Luxury and performance automakers have a difficult task on their hands. They, like all other OEMs, are forced to design and build “greener” cars however, in North America at least, they remain mostly unpopular. Blame cheap energy and the fact that “buyers” are leasing and looking to get more for their money as many of these green vehicles are pricier than comparable regular cars.
One way to deliver these cars is to create a different line for new or existing products. BMW’s iPerformance cars incorporates the current largest line-up of electrified vehicles of all luxury car makers but this has little or no impact on the brand’s bottom line. They serve more as a showcase of BMW’s knowhow but in 2018, we know that all carmakers can build impressive electrified products. The mistake that many make, in my opinion, is attempting to convince consumers that Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) are viable, and wise purchases.
The BMW 530e is one such car that is penalized price-wise, weight-wise and convenience-wise in order to hopefully get 25 km of electric driving. Should you never drive more than that distance at a time, then the car’s for you in exchange for about $70k (before incentives). If this is not your case, then save about $4,500 and get a perfectly good 530i xDrive.
The BMW 530e’s only fault is being a PHEV. Thankfully, this does not affect the car’s styling. The 5-Series is an immensely satisfying car to look at, both inside and out. Proportionally speaking, BMW’s design language works best on this car, better than on the 7-Series.
The current G30 generation 5 Series is the prettiest since the mid-90s E39. There was subtle beauty and expression in the older cars and it has returned. The body- and character-lines are complemented by a few yet carefully selected accents. What I most appreciate about the 530e is that, other than the badging, it is indistinguishable from a 530i.
There are few more classic exterior/interior colour combos for a luxury car than dark blue and ivory. The 5 wears it very well, to say the least. The 530e’s cabin is hectic, but lovely and welcoming all at once. The attention to detail and fit and finish are immediately obvious when the doors are opened. The optional Napa leather is sublime as are the optional massaging ventilated comfort seats– that’s where I’d spend the $4,500 I would save with a 530i.
The dashboard and controls are divided into three specific areas, of which one is very busy. The HVAC and audio controls are bunched up together and require a fair amount of attention to work through. The main screen also needs some getting used to however if you’re a BMW regular, there will be no issues.
In a nutshell, the 530e is all BMW and we are grateful for it.
One of the numerous problems with PHEVs is battery location. The majority of these vehicles were not designed with battery storage space in mind. Those that were typically feature battery packs as part of the chassis, in the center tunnel; in other words, they do not impede on useable interior space.
The 530e gives up a portion of its trunk for said battery pack which means, in easy to understand terms, you might get one golf bag in there. Forget about your buddy’s, they’ll have to take their own car to get to the club.
The rear bench is welcoming, spacious and comfortable. The center tunnel cuts into foot room severely especially if you intend on transporting three wide. The front seats offer ideal support and comfort for short and long haul. The countless power adjustments will eventually help you find a perfect driving position.
The car is quiet at all times, well insulated and isolated from road and wind noises.
I’ve already made my point about PHEV so you might have guessed that I don’t see the value in spend the money on a 530e. Other than gaining access to reserved lanes or better parking, purchasing a PHEV offers few other advantages. The resale value, for those that don’t lease it, could be shocking…
At $62k, the 530i xDrive is loads of car and equipment for the money. In the 4-cylinder AWD entry-level midsize luxury car segment, its pricing is nearly identical to the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. The level of kit and performance are complete but the option packages make a huge difference, both in technology and price.
My tester’s base price is of $66,900 to which are added the Premium, Interior Comfort, Driver Assistance and Smartphone Connectivity packages for a grand total of over $82k. A near identical 530i can be built for about $77k. That’s what I would do.
Not so long ago, a 4-cylinder large luxury car would not have been feasible. Today, they’ve proven to be very popular if mostly because of the dual advantage of equal or better performance than a V6 and vastly improved fuel consumption.
BMW does wonders with their boosted mills and the 2.0-litre 4-pot is no exception. In the 530e, it produces 180 horsepower and 255 torques. Combined with the electric motor, fed by the 9.2 kWh battery pack, total system output sits at 252 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. These power gains for a PHEV are not unusual, nor is the price in performance.
At roughly 500 lbs. more than an equivalent 530i, the gains in torque especially (52 lbs.) are completely negated. In fact, both 530s reach 100 km/h in 6 seconds. Furthermore, and this is the killer, projected average fuel economy are about 1L/100km apart, or 8L for the 530e vs. 9L for the 530i… I averaged 9.5L/100 km and the car was plugged in at every occasion.
Through the seven drive modes, the driver can do near miracles with maintaining battery power with eDrive modes or get max power in Sport. Throughout, steering remains precise while assistance varies. The brakes are impressively alert and strong; a rewarding feeling. My tester was fitted with the optional Dynamic Dampers which improve both comfort and on-road handling. I found the “adaptive” mode to be best suited for 99% of driving situations.
The bottom line is that the 530i is a great car. The 530e is not worth the extra weight.