2017 BMW 530e Review
Alex Rae’s 2017 BMW 530e Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, infotainment, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Unless you’re after out and out performance, the 530e is the best offering in the 5-Series range.
2017 BMW 530e Review
Pricing From $108,900+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Safety 5-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and electric Power 185kw Torque 420Nm Transmission eight-speed automatic Dimensions 4936mm (L); 1868mm (W); 1479mm (H) Boot Space 530 litres Spare Space Saver Weight 1770kg Thirst 2.3L/100km
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WE’RE ALMOST BECOMING spoilt for choice with some pretty good electric and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles released onto the market recently. Performance has improved no matter what type of vehicle you’re looking at, be it a city runabout like a BMW i3 or an SUV like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Of course if there’s one sticking point that hasn’t changed, it’s price.
Take the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV we drove recently. A well-rounded product that doesn’t compromise ride quality and incorporates a useful electric-only range for weekly commuting. But starting at $50,490 (+ORC), it demands an almost 30% premium on its petrol stablemate.
Paying a price premium is a common theme among vehicles featuring any sort of practical electric-only range, so it’s with gusto and a move that should be applauded that BMW has launched its new 530e PHEV which is priced on parity with its petrol equivalent 530i.
What is it?
The 530e joins the recently updated 5-Series range which launched in March this year. The 5-Series comprises of the 520d, 530i, 530d, 540i and, now, the 530e, too.
BMW has been injecting some slick PHEV options into its model lineup across the last two years; the 330e, X5 40e and 740e all provide an eco-friendly option that offer around 43km of real-world, electric-only range. That’s good enough for most Australian’s daily commute (which is usually less than 25 kilometres), so there’s no reason to be hitting the bowser all that often.
But where those PHEV models were priced at a premium above the equivalent petrol-powered option, the 530e breaks new ground and is packaged and priced at the same spec as the 530i ($108,900+ORC), without sacrificing performance.
It’s actually a little more powerful, which makes up for its extra 230kg battery and electric motor, and produces 350kW and 470Nm of torque in total. That’s the same power but 70Nm more than the 530i, which only happens when both petrol and electric motors are working together. In isolation, the 530e’s petrol engine produces 135kW and 290Nm, while its electric motor produces 83kW and 250Nm.
The result is a dead even heat between the two cars of 6.2sec (in the 0-100km/h sprint), however, the 530e sips a frugal 2.3L/100km compared to the 530i’s 5.8L/100km… But this figure is actually a bit of a fallacy, because like any PHEV, the claimed fuel economy regulations require the figure to be calculated only within certain test conditions. So if you were driving 600kms, you’d end up using much closer to 5.8L/100kmh (once the 35kms electric range is depleted) rather than 2.3L/100km. Still, there’s no reason not to get almost 0.0L/100km if you commuting close distances during the week.
Visually, the 530e looks nearly identical to its siblings, but the keen eyed will notice a charging-flap on the left, blue ringed wheel hub caps, blue highlighted kidney grill flaps, eDrive badges on the C-pillars and an eDrive button inside.
The 530e also comes with a charging cable and when plugged into a standard domestic power socket (the type in your garage), the 530e charges up to 80% capacity in four hours. Optionally, a BMW i Wallbox can be fitted and will charge the same amount in under two hours. There’s also an expanding network of quick charging station in public spaces (like in some Westfield shopping centres).
What’s the interior like?
The interior design echoes any of BMW’s latest models and feels familiar if you’re coming from another model. It is a premium fit and finish inside and long horizontal design forms extend the feeling of space inside. From the driver’s seat is easy to get into a comfortable driving position with excellent adjustability on the seat and the steering wheel; and the pedals are set directly ahead of you; this isn’t always the case.
The touchpoints and materials are of a high quality and the position of rest points and controls feels well thought out. The seats are comfortable and offer good support from leather wrapped seats, however, the Nappa option leather provides a soft luxurious finish which heightens the feeling of luxury.
The 530e comes packed with the latest interior technology available from BMW, and this includes a sharp 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the option of touchscreen climate controls (a very nice feature), digital dashboard with battery charge information exclusive to the 530e and two useful cupholders up front and two in the rear centre fold down back rest.
Speaking of the back seat, there’s plenty of room in here for two adults, children with the transmission tunnel robbing foot/leg room for a third passenger in the middle and the shape of the seat itself makes it more of a pew than a seat. The boot is smaller than the rest of the 5-Series range because of the battery, and measures 410 litres. That said, the floor is dual-level meaning you can lower the floor to create a depression in the boot and keep your bags from sliding around.
What’s the infotainment like?
The 10.25-inch touchscreen is centrally mounted and offers a sharp, glossy, high-resolution screen that doesn’t reflect much glare. The BMW digital ecosystem has evolved into a smart and intuitive solution which supports BMW’s opinion that features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t really required, although Apple CarPlay is available in the 5-Series. CarPlay also connects wirelessly, which is a first and proves a benefit when doing a short trip, or if there’s no compatible cable around.
The benefit of CarPlay is that streaming apps like Apple Music can be used, which aren’t currently supported in BMW’s iDrive system. A 12.3-inch screen resides behind the steering wheel in place of a traditional, analogue binnacle. It doesn’t offer support for apps like navigation, and instead has real gauge surrounds on the screen.
What’s the BMW 530e like to drive?
We were limited to only city driving during our short time with the 530e, which is where the plug-in hybrid will spend most of its time anyway.
Differing the 530e from its siblings is an eDrive mode button inside the cabin. In all-electric driving mode BMW claims 43km distance without burning fossil fuel, but BMW Australia tells us that in reality driving can realistically expect somewhere over 30km before the petrol motor needs to kick in. Alternatively, the electric motor can work in conjunction with the petrol powerplant to provide peak power output and achieve its claimed 6.3sec 0-100km//h.
More useful around town is the energy-saving mode, which keeps the battery at a predetermined capacity. This is particularly useful for mixed commuting on freeways and slower roads, as all electric vehicles struggle with efficiency when cruising at higher speeds. For the nerd, one could figure out the minimum battery level required to commute on electric-only power once off the freeway and set it to such before hoping on.
Of course there’s also an energy-saving mode which helps to charge the battery back up, but this isn’t a practical solution for heaping on electric-only range as you’re constantly asking the petrol motor to kick in and out…
The transition between petrol and electric power is so sophisticated you won’t notice the engagement, and the electric motor is mounted between the petrol engine and eight-speed gearbox to help improve the smooth power delivery. The gearbox is also designed and mounted in such a way that it can still be used while driving on electric power only.
We were restricted to keeping around the city and conditions were wet, so while we got to feel if BMW’s claims of performance mirroring the 530i around town, the 530e is 230kg heavier than its 530i counterpart, it probably won’t feel quite as nimble when being pushed on quick roads. But as our full 5-Series launch drive revealed, those handling characteristics are better appreciated in the 530d and 540i anyway, and comparing apple to apples we’d happily take the plug-in hybrid over either the 520d or even the competent, volume-selling 530i.
We’ll have a more complete assessment of the BMW 530e once it’s graced the Practical Motoring garage.
What about the BMW 530e’s safety features?
The BMW 5-Series has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety equipment includes active cruise with stop and go, steering and lane keeping assistance (which can actively steer the car if you veer out of your lane, brake, or assist in steering around an obstacle if the system detects an impending collision), front cross traffic warning, parking assist with 3D view and speed limit information which can be relayed into the Active Cruise Control. The 530e also offers the usual stability and traction controls, airbags, keyless entry and ISOFIX mounts for the outboard seats in the back.
So, what do we think about the BMW 530e?
We were impressed with the level of refinement and composed driving the 5-Series range offers when we drove it at its recent local launch, and the release of the BMW 530e bolsters the lineup further with a very well implemented and effectively no-cost option electric plug-in hybrid system.
At the lower end of the 5-Series range, the 530e is the shining light. And we’ve found when driving the smaller BMW 330e that commuting on electric-only range is completely feasible, and even if the petrol motor is required, fuel consumption is kept to a minimum. So, we’d pick PHEV option over the 520d or 530i without hesitation. But it’s a trickier decision the higher up the food chain you go… Comparatively, the more expensive 530d and 540i offer better equipment and more performance (although the 530e can be optioned). And, as a driver’s car, the diesel 530d still takes the cake… but if you’re making a choice for environmental reasons and trying to reduce your fuel costs at the same time, then the 530e is the pick.