The BMW 530e M Sport Saloon PHEV offers an excellent driving experience as well as zero tailpipe emission capability, it looks great, and has the normal BMW premium feel.
BMW has a reputation for producing excellent drivers’ cars. The brand also brought us the electric i3 before most other manufacturers were thinking about electric cars. However since then BMW hasn’t capitalised on its all-electric lead, instead it has brought us increasing numbers of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). So can the latest 530e combine a traditional BMW driving experience with good economy/zero emissions capability?
The BMW 530e has a 4-cylinder 2-litre petrol engine, automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive, a battery that you can plug in to charge, and an 80 kW/109 hp electric motor.
The latest 5 Series looks great on the outside, helped by the M Sport styling – it looks like a traditional BMW sports saloon – and it’s the normal high quality BMW interior environment.
Because of the battery, the boot isn’t huge, but the rear seats fold down to extend the length of the boot.
All the basics are right in terms of the 530e driving experience. It’s low down – ie. the opposite to an SUV – you can find an excellent driving position, there’s a thick rimmed M Sport steering wheel, all controls are well-weighted, and the dashboard is functional, giving you the information that you want and the controls where you want them.
Despite the large alloys and very low profile tyres, somehow the ride quality is excellent, and the rear-wheel drive chassis offers excellent, sporty handling through the corners.
However it’s on the motorway where the 5 Series excels: this has got to be one of the most comfortable, refined and quiet ways in which to cover lots of motorway miles. The 530e feels incredibly stable at motorway speeds (if you think this is true of all new cars then you should try a Suzuki Jimny).
You can choose between the drive modes of Electric, Hybrid and Sport, via buttons positioned very conveniently between the driver and the gear selector. Below these drive modes is a button with a battery symbol. This allows you to maintain the battery charge by holding the car on its petrol engine. Our concern is that many people won’t know what this button is for, and they won’t know what to do when they press it and are then confronted with a page on the touchscreen giving you the option of what percentage to set the battery target value (all drive mode selections take you to a screen where there are further drive mode options). Plug-in hybrid operating systems have become very complex.
Despite not being a BMW 6-cylinder engine (as in the 545e), the 4-cylinder 2-litre petrol engine is smooth, and performance is good, but not mind blowing – but there’s always the 545e if you want more power. BMW’s automatic transmission is excellent, complete with the ability to change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
For ultimate refinement (as well as zero tailpipe emissions), drive the 530e on electric – although there’s more power from the petrol engine (and you get a synthesised sporty noise in Sport mode).
Another big tick in the box for the 530e is that the safety systems don’t intrude on the driving experience, unlike most new cars on sale today.
BMW’s infotainment system is excellent, with an extremely wide central screen, a separate iDrive rotary controller and shortcut buttons in a convenient position near the gear selector. This means that it’s a joy to enter information such as sat nav destinations, as well as being very easy to zoom in and out of the map, compared to using a touchscreen. There are separate controls for the radio and climate. There’s also a head-up display, so you have three different visual elements for the satnav directions – a high quality map on the central screen, a simplified map in the instruments in front of the driver, and very simple directions in the head up display.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the BMW 530e M Sport Saloon is 156.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 39 g/km. The official electric range is 37 miles.
As any regular visitor to Green Car Guide will be aware, the real-life economy of any plug-in hybrid can vary between 30mpg and 1,000mpg depending upon how much driving is done on battery power. Over a week of mixed driving we averaged 56.5mpg. At 70mph on the motorway – an important test in our view – we averaged 45.0mpg. We also only averaged 20 miles of electric range after a full charge, but the outside temperature was hovering around zero degrees for most of the time that the car was with us, and there was even snow on the ground for some of the time (which again proved that BMW tyres aren’t designed for use in snow…). The 530e promised a range of 375 miles on the petrol engine.
You’ll need to plug in the 530e, and a 7kW home charge point will give a full charge in a few hours.
The BMW 530e M Sport Saloon PHEV costs £51,420. Our test car had the options of Technology Pack (£2,495), M Sport Pro Pack (£2,495), 20-inch alloy wheels with run flat tyres (£500), Steering wheel heating (£270), Split-folding rear seats (£395) and Parking Assistant Plus (£650). The options totalled £6,805, taking the total price of the car to £59,130.
The BMW 5 Series model range includes five plug-in hybrid models. As well as the 530e as tested, there’s the BMW 530e xDrive Saloon. There’s also the BMW 530e Touring and the BMW 530e xDrive Touring, and the BMW 545e xDrive Saloon, with a straight six-cylinder petrol engine and four-wheel drive.
The BMW 530e M Sport Saloon PHEV is a very desirable car that offers the feel-good factor. It looks great, the interior is premium and high-tech yet (mostly) easy to use, it combines sporty rear-wheel drive handling and a very comfortable ride. The 530e is excellent to drive on motorways, yet it can also be driven around town with zero tailpipe emissions. On the downside, it can hardly be described as affordable.
The BMW 530e M Sport Saloon gains a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10, but our standard plug-in hybrid rules apply: only buy a plug-in hybrid if you will be driving it primarily on electric power, with occasional longer journeys.