BMW 530e iPerformance: Plug-in hybrid harmony
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5-Series luxury and performance with green credentials
The BMW 530e iPerformance provides an eerily quiet, exceptionally smooth ride, even by luxury hybrid standards.
The BMW 5-Series has always provided a benchmark for medium-to-large sports sedans, and the latest models continue to honour that heritage.
They are packed with easy-to-use technology, and are eager to be driven as a premium sports sedan should be driven.
This is the first new 5-Series to be offered in hybrid form, and it delivers on the promise of sporty performance with green credentials.
It is powered mainly by a relatively modest (for the size of the car) 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which operates in league with a electro-synchronous motor.
Coupled with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the engine produces 185kW of power and 420Nm of torque, and powers the 530e from zero to 100km/h in
a claimed 6.2 seconds. That is all respectable for a largish luxury sports sedan.
But how does it compare with other 5-series models in the now four-model Series 5 line-up? Rather well, as it turns out. The diesel-powered 530d makes 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds, so not a huge difference for a car which has otherwise the same specifications, and retails for the same price, $136,400.
Both are equipped with 19-inch light alloy wheels, have adaptive LED headlights, BMW gesture control function and Harman Kardon surround-sound systems.
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Where the two models diverge is in fuel consumption figures and CO2 emission levels. The diesel model has a claimed fuel consumption of 4.7litres/100km, and puts out 124g/km of CO2 emissions, compared with the hybrid’s 2.01litres/100km, and just 46g/100km of CO2.
There is a different feel to driving the hybrid, but the 530e is one of the most enjoyable hybrid models I have driven. This may partly be because the platform was designed to accommodate the changes necessary to house a hybrid drivetrain, rather than have it imposed on an older platform designed before it became clear e-vehicles would become so mainstream.
The 530e has plenty of torque to ensure smooth progression through the automatic gears — and, as you expect from a 5 Series model, the ride and steering are superb.
The sound-proofing is excellent, with only a faint degree of road noise intruding into the cabin.
The 530e is equipped with some of the most sophisticated technology available, allowing it to switch to whatever is the most efficient mode without the driver even being aware it is happening.
By setting a destination in the sat nav programme, the car will plot the route and decide when to use electric propulsion or the petrol engine, or the most efficient combination of the two.
It does this by using geographical height markers, and though New Zealand is not vertically mapped as well as much of Europe, there are sufficient markers for the 530e to operate efficiently on main roads here.
It operates seamlessly, without the driver having to intervene, all of which makes for a stress-free driving experience.
There is the slight inconvenience of having to recharge the battery, but even this process is uncomplicated. The charging plug and cable sit in a small carry bag which stores tidily in a boot compartment. It is easy to plug into a household power socket, and takes three or four hours to fully recharge the battery.
BMW is developing a wireless recharging system where the car will sit above a pad, without the need for cords and plugs, but though the system may be available from next year, such convenience will be costly. In the meantime, plugging in overnight is no hassle.
The cost of recharging is hardly noticed on a domestic power account — a full recharge might cost a dollar or two at most.
The hybrid has blue tinges on the kidney grille and badges distinguishing it from other variants, plus the second filler-cap on the left-hand front panel.
The 5-Series is one of the best-handling models on the market, and this variant maintains that reputation — it sweeps into corners effortlessly and powers out of them smoothly.
All of this happens without drama, and though the ride may be a bit firmer than other 5-Series variants, the sheer pleasure of the drive remains.
Choosing between diesel and hybrid plug-in variants would not be easy, although clearly one engine mode is out of favour while the newer, greener option, points to the future of motoring.
The encouraging message from driving the 530e is that a hybrid can deliver just as much pleasure as more traditional models, even though it comes with an electric-assisted four cylinders as opposed to the traditional/conventional six.
BMW 530e iPerformance
Pro: Quiet and luxurious hybrid
Con: Flaffing with cords