perhaps the car’s coolest trick is its new wireless charging system, which BMW developed with Daimler-Benz. It will charge the battery at a rate of 3.2 kilowatt hours (one-third of total capacity) within 3.5 hours. With BMW Connected on the center screen, the car ‘sees’ the 2-foot square charging pad via a wireless network. The driver is guided with a set of blue lines on the screen over the pad with an accuracy of 2.8 inches from side to side and four inches from front to back.

Inside you’ll find a familiar 5 Series setup: austere, profoundly practical, and classy. Start her up and nothing happens except some wildly swinging needles in the instrument panel and enough blue light to think you’ve been transported to a Berlin nightclub. There’s an eDrive (displaying battery charge, range, etc.) on the right side and a simple speedo on the left.

There are several main modes of operation: auto eDrive, where the car chooses which power unit to use for maximum efficiency, with EV mode available up to 56 mph; max eDrive, where the car favors electric power with EV mode up to 87 mph; and battery control, where the gasoline engine will charge the battery pack and power the car.

BMW 530e iPerformance

It’s worth recalling that just over five years ago, BMW launched its first hybrid, the Active Hybrid 5, in which the engine was a 3.0-liter straight-six, the electric motor was a sort of volt-fueled supercharger and the realistic gas mileage didn’t approach the claimed sticker. Fast-forward half a decade, and the company is far more evolved and in-step with consumer tastes, as the 530e demonstrates. It isn’t brilliant to drive, but it does save gas. Munich engineers have finally gotten the point.

Read more: Auto Blog

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