BMW has long been branded as “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” so what’s to make of a plug-in hybrid?
The 2018 BMW 530e features a limited all-electric range backed by a hybrid drivetrain, and yet it still manages to be a competent car that lives up to its name.
As a whole, the 5 Series has a low, wide presence and features a unique “hockey stick” character line behind the front wheel. The 530e visually differentiates itself from the rest of the 5 Series lineup with unique blueish chrome inserts in the grille, additional badging, and the secondary hatch for the power outlet ahead of the driver’s door.
The 530e comes with a power cable that plugs into any wall outlet, and as the driver locks the vehicle, the 530e locks the cable to the car, so no one tries to make off with it while it’s charging. The battery pack is in the rear and impacts trunk space, dropping cargo space from 19 cubic feet down to 15.
The 530e is loaded with the latest tech features. It comes with the latest form of BMW iDrive, an easy-to-use system with multiple ways to operate it. There’s still the iDrive controller down by the shifter, or you can also use the iDrive’s touchscreen and voice controls. There’s also gesture control, which allows you to wave your finger in a clockwise motion to raise the volume or counter-clockwise to lower it. And finally, the car features wireless charging capabilities and Bluetooth-enabled Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The drivetrain equation for the 530e combines the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the 530i, with an electric motor and a 9.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The result is a combined output of 248 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.
Power is sent to the rear wheels or available xDrive all-wheel drive through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The vehicle goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds — 5.8 seconds with xDrive — matching acceleration times of the conventionally powered 530i.
The 530e features an all-electric range of about 18 miles. With the standard charging cable and the 120V wall outlet, the 530e charges in less than five hours. When plugged into a special 240-volt outlet, BMW claims the 530e charges in three hours. The 530e also features regenerative braking, allowing it to capture energy any time you mash on the brake pedal.
The 530e has a 72 miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) and a combined fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon when the electric power is exhausted. The xDrive model returns 67 MPGe and 28 miles per gallon on conventional power.
The 530e features Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro driving modes, each with unique tuning for the steering, throttle response, shift mapping, and hybrid system management. There is also a button for MAX eDrive, which allows you to further control the hybrid system, which you can monitor via a display on the iDrive screen.
The 530e comes standard with a full suite of front- and side-impact airbags, LATCH child seat anchoring system, and backup camera. There are also a host of available safety features, including Active Driving Assistance Plus.
Base MSRP for the 2018 BMW 530e is $52,650, which is the same base price as the conventionally powered BMW 530i. The same goes for the all-wheel drive 530e xDrive, which starts at $54,950.
But with BMW — and any German luxury automaker, for that matter — pricing goes up fast. The available Cold Weather Package adds $800, the Driving Assistance Package with heads-up display adds $1,700, the Driving Assistance Plus Package adds another $1,700, and the Parking Assistance Package adds $1,300. Tack on the LED Lighting Package, Premium Package, and a few other odds and ends, and pricing for our test model clocks in at $68,760.
A plug-in hybrid isn’t for everyone. But if you live in the city and prefer to have the stop-and-go grind of Boston traffic work for you, the BMW 530e is the fuel-efficient corner-carver you may be looking for.