BMW is embracing electrification as quickly as it can, but until it can begin churning out fully-electric models, it’s resorting to electrifying its core range of models, like the 5 Series sedan. Recently facelifted, the plug-in hybrid version of the 5 Series - the 530e - has gained a bigger battery and slightly more range, but is it really enough to make it a recommendable purchase?
Well, After spending a weekend with the car, I have come to the conclusion that it is recommendable for the right buyer, if said buyer can commit to keeping it charged. This is what I say about all plug-in hybrids - forget the impressive claimed efficiency and CO2 numbers that the manufacturer provides; you will never even come close to matching them if you don’t keep the battery topped up.
BMW has increased the 530e’s battery from 9.2 kWh to 12 kWh, so now its usable capacity is just over 10 kWh (before it was around 7 kWh, for the smaller battery pack). Now the 530e has a claimed WLTP electric range of between 49 - 57 km (30 - 35 miles), although those numbers seem optimistic, and the EPA’s estimation of up to 21 miles seems a lot more realistic in real world driving conditions.
After performing two separate electric range tests, one at 70 mph on the highway and another in the city, I managed to achieve just over 32 km (almost 20 miles) and 25 km (15.5 miles) respectively. In fact, I even managed to surpass the conservative EPA rating for the 530e xDrive (like my tester) of 18 miles.
Gallery: 2021 BMW 530e
There is nothing to criticize when it comes to performance and handling, though. The car makes 288 horsepower and 420 Nm (309 pound-feet) of torque, and it can sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.9 seconds. They may not sound like blisteringly quick numbers, but the car feels especially spritely from behind the wheel, with a particular highlight being the throttle response (which is almost instant, courtesy of the electric motor that’s built into the gearbox).
Through the corners, you do start to feel the car’s nearly two-ton weight, but thanks to adaptive dampers that do a great job of keeping the mass under control, as well as rear-wheel steering and a variable ratio steering rack, it feels nimble and light on its feet. It does feel more cumbersome than smaller BMWs, especially compared to a 330e, for instance, but for such a big luxurious barge, it’s actually remarkably good.
You can pick up a 530e starting at around $57,200 in the US, while in Romania where I performed the road and range tests, it starts at just under €60,000. My lavishly equipped 530e xDrive tester cost €92,500, but you don’t have to spend that much to make it feel properly luxurious and special.
Some notable options that bumped up the price were the black Nappa leather upholstery, the highly-adjustable Comfort seats (that are heated cooled and have a massage function), soft-closing doors and trunk, gesture control, the big 12.3-inch infotainment display, four-zone climate control, heated rear seats, to name but a few.
My tester also had BMW’s full suite of semi-autonomous driving technologies and they all worked very well together. Going on road trips in the 530e is a real pleasure - it will transport four people in the utmost comfort for hundreds and hundreds of miles. The facelift also makes it look so much better than before - I honestly didn’t really like the pre-LCI model that much (although I by no means hate it), but now, with the facelift that brings new light clusters and revised fascias, I could almost call this car pretty; this design will age quite well, I think.
Don’t buy this car thinking you will achieve BMW’s claimed efficiency numbers if you don’t commit to charging it. If you do make sure to charge it, you will have what is probably the best luxury plug-in hybrid sedan currently on the market, one that blends comfort and a touch of class with decent electric range and a sporty character when you want it.