Exclusive: BMW 530e iPerformance Extended Test Drive

4 months ago by Tom Moloughney 22

Plug in Hybrid options are beginning to cascade across the entire lineup of BMW’s core offerings. BMW designates these PHEVs as the iPerformance line with the marketing tag line; “Charging is optional, thrilling is not”. The X5-40e was the first to market in October 2015, then came the 330e in March of 2016, followed by the 740e nine months later. Now, it’s the 5 Series that’s getting the “e” treatment, with the introduction of the 530e iPerformance.

BMW of North America was kind enough to allow me an exclusive extended test drive of their latest iPerformance offering. Having it for nearly three weeks, I was able to get a good feel for how well the eDrive system works, how it performed, and what to expect in terms of fuel efficiency.

The 530e iPerformance comes with a turbocharged 2-liter inline 4-cylinder engine which, along with the synchronous electric motor combine for an output of 255hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough power to propel the rear wheel drive 530e from 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds, and 5.8 seconds for the xDrive version (which I had), according to BMW. Top speed is 146 mph, and the maximum speed in all electric mode is 87 mph.

However, I noticed that the maximum speed in all electric mode diminishes as the state of charge depletes. So, while you start out with a top speed of 87 mph, it may be as low as 65 mph once the battery state of charge is under 10%.

In MAX eDRIVE mode, the 530e will remain in all-electric mode up to 87 mph, until the battery is depleted. However, if the driver fully depresses the accelerator, the ICE will fire up to supply added power.

There are three driving modes: Max eDrive, Auto eDrive and Battery Control. The car defaults to the blended mode of Auto eDrive, which combines the gas and electric power supply to increase efficiency. In Auto eDrive the car decides when it’s best to be in all electric mode, and when to blend the power. It works very well, and I was pleased to see the car wants to drive in electric mode as much as possible, and only turns on the ICE when more power is needed or when the battery SOC is low. I found that this is probably the most efficient mode to use if you are driving long distances. If you’re going to be driving less than 40 miles, the Max eDrive mode would be the best choice. It keeps the car in all electric mode until the state of charge is depleted, and then the ICE kicks on.

Fully charged the display estimates 23 miles of electric range, even though the EPA range rating is 15 miles. Although I was able to squeeze out 23 miles a couple times, I actually averaged about 18 miles of electric range per charge.

Although the 530e is only EPA rated for 15 miles in all electric mode, I managed to average 18 miles of electric range, and was able to squeeze as much as 23 miles from the 9.2kWh (total capacity) battery on of couple occasions.

The Battery Control mode is basically a “Hold State of Charge” mode, which allows the driver to set any level of battery charge and the car will only deplete the battery to that level, and hold it there in reserve for future use.

Available on the 530e are all the latest safety goodies that BMW has to offer; Blind Spot Detection System, Active Lane Keeping Assistant, 3D Surround View, Side Collision Avoidance systems and Heads Up display. I found the Lane Keeping Assistant to be particularly useful. It steers the vehicle back into your lane and vibrates the steering wheel if you wander a bit. The 3D Surround View was also helpful when parking.  The “birds-eye” view offers a useful perspective when parking in tight spaces.

I really liked the 360-degree, birds-eye view. You can touch any part of the car on the display and the picture on the right gives the view in the direction pressed. In the picture above, I pressed the rear view.

On the road, the 530e was a pleasure to drive. Like any 5-Series, the car can be a mid-size luxury sedan, coasting down the road with the family one day, and carving up winding roads like a true sports sedan the next. Having the car for nearly three weeks, I was able to spend some time in all driving conditions, including New York City traffic one day, and way out in the winding rural roads of Sussex County, New Jersey the next. It’s very well balanced and doesn’t feel at all like it’s a 4,266 lb car when you’re pushing it to the limits.

I found the eight-speed transmission very smooth but I have to admit it felt a little strange to drive it in all electric mode and feel the gears shifting. After driving electric for the past nine years I’ve become accustomed to the single speed transmissions that EVs have. BMW accomplished this by replacing the torque converter with the electric motor. The motor is positioned upstream of the transmission, and that allows its gear ratios to also be used in all-electric mode.

My 530e had the optional Luxury Seating package ($1,600) which has heated, air conditioned and massaging front seats. They were probably the most comfortable automobile seats I ever had the pleasure of sitting in.

One thing that really impressed me was how quiet and seamless the switch was from Max eDrive mode to the blended Auto eDrive. The only way I could tell the gasoline engine had turned on was from the driver’s display, and the slight vibration I could feel under acceleration. The cabin remains nearly as quiet in hybrid mode as it is in all electric mode. There were a few times when I didn’t even realize the gas engine had turned on until I looked at the display.

While I really enjoyed the driving experience, I was a little disappointed by the lack of the instant off-the-line torque. There’s a little lag, even in all electric mode that I’m not used to feeling with an electric vehicle, even if it’s a PHEV. Also, when selecting Max eDrive, the power is reduced because you’re only using the 113 hp electric motor. If you press the accelerator to the floor, the gas engine fires up and immediately supplies the extra boost requested. Additionally, when driving in Max eDrive mode, if you use the paddle shifters the gas engine will also automatically engage.

The regenerative braking isn’t nearly as strong as it is on the BMW i3, but it is strong enough to feel it working while you coast. I was watching the battery gauge on long highway drives and noticed how much the regen was adding back to the battery. Every now and then the car would switch back to all electric and use the energy that was recaptured by the regen until it was depleted again. I like how the car wants to drive in all electric mode as much as possible, and keeps switching to it as soon as the regen adds enough energy back into the battery to do so.

I averaged 64 miles per gallon for 1,350 miles; needing 21 gallons of gas for about 3 weeks of driving.

Now for the really impressive figures. Over my two-plus weeks with the vehicle, I drove a little over 1,300 miles and averaged 64 miles per gallon.

The trunk on the 530e is slightly smaller than the standard 5-Series trunk, but still offers a flat-floor, unlike other BMW iPerformance models.

Granted, my fuel economy was helped by the fact that I could charge at both ends of my 35-mile daily commute, something that not all people will have the opportunity to do. On my longer trips covering at times over 100 miles, I averaged 38 mpg while driving in Auto eDrive mode, which is still very impressive for a mid-size luxury sedan.

The gas tank on the 530e is reduced to only 12 gallons from the 18-gallon tank in the 530i. That’s partially because the battery takes up needed space under the vehicle, but also for weight savings which improves efficiency. Plus, with the ability to plug in, the 530e should get most owners well over 400 miles per tank. I needed a mere 21 gallons of gas for the 1,350 miles I drove during my testing.

Another consideration to note is that the trunk space is slightly smaller than the standard 5-Series.

It has 15 cubic feet of space compared to 19 for the gasoline-only versions. However, when the rear seats fold forward the floor from the trunk forward is still a flat surface, unlike the 740e iPerformance, which has a bump between the two spaces making it more difficult to accommodate long items.

The 530e pulls 3.7 kW, and fully charges in a little over 2 hours from a Level 2 EVSE.

BMW claims the 530e will charge in about three hours when charging from a 240V source. My charging times were a bit more optimistic. When the battery was fully depleted, I was able to fully recharge in 2 hours and 15 minutes, sometimes even a little less. The car consumed between 7 kWh and 7.25 kWh to fully recharge, so I assume with charging losses it has about 6.75 kWh of usable capacity from the 9.2 kWh pack. That would also align with the EPA rating, and electric range I was able to achieve.

Pricing

BMW is aggressively pricing the 530e with a base MSRP of $51,400. That’s only $200 more than the 530i which has a base MSRP of $51,200.

Considering the 530e qualifies for a $4,668 federal tax credit, that means most 530e owners will save as much as $4,468 compared to the effective cost of a 530i. Honestly, if BMW doesn’t sell every one of these the minute they hit the dealership then there’s a problem with their client advisers, because it’s really a no-brainer.

The 530e also qualifies for a $1,500 CVRP rebate and HOV lane access in California, two more reasons to consider it if you live in the Golden State. In my opinion, it’s definitely the best PHEV value in BMWs iPerformance lineup.

BMW 530e

While the 530e may not convince many Model 3 enthusiasts to cancel their reservation, it will get a lot of loyal BMW owners into a car with a plug. I can see a typical 5-Series owner going to their dealership because their 2014 5-Series lease is expiring, and leaving with a 530e.

Like most PHEVs, the 530e is an EV with training wheels, and in many cases the people who buy a PHEV get another one, or move to an all-electric vehicle when they’re ready for their next car. I think most 530e owners are going to be very happy with the car. The value, performance and fuel economy of the 530e definitely won’t discourage them from getting another plug-in, when the time comes to replace it.

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22 responses to "Exclusive: BMW 530e iPerformance Extended Test Drive"

  1. WARREN says:

    Definitely on my radar. I too just discovered yesterday this is the first BMW Iperformance vehicle that qualifies for the CVRP here in California. I wonder if the federal rebate is still taken off by the dealership on a lease?

  2. spin says:

    They should have 30 miles+ range otherwise few will bother to plug them in. That would need another 5kWh on this vehicle which would be around an additional $1000 on a $51k vehicle.

    1. agzand says:

      It is not just the cost. The battery needs to fit in the car without compromising space, handling and weight distribution. I think this is an excellent vehicle and a better proposition that an electric vehicle for most people.

  3. alohart says:

    What happens on a cold morning when one departs under electric power and then needs to accelerate fast enough that the ICE starts? I’ve watched videos of PHEV’s and cringed when the cold ICE immediately raced to 5k RPM to provide the requested power. That can’t be good for the ICE. Is this what happens with BMW PHEV’s?

    1. Intrepid says:

      The iPerformance line does not suffer from this. My 330e has never cut the engine on once for temperature reasons (20F-120F) and can run the a/c compressor, as well as steering and braking components entirely electrically. The only reason the engine will come on is after the battery is depleted, the “Battery Save” mode is pressed or the car exceeds 80 mph.

      1. cab says:

        That’s not what he is referring to. He is asking will the engine start and rev to accelerate from COLD whenever you nail the throttle. I think the answer is “yes”. I also think I read that manufacturers have done some stuff to reduce friction in engines where this is the case. (I still don’t think its good for the average engine though).

        1. trackdaze says:

          Must take into account the ice engine will only be used less than half the hours in a phev.

          I imagine there may be some preheating of fluids or software to limit power and revs at dead cold.

  4. guyinacar says:

    Another (otherwise great) post suggesting that BMW iPerformance vehicles are slow off the line. They’re not, but that’s a choice. Most drivers wouldn’t know to make the chioce, because there are soooo many modes:

    http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=981630

    I posted that a month ago.

    If you set all the choices like that, then BMWs PHEVs behave akin to diesels, they’re fast as hell. Very torquey. The 530e is sub 6 seconds, and it explodes off the line. But not in default modes, which are more conservative, for better mileage.

    Driving in “diesel equivalent mode” will make PHEVs drive (and tow) similarly to their diesel BMW brethren.

    1. tom moloughney says:

      I’ve driven pretty much every EV and PHEV on the market and the lag on the 530e was a little more than I was used to and what I expected.

      I don’t think the operator should have to select a different driving mode to eliminate it, IMO. 🙂

      1. guyinacar says:

        Yes, Tom. You may be surprised to hear that I basically agree. My criticism (if you want to call it that) is that there are literally a hundred different combos of power and visuals in a BMW PHEV. Some are more EV like. Others are more ICE centric. Most are a blend of the driver’s choosing. Your write-up is great.

        Most people don’t know (and many sales folks might not, either), that the specific set of choices in what I called “diesel equivalent mode” (DEM) make the car very test-drive friendly, You just smack the shifter to the right for “fast,” or smack it to the left for “absurdly fast.” You don’t even need to look down. It’s eyes-on-the-road, fast and easy. It’s vey intuitive. There’s also no real lag. My X5 can chirp its massive tires.

        Also, let’s be specific. There are two kinds of lag: waking up the engine, and then building ICE twin-turbo pressure. In pure EV modes, you’d see both kinds of lag. In what I called DEM, the ICE is already online, and the ZF EV tranny lays down torque to cover the small turbo lag (plus it’s a smaller, higher-revving ICE 4-banger). Driven like that, very little off-the-line lag. You’d be hard pressed to detect lag in your pant-seat-ometer. Maybe instrumented, yes, you might see a little.

        BTW, I’ll save folks the trouble: yes, most Teslas are still faster. Tesla “ludicrous mode” is faster than all of this. So stipulated. Pros and cons have been much discussed.

        1. cab says:

          “In what I called DEM, the ICE is already online, and the ZF EV tranny lays down torque to cover the small turbo lag (plus it’s a smaller, higher-revving ICE 4-banger).” – unfortunately, what you are saying is “it’s not slow off the line…so long as you leave the engine running”…which sort of defeats the purpose of having an EV. If you have to leave the engine running “just in case” you might want to accelerate quickly that’s a bit of a bummer…it’s even worse if you have to leave it running just to avoid a feeling of hesitation off the line. The latter seems to be more unique to BMW’s implementation as I didn’t notice this at all in the Audi A3 E-tron I test drove (a similar low range PHEV), and certainly “big boy” PHEVS (EREVS) like the i3 Rex and Volt don’t exhibit it.

          1. guyinacar says:

            Well, yes. That’d be true, in principle. But how often do you really need raw acceleration off the line? In the real world, that might be 20x a year, like every other week. Think of it as “launch control” in a modern muscle car. For most cases, you just smack the shifter towards your knee (LHD) and fast happens. You can also dial up Even More Fast, if desired.

            Point is, for a REVIEW (and only for a review), it’s important to note that it’s 100% possible to make lag go away entirely. It’s a bit unfair to say the vehicle has lag off the line, when that’s simply a choice.

            It’s still a great, fair review by the author. And my complaint is more with BMW for not making this combination more obvious.

  5. David Murray says:

    I guess I’m less than impressed. I’m not impressed by 15 miles of EV range, or 38 mpg. Dang, the Volt can beat that even without plugging in. It sounds like this vehicle doesn’t really even offer much of an EV experience at all.

    Don’t get me wrong, as long as it sells well and brings in more PHEV drivers, I won’t complain too much. With the pricing relative to the 530i being what it is, then it may very well do that.

    I just don’t understand why all of the pure electric vehicles coming out are now well over 100 miles of range. That seems to be a minimum requirement. And, you’d think 25 miles should be a minimum for PHEVs and yet there are still new PHEVs coming out with 15 miles of range.

    When people balk at the 25 miles of range in the Prius Prime, all I need to do is point to one of these luxury PHEVs with 15 miles of range and suddenly the Prime doesn’t look so bad.

    And I suspect the new Ford Energi models are going to get a boost in the next year or two. Where does that leave BMW?

    1. Matt says:

      David, I agree that 15 miles electric range is not enough, your comparison of the Volt to a midsize luxury car is silly. Current get 5 series are massive! I had one as a loaner and felt like the captain of a container cargo ship. The Volt is quite compact.

  6. Gouldness says:

    I was so-so on this review until you got to pricing. Should lead with that, that’s huge. Congrats to BMW for getting this one right (on the pricing side). *disclaimer, just bought an i3Rex (love it). Next time it’s in for service I’ll have to request this one as a loaner.

    1. tom moloughney says:

      Saving the best news for last!

      1. Matt says:

        Tom, what was the as-tested price? BMW prices skyrocket when you option them out to match even included options of many other car manufacturers, even non-luxury brands.

  7. Peter says:

    Can’t compete with my model3 reservation.
    Service on a ICE is to expensive.

  8. tom911 says:

    I got 1700 miles on one tank of gas in my X5-40e. Took a lot of plugging in!

    I got rid of it even averaging 50mpg during 6000 miles as I grew tired of the short range and plugging in twice per day -and the fact it had no 7.2 charge option.

  9. James says:

    Thanks Tom for the extensive and adept review.

    As per your words – I wouldn’t ever consider buying a PHEV or EREV wherein I had to “squeeze” 23 all electric miles out of it.

    For all electric drive with gas backup there seems to be so many more affordable options out there.

    BMW makes these to comply with no emissions zones in Europe. We don’t have those here in N.America, so I fail to see why 15-20 miles electric drive is worth spending extra over a gas 5 Series.

  10. Dfearns says:

    BMW Marketing Department come up with, “Charging is optional, performance is not.” The battery pack adds weight so fuel consumption increases if you don’t charge the battery. What a bunch of cretins!

    1. Tom Moloughney says:

      Actually, even if you don’t charge it the fuel consumption is better because the regenerative braking is always active and the battery is being charged (partially at least). SO even if you never charged it you would use less gas than a 530i or 540i.

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