The plug-in hybrid 530e version of BMW's 5 Series model aims to offer a credible alternative to diesel power in the full-Executive segment. Jonathan Crouch sees what's watt.
Ten Second Review
The 530e is the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid version of BMW's hugely successful 5 Series model. With 252hp on tap, yet able to return up to 201.8mpg, it may prove to be the perfect choice for some Executive-level company buyers. Retaining all the luxury of the standard car, but packed with clever electrified technology, the 530e falls under BMW's iPerformance banner, which brought us the i3 and i8.
This seventh generation version of BMW's Executive-segment 5 Series contender is the first to get plug-in hybrid technology. It's a big step forward from the non-Plug-in engineering that featured in the previous MK6 range's disappointing ActiveHybrid5 model. Certainly, the fuel and CO2 figures of this 530e variant look promising, though whether they'll be remotely achievable in normal day-to-day use is of course another question.
Perhaps an even bigger question s whether plug-in technology is merely a stopgap solution until hydrogen fuel cell cars hit the market in a few years time. If it is, it's a very tempting one.
Enthusiasts have bemoaned the fact that BMW's traditionally perfect 50:50 weight distribution has been lost with this car. Here, it's actually 47% front and 53% rear instead. That of course is down to the unusual mechanicals, a 182bhp four cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine mated to a 111bhp electric motor powered by a 9.2kWh battery pack under the rear seats. It all produces a combined output of 252hp and drives through the usual 8-speed automatic gearbox, with 62mph possible from rest in just 6.1s. The top speed is 146mph - or 87mph on all-electric power alone.
There's an energy management system that ensures a seamlessly and efficient transition between the petrol and electric motors. When braking, the car can harvest kinetic energy, which is the used to help recharge the batteries. Most of the time, you'll be driving the car in its 'Auto eDrive' mode which sorts out the ratio of electrified or fuel-driven motoring (depending on trim variant, there's up to 36 miles of battery-driven progress possible if everything's been charged up). If you want to keep things in milkfloat mode, there's a 'Max eDrive' mode option.
Design and Build
You'll need to be eagle-eyed to spot the visual differences between this 530e variant any other, more conventional 5 Series models. iPerformance models like this one get unique styling to set them apart from the rest of the range, which includes BMW's traditional kidney grille getting blue slats. The wheel hubs are a blue alloy and eDrive badges have been added to the c-pillars. However, the biggest clue that this is a plug-in electric vehicle is the charging flap on the passenger side front wing of the car.
Inside, the 530e gets an iPerformance menu called eDrive, which can help you save fuel and monitor battery reserves. You'll also find eDrive labelling on the door sills. Otherwise, it's business as usual. So there's a luxurious interior, dressed in leather and high-quality materials. You get BMW's iDrive infotainment system complete with optional gesture control. By using a 3D sensor, it allows you to operate it at the swipe of a hand or the pinching of fingers. The bootspace figure falls from the 530-litre capacity you'd get in an ordinary 5 Series to 410-litres.
Market and Model
Should you choose this 530e over an equivalent 530d diesel model? That's the question many potential buyers will be grappling with. The 530e will actually cost you slightly less than its showroom counterpart, coming in at around £47,000 in base 'SE' form. Around £3,000 more gets you 'M Sport' trim. And with either spec, there's the option of xDrive AWD for a couple of thousand more.
Like all 5 Series models, this one gets Dakota leather trim, a high quality stereo and a Bluetooth telephone kit, plus Apple CarPlay integration. And, as you'd expect, there's a wide choice of options. There are sports seats (standard on M Sport models) and 'Comfort' seats that can be specified with a Massage function: in both cases, soft Nappa leather and decorative contrast stitching are optional. The extra cost Head-Up Display system will be popular too, now featuring a projection area that's around 70% larger than in the previous model.
There are key changes with this generation 5 Series range with Driver Assistance systems. Dynamic and Active Cruise Control systems take the effort out of motorway trips and there's an optional 'Driving Assistant Plus' safety package that not only keeps you in lane but also includes an 'Evasion Aid' that helps you to deal with any hazard that might suddenly appear at speed.
Cost of Ownership
As you'd expect, the twin turbocharged petrol/electric hybrid engine used in the 530e produces impressive WLTP efficiency figures, with BMW claiming a combined cycle return of up to 201.8mpg and up to 32g/km for the rear-driven 'SE' model; for the rear-driven 'M Sport' variant, it's up to 166.2mpg and up to 38g/km; and for an xDrive 'M Sport' 530e, it's up to 141.2mpg and up to 45g/km. In comparison, a 530d diesel manages up to 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 151g/km of CO2. This 530e model qualifies for the low 12% company car tax band too (or 10% for a rear-driven 'SE' variant): it's 37% for a 530d. Keep the car in its 'Max eDrive' mode and a claimed all-electric driving range of up to 36 miles is supposed to be possible in a rear-driven 'SE' variant (it's around 30 miles across other 530e variants), but get the car on a motorway and you'll find that either figure is difficult to get anywhere near. The 9.2kWh battery pack under the rear seats can be charged in less than three hours. Insurance ranges between group 36 and 39 depending on variant.
Adding flexibility to charging your plug-in model, BMW offers a charging device called a wall box, which can be installed at home or at work, to reduce charging time. Alternatively, you can simply plug your 740e into a domestic wall socket. BMW's ConnectedDrive app will help you find where the nearest charging points are when you are out and about. All BMW's come with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. However, high voltage batteries get an eight-year 100,000-mile warranty. Residuals should be quite strong, the 530e likely to retain over 40% of its value after three years.
You're going to need a very specific set of circumstances to make 530e plug-in hybrid motoring work for you. Forget the incredible claimed combined consumption figure: in reality, you're probably going to be returning the same kind of regular consumption figure of around 35-40mpg that you'd manage in a comparable 530d. That diesel variant's lower weight means it would handle more sweetly. Plus it has a bigger boot.
On the other hand, this 530e runs on cheaper fuel, will cost you less in BIK tax. Plus, if you've a short daily commute, there's real appeal in the thought that if you get your charging regime right, you should rarely have to ever visit a fuel station. It's a compelling thought.
By Jonathan Crouch
Whatever you're looking for in a full-sized Executive car, it's very likely that you'll find it in this one, the seventh generation 'G30'-series BMW 5 Series. Back in 2016, weight savings and clever new driving technology features restored this model's traditional leadership in this segment when it came to drive dynamics. There was also a sumptuous interior, a host of media connectivity and some really cutting-edge safety features. In short, this 'Five' proved to be a rejuvenated proposition.
5dr executive saloon/estate (Petrol - 2.0 184hp [520i] & 252hp [530i] + PHEV 530e / 6 cylinder 340hp [540i], V8 625hp [M5] / Diesel - 2.0 190hp [520d], 3.0 6 cylinder 265hp [530d] - trim levels SE, Sport, Luxury & M Sport)
For well over four decades now, the question facing customers in the segment for full-sized executive cars has less been why they should choose a BMW 5 Series but why they shouldn't. This was the car that ruled its marketplace, the business buyer's 'ultimate driving machine'. So what are we to make of this, the seventh generation 'G30' version launched in 2016?
Despite appearances, this MK7 model 5 Series is new from the ground up, lighter and more aerodynamic with sophisticated chassis upgrades and options like rear wheel steering that together are said to make this car almost as agile as its smaller 3 Series stablemate. The engine line-up was heavily upgraded to make the most of it all and as a result, across the range, original buyers could expect around 10% more performance along with an 11% rise in efficiency. Want a full-sized Executive car that can be more frugal than an entry-level Fiesta? The volume 520d variant can provide just that - and there's the potential to do even better if you can stretch to a Plug-in hybrid powerplant.
On top of all that, there's a little more space inside than the previous generation model could offer, a big step up in cabin quality and some quite astonishing technology, including another step towards semi-autonomous driving. This is, in short, a state-of-the-art contender that's quite impossible to ignore as a used car choice in this segment. It was heavily facelifted in Spring 2020. It's the pre-facelift G30 series versions of this car we're going to look at here.
What You Get
Over nearly half a century of production, there have certainly been moments of note in 5 Series design - the original 'E12' version of 1972 and the MK5 'E60' model of 2003 both come to mind. Overall though, this car has generally been characterised by the kind of confident but conservative styling that features on this seventh generation 'G30' version. As expected, this 'Five' borrowed heavily from aesthetic cues established by its smaller 3 Series and bigger 7 Series stablemates and shares much under the skin with that larger car. The 'CLAR' 'cluster architecture' underpinnings in fact are pretty much the same as you'd find in a 'Seven', though BMW stopped short of incorporating that pricier model's expensive carbon-fibre reinforced 'Carbon Core'. Even without that though, this MK7 5 Series model still weighs in 100kg lighter than its predecessor, despite the fact that it's longer, wider and slightly taller than before.
Once in the cabin, the design approach seems less understated than it is outside - and feels very sophisticated. Virtual dials cosset your eyes through the beautifully tactile three-spoke wheel, while to the right at the top of the centre stack lies a big 10.25-inch colour iDrive screen that welcomes you on first name terms to the 5 Series driving experience. Those may be the first things you'll notice, but shortly after, you'll be struck by the sheer quality on offer here. All the materials used - even those lower down - feel great to touch, with proper leather and metal finishing that feels very special indeed.
This seventh generation 'Five' is virtually as big as the larger 7 Series model from a decade or so back and the stats for back seat space bear that out, particularly in terms of the extra knee room and leg room that come courtesy of this G30 model's 7mm of extra wheelbase length. Boot space is rated at 530-litres thanks to the long rear overhang; that total's only a fraction less than an E-Class or an XF. With the Plug-in hybrid 530e variant, it'll be 120-litres smaller because the 9.2 kWh battery pack pinches a little bit of the space. Of course, if you're going to be needing this sort of capacity very often, you'll be better off going for the Touring estate version of this model, which offers a 570-litre boot in conventional form, extendable to 1700-litres if you flatten the rear seat.
What You Pay
We'll quote pricing based on the Saloon body style; the Touring Estate is worth a premium of around £750. Prices for the post-2017-era G30'-series version of this 5 Series tend to start at around £19,000 for a '17-plate 520d diesel model with base 'SE' trim, rising to around £23,2000 for one of the last '20-plate pre-facelift cars; there's a £1,500 premium for a version with xDrive 4WD. The lesser 518d variant, incidentally, won't save you much over a 520d.
What about if you want a petrol-powered 5 Series model? Well, a typical '19-plate base 520i is, in base 'SE' guise, priced from around £22,200, with values rising to around £23,700 for a later '20-era car. The 530e Plug-in hybrid prices from around £25,500 on a '19-plate, with values rising to around £28,700 on a '20-plate. If you want a much pokier petrol model, a V8 M5 Competition variant can be yours for around £56,500 on an '18-plate with prices rising to around £71,500 for a later '20-era car.
What to Look For
Most of the 5 Series buyers in our ownership survey were very happy with their cars but inevitably, there were a few that had issues. Check all the electrical features work as they're supposed to. Make sure there are no parking scrapes on the alloy wheels as these will be pricey to put right. And as usual, insist on a fully stamped-up service record.
(approx prices based on a 2017 520d ex VAT) An air filter costs in the £13 to £29 bracket. An oil filter costs around £16. Front brake pads sit in the £27-£48 bracket for a set; for rears, it's around £30-£33. A pair of wiper blades cost around £27. A rear lamp is priced at around £182. A front full-LED headlamp is pricey, costing in the £1,230 bracket. A water pump's around £100.
On the Road
You don't have to drive very far in this seventh generation 'G30'-series 5 Series to notice this model's sharper feel and extra agility. Losing 100kg in weight will do that for you. It didn't feature the kind of full air suspension set-up that could be specified as an option on a rival Mercedes E-Class, but if you get a car whose original owner added in the extra cost 'VDC' 'Variable Adaptive Damping' system, you'll find very little to complain about when it comes to ride quality. With 'VDC' fitted, you also get an extra 'Adaptive' setting on the standard 'Drive Performance Control' system, a mode that makes all the driving set-up decisions for you and draws on data from the navigation system to anticipate and prepare for corners and hazards in advance. Options you might find fitted include an 'Adaptive Drive' set-up that uses automatically-adjustable anti-roll bars to reduce body roll through the bends. Plus quite a few original buyers paid extra for xDrive 4WD. And an 'Integral Active Steering' that'll steer the rear wheels for additional stability at speed and extra manoeuvrability when parking.
Engine-wise, most buyers will choose the 190bhp 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel unit fitted to the 520d variant. In its most frugal 'EficientDynamics' guise, this particular 'Five' is capable of running cost returns that are un-bettered in the class - 72.4mpg on the combined cycle and 102g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). If you need more pulling power, the 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel of the 265bhp 530d model beckons. Another 3.0-litre six cylinder unit features at the top of the mainstream petrol engine line-up, namely the 340bhp powerplant that sits beneath the bonnet of the potent 540i variant. The primary 5 Series petrol engine though, is a 252bhp 2.0-litre four cylinder unit offered in two distinct forms. You get it conventionally in the 530i model. But it also comes mated to a 95bhp electric motor and a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery as part of the Plug-in hybrid package provided by the 'iPerformance' 530e derivative.
Elsewhere, you may have read or seen that this seventh generation 'G30' 5 Series has been pronounced as the class-leader in the full-sized Executive segment. We're not about to disagree with that assessment. A comparable Jaguar XF is lovely to drive. And a rival Mercedes E-Class is technologically advanced and great to ride in. But with the 5 Series, we think you get the best that these two competitors can offer - plus a little more.
Whether you prioritise clever gadgetry, hi-tech engineering or sharp running costs in your full-sized Executive car, this BMW operates from an agenda that will certainly impress. Conservatively styled it may be: conservative in outlook it certainly isn't.