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First drive: 2024 BMW 550e xDrive Saloon. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2024 BMW 550e xDrive Saloon
Is the 3.0-litre plug-in hybrid 5 Series the best of the bunch, or would you be better off with the less powerful, 2.0-litre 530e?


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2024 BMW 550e xDrive Saloon

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The new BMW 5 Series is on a charge when it comes to electrification. Having launched in electric ‘i5’ form, the car is now available with only one purely combustion-powered variant – the petrol 520i – with every other form offering some kind of electric motor. So plug-in power is clearly king for the executive saloon, but there remains the question of which plug-in 5 Series to choose. We’ve driven the i5s and the 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid 530e, but what about its big brother, the 550e? Is this the daddy, or is it too big for its boots?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Pro Saloon
Price: 550e xDrive from £76,605 (£99,325 as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 145kW electric motor
Battery: 19.4kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 489hp
Torque: 700Nm
Emissions: 19-22g/km
Economy: 282.5-353.1mpg
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Boot space: 520 litres


Spotting the difference between a 550e xDrive and the less powerful 530e will largely come down to reading the badge on the back. In fact, that’s true of most 5 Series models, all of which look broadly the same. Yes, the M Sport versions get the sportier bumpers and the black noses, but with pretty much every powertrain offered in M Sport form, that isn’t much of a clue. We will admit, though, that the 5 Series won’t be to everyone’s taste, and though the clean flanks and shark nose have grown on us since the car’s introduction, the rear end still looks a bit odd, and some have been quite critical. But it isn’t hideous – we actually think it’s handsome from some angles – and the narrow lights and smart silhouette mean it looks perfectly at home among the premium executive saloon masses.


If you struggle to tell the 550e from the 530 outside, you’ll find it even harder when you get inside. The modern, clean dashboard design is the same, and you get the same sharp, configurable instrument cluster and slick touchscreen, both of which are housed in the same Curved Display that spans around half the dashboard.

Unfortunately, that means the 550e has the same foibles as the 530e – namely the cheapness of the plastic ambient lighting strip and the ergonomic issues with housing the climate control tech in the touchscreen – but it has the same strengths, too. Build quality is generally very good, even if one or two of the materials feel less premium than we’d like, and the continued inclusion of the iDrive rotary controller is a great idea, allowing drivers to navigate the screens almost by touch.

And because you get the same cabin as in the 530e, you get the same equipment, too. That means a surprisingly supple and tactile Veganza vegan leather substitute is found on the seats and steering wheel as standard, although the real deal is available as an option. And speaking of options, customers can also specify an on-board games console that allows you to play video games through the touchscreen while stationary. It’s quite the party piece.


Often, plug-in hybrid versions of conventional saloons get less boot space thanks to their battery packaging, but the 530e and 550e do things differently. Because of the way the cars are built, they have exactly the same 520-litre luggage space as the 520i petrol car, which means they have plenty of carrying capacity. It's roughly on a par with the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and those who want even more space will be pleased to hear there is a 'Touring' estate version on the way soon.

Not that you really need the Touring for boot space or cabin space. The saloon has ample rear legroom and headroom is perfectly sufficient, too, even in four-door form. Predictably, space in the front is plentiful, too, with lots of elbow room and seat adjustment.


Like the 530e, the 550e gets a plug-in hybrid system with 19.4kWh battery pack under the floor and an electric motor housed in the gearbox, but the big difference between the two is the engine. Whereas the 530e has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, the 550e gets a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine that’s smooth and powerful. Combined with the 145kW electric motor (up 10kW, or 13hp, on the 530e’s motor), the system provides 489hp and all-wheel drive, which makes the 550e pretty quick off the mark.

Getting from 0-62mph takes a mere 4.3 seconds – two seconds faster than the already brisk 530e – while the top speed is 155mph, which represents a 12mph increase on the 530e. You also get the added security of all-wheel-drive traction, which will be welcome for some customers.

The slight catch is in the all-electric range, which is down slightly on the 58-63 miles you get from the 530e on the official economy test. With more power and more weight, the 550e will only manage 52-55 miles on a charge during the same test, and that’s more like 40 in the real world. Nevertheless, that’s ample for most people’s day-to-day needs, and the big petrol engine is only likely to be called into action when you need to go further afield. Charge regularly, and you could save a fortune in petrol, even if you’re unlikely to achieve the three-figure economy of the official figures.

But while the 550e is fractionally less efficient than the 530e, it is more refined. That six-cylinder engine is sensational, producing barely a whisper on the motorway and giving a subtle but purposeful gurgle when you give it a bit of stick. It’s fabulous.

Ride & Handling

Because the 550e xDrive has a big six-cylinder engine in the front, it feels a little more nose-heavy than the 530e, but that's hardly much of a criticism. It has the same great steering and a similar suspension set-up, which means it has plenty of control over that big body. Perhaps it doesn't quite turn in as sharply as the 530e, but everything is relative and the 550e xDrive still drives fabulously, with the security of all-wheel drive giving it that bit more stability when you put your foot down.

Yet for all the precision and poise, the 550e is still comfortable, and though BMWs rarely ride like clouds, the 5 Series is very supple. There's a composure to the way it deals with any bumps, and though you can still feel them and their impact on the wheels, they don't feel jarring or overly sharp. For those who are really into driving, it's a really pleasant balance of comfort and feel.


Whereas the 530e comes in at a smidgen under £60,000 in its cheapest form, the 550e xDrive is significantly more expensive. In fact, with prices starting at £76,605, it's more than £15,000 more expensive. And that's quite tricky to justify when the 530e is so good. It isn't even like you're getting more kit, because both come in M Sport form as standard, complete with 19-inch alloy wheels, vegan not-leather interior and all the big touchscreen systems. You get the sporty M Sport styling, too.


Money no object, the 550e is the best 5 Series we’ve driven so far. That six-cylinder engine is glorious and the car drives beautifully, but there’s a problem. It’s quite a lot more expensive than the 530e, and all you’re getting is a little more power and refinement – things the 530e was hardly short of. So while the 550e is the 5 Series our hearts desire, the 530e is the 5 Series our sensible heads would recommend.

James Fossdyke - 2 May 2024    - BMW road tests
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2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.

2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 550e xDrive M Sport Saloon. Image by BMW.


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