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First drive: BMW 530e Saloon. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 530e Saloon
Will the plug-in hybrid version of the new 5 Series prove even more appealing than the electric variants?

   



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2024 BMW 530e Saloon

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

BMW has not been shy about bringing electric power to the new 5 Series. Indeed, when the car was first launched, it was a case of all-electric i5 or nothing. But now the combustion-powered versions are filtering through, and the new plug-in hybrid 530e is available to buy in the UK. It's almost certain to be popular, but does that mean it's the best version of the new 5 Series saloon?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Volkswagen Touareg Black Edition 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion
Price: 73,240 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, plus 135kW electric motor
Battery: 19.4kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 299hp
Torque: 450Nm
Emissions: 16g/km
Economy: 403.5mpg
Range: 58-63 miles
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 143mph
Boot space: 520 litres

Styling

The 530e isnt immediately discernible from the i5s weve already seen, because the cars bodywork is more or less unchanged. The shape remains the same, and its only really the badges that mark out this hybrid version. That means its cleaner than its predecessors, with minimalist styling throughout and sharp lights and a more aggressive nose particularly in profile. Its only available in M Sport form, which means its endowed with gloss black bits on the nose and on the window surrounds, unless you specify the optional chrome that offers a much classier look, and that gives it even more intent, which leaves you with a rather good-looking saloon. It certainly wont put too many would-be customers off with its design.

Interior

Like the exterior, the 530es cabin is much the same as that of the i5, which is to say, high-tech. Its much more modern than the interior seen in the previous-generation 5 Series, with a cleaner dash that has seen most of its switchgear hidden away in the massive Curved Display that houses the central infotainment screen and the digital instrument cluster.

The screen itself is great its sharp and responsive and it comes with the iDrive rotary controller that helps you navigate almost by touch once youve learned your way around the system. You will need to invest some time doing that, though, because theres just so much in there.

Including, as it happens, the climate control system, which has migrated from the dash. Ergonomically, the move is a pain in the wotsits, but it has allowed BMWs designers to tidy up and fit the dynamic ambient lighting system, of which the company seems very proud. Basically, the idea is a strip of light around the cabin will change colour in different driving modes, or respond when the door is opened or a phone call is coming in. Unfortunately, the light bar feels a bit cheap when the car is switched off, and thats a shame.

Especially because the car is generally pretty well built. Even the vegan upholstery fitted as standard feels quite soft, and the way in which everything fits together is exemplary. Its just a pity one or two plastics let the side down.

Practicality

The 5 Series is quite a sizeable saloon, so it's no surprise to find there's plenty of space on board. Not only do those in the front get ample elbow- and headroom, as well as lots of seat adjustment, but the rear-seat passengers also get generous amounts of legroom and a surprisingly sufficient amount of headroom, too. Particularly compared with some other executive saloons.

Boot space is respectable, too, with 520 litres of carrying capacity in both the 530e and the more potent plug-in hybrid 550e, as well as the petrol-powered 520i. Despite the batteries, in fact, the 530e gets exactly the same amount of boot space as any 5 Series saloon equipped with a petrol engine, and 30 litres more than you get in an electric i5.

Performance

The 530e gets a similar plug-in hybrid powertrain to that of its predecessor, combining a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a rechargeable battery. In the case of the new model, though, the 19.4kWh battery and 184hp electric motor provide enough range to cover around 60 miles (officially) without needing the petrol engine at all. In the real world, that's a bit optimistic and something in the 40s is more realistic, but credit should go to BMW for putting in such a potent electric motor. Even when you put your foot down, the power is enough to prevent the engine from doing too much work.

That means plenty of drivers will be able to go days without filling their 530e's tanks, especially if they can charge the battery at home, as you would with an electric car. For the school run or shopping trips, it simply won't need the engine at all. And that's why BMW quotes such staggering economy figures, although we all know they're pie in the sky the minute you start heading further afield.

That's because the 190hp engine serves a purpose on longer drives, giving you the flexibility to fill the tanks in minutes and drive hundreds of miles in one hit. And when you combine the grunt of that engine with that of the electric motor, you get a total of 299hp heading to the rear wheels.

As a result, it isn't just the economy that's impressive. The 530e gets from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, and that's quick enough to mix it with hot hatchbacks. Yet it's refined, too, albeit less refined than the six-cylinder, plug-in hybrid 550e. The four-cylinder engine drones a bit when you really mash your foot against the firewall, and that noise jars when you've been pootling about in near-silence in electric mode, but otherwise it's reasonably quiet and smooth, proving unobtrusive in everyday conditions.

Ride & Handling

The i5 versions of the 5 Series were already great to drive, so it's no surprise to find the same is true of the 530e. Except the plug-in hybrid is even better. It feels lighter on its feet than its electric sisters, with more immediacy to the steering response and sharper brakes. It doesn't feel any more precise or even any more stable, but it just feels fractionally more agile, and it hides its size slightly better.

Yet despite all that, it still rides beautifully, with a suppleness that belies its agility. At lower speeds, one or two of the UK's less exemplary road surfaces (okay, it might be more than two) will make an impact, but in the cruise it's beautifully comfortable and refined. It helps that the seats are comfortable, too. And that the engine doesn't make too much of a racket.

Value

Prices for the 530e start at 59,455, which is quite a lot of money, but then you're getting quite a lot of car. The only trim level on offer is the high-specification M Sport, which comes with sporty styling, 19-inch alloys and blue brakes, as well as sports suspension and all the usual 5 Series features. The Curved Display is standard, along with the vegan upholstery and two-zone climate control, not to mention a rear-view camera and metal dashboard trim. And when you consider the cheapest Audi A6 plug-in hybrid saloon costs almost exactly the same amount of money, the 5 Series doesn't feel like bad value.

Verdict

The 530e is not necessarily the best 5 Series out there wed be tempted to give the 550e that accolade but it comes very close. It isnt quite as powerful or as refined as the more potent hybrid, but its better value for money and its more than capable enough for most drivers to be getting on with. Given that and the extra flexibility it offers over the electric i5 models, as well as the lengthy all-electric range it provides, its the 5 Series wed recommend.



James Fossdyke - 8 Mar 2024



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2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.

2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 530e M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.








 

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