BMW 530E iPerformance 2017 review: This electric hybrid's an impressive livewire

The plug-in version of the 5-Series executive sedan, called the 530E iPerformance, blends a conventional petrol engine with enough battery power to drive emissions-free for a typical daily commute. Tom Kirkpatrick

by Peter Atkinson

It seems like the whole motoring world isgoing electric.

Who would have thought?

Leading marques have previously hitched their wagons to everything from hybrid technology to super-efficient petrol and diesel engines or even the futuristic hydrogen cells - but now they are all plunging into the electric pond.

Last month British giant Jaguar-Land Rover announced it would be offering a battery-powered version of every model it produces by 2020.

The plug-in regimen means up to 50km of emissions-free driving on a fully-charged battery before being plugged in for a recharge overnight. That's enough for most city commuting. Supplied

The following day, Honda followed suit by promising an electric version of its entire fleet within two years.

The Germans, who mostly sniffed at Toyota's commitment to hybrid petrol-electric technology when it was introduced almost two decades ago, have now all followed suit in one form or another.

Mostly, they're opting for the so-called "plug-in" hybrids - combining the green cred of an electric motor with the practicality of a petrol engine to back it up.

BMW is having a bob each way. As well as its fully-electric i3 electric hatchback and i8 electric supercar models, it has added a handful of plug-in hybrids across its conventional range under its so-called "iPerformance" banner.

The latest addition is the plug-in version of the 5-Series executive sedan, called the 530E iPerformance, that blends a conventional petrol engine with enough battery power to drive emissions-free for a typical daily commute.

The first thing you notice about the E-Drive is the sound of ... well ... nothing but silence. Supplied

With its limited electric-only range, it can't compete with the fully electric rival Tesla - but nor is it meant to.

Instead, the plug-in regimen means up to 50km of emissions-free driving on a fully-charged battery before being plugged in for a recharge overnight.

That might sound like a token gesture, but in reality the 50km range is probably enough for most people to get to and from work - or the kindy, school or supermarket - and home again without having to revert to fossil fuel power.

Once safely back in the garage, you just plug the car into your conventional electric socket and it's fully charged again by the time you're ready to face another day.

The 50km range is probably enough for most people to get to and from work - or the kindy, school or supermarket - and home again without having to revert to fossil fuel power. Mark Bean

Also, the growing number of quick-charge points in many inner-city streets and carparks means a 50km each-way commute is a possibility for many. Our real-world experience put the range at closer to 30km - but that depends on driving habits.

The attraction of the plug-in model is that, should the battery be depleted, the car reverts to petrol-power - which also provides the primary propulsion source for any longer journeys.

For many buyers, it's an acceptable stepping-off point while the world makes up its mind about how cars will be powered in the future. And, of course, it helps ease your green guilt in the meantime.

In the case of the 530E, it officially emits just 44 grams of carbon per kilometre - which is about a third of the emissions of a Toyota Camry Hybrid. So there's no shame in driving your luxury sedan to work and back every day.

The 530E officially emits just 44 grams of carbon per kilometre - which is about a third of the emissions of a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Supplied

BMW claims fuel consumption of 2.3L/100km for the 530E - although this obviously can be maintained for a limited driving range. On a longer journey, where its four-cylinder petrol engine is put to greater use, the fuel efficiency and emissions quotients are less impressive - but still respectable - in the range of 6L/100km.

Still, this electric-drive option is an interesting addition to the 5-Series range, a long-time favourite for well-heeled executives. It's the sixth member of the iPerformance family, joining plug-in variants of the 2-Series, 3-Series, X5, X3 and X1 SUV models.

Nothing but silence

The first thing you notice about the E-Drive is the sound of ... well ... nothing but silence. For those used to a rorty exhaust note more typical of the BMW experience, it takes a bit of getting used to.

The attraction of the plug-in model is that, should the battery be depleted, the car reverts to petrol-power - which also provides the primary propulsion source for any longer journeys. Tom Kirkpatrick

But soon enough you're gliding silently among the city traffic, oblivious to the fact that you're travelling fuel-free, with virtually no compromise in the driving experience.

That's partly because the electric power is delivered via the car's conventional eight-speed automatic transmission, through the rear wheels. So there's little variation in driving characteristics from electric to petrol power.

It feels nothing like fully-electric vehicles, like its BMW "i" siblings or, for instance, a Tesla.

The 530E can't match the urgent acceleration of those pure electric plays - even in full electric mode - although it still delivers an impressive 0-100km/h speed of 6.2 seconds.

That kind of acceleration requires both electric and petrol power working in unison. Their combined output is 185kW and 420Nm - of which the two-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers 135kW. However it doesn't compare to the punchy, sporty performance of the flagship 540i we drove a few months back.

All of that, of course, is mostly a side-dish to the qualities we've already come to admire in this latest 5-Series - its handsome road presence, plush and high-tech interior and its impeccable ride and handling characteristics.

All pretty easy to like, regardless of how the car is being propelled.

The added weight of the electric batteries probably affects these qualities marginally in the 530E - and the batteries' location beneath the rear seat slightly reduces boot capacity to a still useful 410 litres.

The 530E's asking price of $108,900 plus onroad costs places it roughly at the mid- point of the 5-Series range - but its frugal thirst further enhances that value equation. Supplied

We've previously tested the seventh-generation 5 Series in its consummate form - the flagship 540i with the full list of luxury inclusions - from massaging seats to scented climate control airconditioning and a self-parking and semi-autonomous steering capability.

Our 530E test machine didn't boast quite as much "fruit" but still makes a convincing argument for those seeking a car that's plush yet a touch sporty, while bringing stunning fuel-efficiency and impressive practicality.

Its asking price of $108,900 plus onroad costs places it roughly at the mid- point of the 5-Series range - but its frugal thirst further enhances that value equation.

In short, a live-wire addition to the growing electric trend.

HOW BIG?
A full-sized executive sedan with ample room for five, all of them adults if necessary. Cargo space is reduced to 410 litres thanks to its electric batteries.HOW FAST?
Using a combination of electric and petrol power, it will reach the speed limit in a brisk 6.2 seconds. No comparison to fully-electric rivals like the Tesla Model S, but still amply quick for family driving.HOW THIRSTY?
The official fuel consumption figure is 2.3L/100km - although you'll only get close to this figure when using mostly electric mode. In highway running, it will be closer to the 6.2L/100km offered by its petrol-only sibling, the 530i.HOW MUCH? 
At just under $110-grand plus onroads, its still a decent ask but one of the more accessible ways to get into a new 5-Series. And you'll save even more on fuel when using electric mode.




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BMW 530E iPerformance 2017 review: This electric hybrid's an impressive livewire BMW 530E iPerformance 2017 review: This electric hybrid's an impressive livewire Reviewed by G4F Entertainment on November 08, 2017 Rating: 5

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