This is the new BMW 530e iPerformance, the first plug-in hybrid version of the Munich-based manufacturer’s hugely-popular 5 Series to hit the market. Right from the off, the new model has its work cut out for it, as BMW claims it has been designed to offer a sporty and engaging driving experience, yet still offer low running costs that won’t cause you any sleepless nights.
Key to this is the big Bimmer’s new drivetrain, which pairs a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and allows the 5 Series to travel as far as 31miles on pure electricity alone.
Looks and image
As far as its saloon cars are concerned, BMW seems to have a knack for designing desirable and handsome vehicles – and the latest 5 Series is no exception to this rule. Aesthetically, it’s both understated and handsome, but by no means boring.
With the 530e iPerformance, the exterior remains largely the same as it does on the regular petrol and diesel models, although BMW has added a couple of subtle touches here and there to differentiate the plug-in hybrid version. These include blue kidney grille slats, blue wheel hub covers and eDrive badging on the C-pillars.
Inside, it’s business as usual, with no hugely noticeable changes being made to the iPerformance model over the regular 5 Series – which already has a fantastic interior. The main differences on the 530e include eDrive lettering on the sill panels, an eDrive button on the centre console and specially designed displays for the instrument cluster and infotainment system.
Space and practicality
Unless you or your passengers are particularly lofty, the 530e iPerformance won’t leave you feel short-changed as far as interior space is concerned. Up front, the roof feels miles away from the top of your head, and a similar theme continues in the back. There’s masses of shoulder room, too.
Rear legroom is plentiful, and two adults will be able to cover long distances in the back seats of the 5 Series with no issues whatsoever. All up, the 530e makes for a comfortable and spacious long-distance cruiser.
That said, though, there is a small price to pay for the added economy that hybrid power brings with it, and that’s a slightly smaller boot. As the batteries sit below the floor, the fuel tank has been pushed back into the boot, meaning the 530e iPerformance only offers 410 litres of luggage capacity, as opposed to 530 in the regular 5 Series.
Behind the wheel
No matter what angle you choose to look at the 530e from, there’s no getting around the fact that it is quite a large car. Don’t worry, however, as it isn’t only easy to drive at low speeds thanks to its light controls and steering inputs, but also manages its bulk incredibly well through the corners. Sure, there is some lean when you really press on, but for the most part the 5 Series is seriously impressive.
When we eventually left the mountain roads of our test route and headed out on to the German autobahns, things only got better. The 5 Series is at home on the motorway, and its supple and refined ride make it an excellent long-distance cruiser. There’s more than enough get up and go from the powertrain, although the four-cylinder engine doesn’t sound amazing under heavy throttle, which was a bit of a letdown.
The only other really noticeable niggle with the 530e iPerformance was the fact that the transition from electric to petrol drive modes was sometimes a bit awkward. At low speeds, it seemed to manage this switch fine, but if you suddenly boot it the system did seem to take a bit of time to figure out what you had asked it to do, and there was a noticeable delay between putting your foot down and the resultant wave of acceleration.
Value for money
The on-the-road price for the entry-level SE-specification 530e stands at £43,985, while the M Sport model starts at £47,285. Thanks to their plug-in hybrid credentials, however, both qualify for a £2,500 grant from the government – which is a nice bonus.
The “basic” SE specification includes a decent range of standard equipment, such as 17-inch alloys, leather upholstery, satellite navigation with real-time traffic information, heated front seats and DAB radio to name just a small handful. M Sport models build on this standard specification, and also add more aggressive exterior styling touches.
To make charging the 530e iPerformance that much easier, BMW is currently developing a clever wireless charging system that will be capable of fully replenishing the battery in roughly three-and-a-half hours. All the driver needs to do is position the 5 Series over the top of the charge plate, turn the car off and voila – the system will start charging automatically. This is due to arrive as an option in 2018.
Who would buy one?
The BMW 530e iPerformance is targeted at successful, middle-aged business people who regularly drive in urban environments and find the idea of an economical, comfortable and premium long-distance cruiser appealing.
The current generation BMW 5 Series is one of the best executive saloons currently on the market, and the introduction of the 530e iPerformance to the model line-up only serves to add another string to its bow. It’s good looking, comfortable, economical and can be fairly handy on a twisty road when the mood takes you. With the 530e, BMW has created a car that will likely sell in droves.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: BMW 530e iPerformance
Base price: £41,485 (including £2,500 grant)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol w/electric motor
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 6.0 seconds