It is common knowledge that pretty much every manufacturer is slowly making the move towards electrification in one way or another. Bentley, a manufacturer known for monstrous W12 and V8 engines, recently announced that it is ditching internal combustion completely; y by the end of the decade.
BMW, which was among the first manufacturers to dabble with battery packs and electric motors, is busy crafting a hybrid offering of its most popular models, with the 530e the very first to pair BMW’s fourth-generation battery technology with a four-cylinder petrol engine. Customers can also look towards the more powerful 545e, while all-wheel-drive xDrive iterates are also available on both these hybrid models.
However, hybrid technology has often been dubbed a stopgap between fossil fuels and full electrification, as it does a little to improve emissions and fuel economy but only offers a limited emissions-free driving experience.
It is no different here, as the BMW 530e can only manage around 30-miles in Electric mode, despite the improved output of the battery packs, before the petrol engine is called upon. Because of this, official fuel economy figures shit around the 201 –156mpg mark (depending on wheel size and spec) and CO2 emissions are as low as 31g/km CO2. This will be music to the ears of company car users, who can take advantage of the Benefit in Kind tax breaks, so long as the list price of the vehicle is kept low.
The model driven here is a BMW 530e M Sport, which means it comes with 19 or 20-inch M Sport wheels, racier body work and M badging on the exterior and throughout the cabin. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is a performance drive though, because battery technology inevitably adds weight and the same applies here, even though BMW has cleverly negated the need for a torque converter in its hybrid. The 0-62mph sprint time 0.5-seconds slower than the 530d diesel counterpart, for example.
That said, the electric motor does a great job of filling in the torque gaps, meaning acceleration from a standstill is punchy and smooth, while distinguishing when the car is flicking between electric drive and the internal combustion requires a keen ear. Engineers have clearly worked hard to make this one refined package.
It’s a massive cliche, but it drives like a BMW too, boasting the weighty steering and planted feel through corners that this German brand is now renowned the world over for. Opting for the optional adaptive suspension is a good idea mind, because those large M Sport wheels often equate to a harsh ride over rough surfaces if suspension tech doesn’t get involved.
Quiet, comfortable and adequately fast for most, the BMW 530e does luxury travel extremely well and those with lots of regular short journeys could hugely benefit from using the electric range. Plug it in every night and the daily school run can be completed for pennies.
BMW interiors have always been exceptional but the latest generation 5 Series boasts a particularly smart cabin. The touchscreen infotainment system has increased in size from 10.25-inches to 12.3-inches and is powered by BMW’s latest Operating System 7.0, which is faster to start up and generally more responsive.
This can be operated via the rotary dial iDrive system or with touch, while the German marque continues to power ahead with its gesture control technology, which is basically useless. Waggling a finger in mid air is no easier or safe than reaching for a volume dial.
M Sport models, like this one, feature a sportier steering wheel, front sports seats, a distinctive instrument panel finished in something called Sensatec, an anthracite headliner and, wait for it, Aluminium Rhombicle Grey trim details. All you need to know is that it looks classy, with most of the surfaces on show beckoning occupants to run a hand over them.
Boot space is an adequate 410-litres, but it is possible to drop the rear seats and increase that number. However, BMW also offers a Touring version (an estate to you and me) in this plug-in guise, with SE Touring specification models featuring split folding rear seats and plentiful room in the back for storage.
The 530e is actually slightly cheaper than the all-wheel-drive 530d xDrive model and likely more cost effective for those who do lots of short hops in the car. On the longer motorway trips, it is highly unlikely the 530e will achieve the same sort of fuel economy as its diesel sibling, which remains the go-to choice for company car owners with high annual mileage.
But as an everyday proposition, it makes a lot of sense, especially if owners install a charging point at home, where a full charge will take a couple of hours. And with a peak power of 292hp, the 530e offers an extra 100hp+ over the entry level 520d models. A BMW 5 Series is never going to be cheap, because this is a car that sits firmly in the premium saloon sector, where it can hold its head high as one of the best.