Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: March 15, 2018
You can not ignore the green revolution forever. Enthusiasts may laugh at the Toyota Prius but the landscape has changed and automakers are scrambling to develop new technologies to meet emission regulations. BMW isn’t immune to the pressure either, having sat at the forefront with their eDrive equipped 3 Series, 7 Series, and X5.
One of the latest additions to the company’s roster is the all-new 5 Series and with it, the 530e. It does not deviate much from the already tried and true eDrive formula, offering a 4-cylinder gasoline motor supplemented by a powerful electric motor. This is fairly standard form for contemporary hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and we've tested the same unit in the BMW 330e and 740Le. The 530e does offer a few BMW-nisms to differentiate itself from the competition, though.
Apart from exotic car brands, no other label is quite as synonymous with driving pleasure as BMW. Though in this case, driving pleasure is defined by refinement. While the 7 Series was designed to coddle rear occupants, the 5 Series switches that up, swathing front passengers in luxury. Thematically it’s your standard cockpit, yet in many ways it also surpasses your neighbour's 3 Series.
Soft leather surfaces extend that extra couple of inches in every direction, caressing the driver and passenger. Wood grain pleases the eye, and premium feeling aluminum touch points are scattered throughout. The front quarters are reminiscent of the 7, almost as if the engineers simply shrunk the 7’s front end by 5% and crammed it inside the G30 chassis.
These similarities aren’t just on the surface either. Much of the technologies found in the flagship have trickled down too. For example, the party-trick favourite Gesture Control has found its way here into the 530e. Simply rotate a finger in front of the centre console and you can raise or lower the volume. Stab two fingers at it and you can skip songs. That’s not all. Plop yourself down on the driver’s seat and you’ll notice a fully digital instrument cluster and a digital HVAC display.
While hybrids typically give off that spaceship vibe which ironically gets outdated quickly, the new 530e matches the rest of the family, and it’s a handsome vehicle. Differences between the standard 5 and the eDrive models are subtle: the front grill receives blue slats that open and close assisting efficient aerodynamics, and eDrive badging adorn the C-pillar and rear trunk lid. The biggest tell is the charging port located behind the driver's side front fender.
And compared to its predecessor, the front fascia maintains its timeless look via updated kidney grills. They are more angular, aggressive, and tie neatly in with the LED headlights. The side profile looks the absolute business too. We are happy to report that there aren't any silly hockey sticks above the running board, and we hope the 7 ditches that design cue but we won’t hold our breath just yet. There’s no grandstanding from the manufacturer, everything ties neatly together, and the result is an all-wheel drive familyhauler that exudes class and refinement.
Behind the leather wrapped wheel, the 530e wades through traffic effortlessly. My biggest reaction to the vehicle is just how seamless everything is. Transitions between all-electric and hybrid modes are flawless. Unlike other hybrids that will jerk slightly as their gas motor kicks in, the 180-hp turbo-four smoothly introduces power when the 111-hp electric motor demands more.
All the while, the tank-like construction mutes all vibrations from the four banger leaving passengers unperturbed. Combined system output matches the regular 530i at 248 hp, though the eDrive trumps it with an additional 52 lb-ft of torque. Like all other models in the range, power is delivered via an 8-speed automatic to all four wheels. Only this time, the torque converter has been replaced with the electric motor. The benefits are twofold. First, it allows all transmission ratios to be used even when in full EV mode, and second, it offsets a portion of the weight penalties by the additional drive unit.
While it does help bring weight distribution close to 50/50 (it’s actually 48.6/51.4% front/rear), the savings are a drop in the ocean for an otherwise porker of a sedan. There’s simply no way to coax much of BMW’s well lauded “Ultimate Driving Machine” ethos in this instance, and its road manners quickly reflect that.
It pulls quick off the line and the electric motor delivers immediate power, but its excitement is short lived leaving the four cylinder to fend for itself in sustained accelerations. Wrench the wheel in a corner and the vehicle, even in its firmest setting, will lean heavily. The xDrive system will reel in a lot of the initial understeer but eventually the dynamics are betrayed by the sheer mass of the sedan. It is no surprise that "sport" is not a priority here - there are multiple M variants if that is your goal. What it does offer however is incredibly polished ride quality, soaking up bumps and divots in the road without forfeiting composure.
With a final sticker price of $83,350 before taxes and incentives, BMW’s plug-in hybrid mid-size sedan serves as a formidable long distance tourer, bathing occupants in luxury while eating up kilometers. The government will provide you a $7,000 rebate for purchasing a 530e, and that is a very important number as it makes the 530e the cheapest G30 5 Series you buy. Don't forget to factor in the gas savings you will leverage from the vehicle's 45 kilometer all-electric range and hybrid drive technologies. While other German manufacturers have promised electrically-assisted vehicles, they have yet to materialize in usable form, making the 530e not only a bargain in the range, but a rarity too.
Model: 2018 BMW 530e xDrive
Paint Type: Mediterranean Blue Metallic
Base Price: $66,900
Price as Tested: $83,350 (before government incentives)
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,975
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,943 / 1,868 / 1,479
Curb weight (kg): 1,935
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four, AC electric motor, 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery
Horsepower: 248 combined hp
Torque: 310 combined lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD