On the opposite end of the BMW 530i that we drove earlier, the BMW 530e opens a way for top-flight executives to lower their carbon footprint without letting go of luxury motoring. The ‘e’ you see after the 530 is BMW’s way of telling you that this 5er is a plugin-hybrid.
Speaking of which, the 530e has a fuel economy of 2.0l/100km. Proponents of sustainability and all things green will be happy to know this 530e farts only 46g/km of CO2. It’s a low figure considering the typical car usually goes into the hundreds. As for fuel economy, the 530e does 2.0l for every 100km travelled.
Electricity is key here. The spark that partly powers the 530e can either be recharged on the move or drawn from the national grid and stored in the Bimmer’s 9.2kWh battery. Charging time differs, depending on where you plug into. You’ll have to wait for around five hours from a wall socket or under three hours from an iWallBox. It’s also possible to have the Bimmer fully charged in two and a half hours from a typical wall box you find in a mall’s parking lot.
On a full charge, the battery has a rated range of 45km when driven purely with electricity. That distance is typically halved in the real world, although that itself isn’t a big surprise. Not that the 530e doesn’t deliver on the promise but getting the feet to be as light as a feather is difficult; among other factors.
There are three drive modes to manage energy consumption. BATTERY CONTROL saves the battery charge for later and uses only the combustion engine for motivation. MAX eDrive keep the Bimmer moving in pure electricity. Unless you’re scouting for an empty parking spot, you’re more than likely to be in AUTO eDrive mode, which is BMW’s way of saying ‘hybrid mode’.
Letting the computer decide what to do is really for the best. The 530e is intelligent enough to know when to move with only electricity and when to spark the combustion engine, depending on how much pressure you put on the accelerator pedal.
With both mills working in tandem, you’ll get a total output of 252hp and 450Nm that gets channelled to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic. With that many ratios, the gear changes are nearly as subtle as a CVT but without the droning noise. You will feel a smooth and powerful surge forward from pushing hard on the accelerator.
The 530e feels quick and clocking in the same 0-100kph time as the 530i, which is 6.2 seconds. More importantly, its performance does not drop off, not even when the battery gauge reads 0%. This is a pleasant surprise because nearly all the hybrids and plug-in hybrids that I have driven display a slump in power when the battery gets depleted. But for the 530e, it’s BAU.
Without the jolt of electricity, the 530e’s 2.0-litre still produces a respectable 184hp and 320Nm of torque. It may not be as punchy as the 530i, but the 530e continues to poke out of corners and overtake slower vehicles.
The vigour of the drivetrain complements perfectly with the lively handling. While it may be the steering can feel cottony at times, but the turn-ins are sharp. Body control remains confident right up until you push the 530e hard around the corners when a little body roll shows up to the party due to the heft of the hauling the battery. Still, the agile chassis is equally met with a ride that’s pleasantly supple and pleasant.
Driving a hybrid – plug-in or no – will always require some compromise no matter how minute. If power and handling is your main dish, then you know which 5er to pick. But, if a ‘cleaner’ drive and savings at the pump is your thing, then the 530e is the only proposition to consider.
Specification: BMW 530e
Engine 1,998cc, 4 cyl., 16-valve, twin-scroll turbo, 181hp, 290Nm | Motor eDrive 9.2kWh battery capacity, 113hp, 250Nm | Transmission 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive | Total Output 252hp / 420Nm | Performance 6.2s 0-100kph, 235kph max speed, 2.0l/100km, 46g/km CO2 | Price RM328,800, on-the-road without insurance | Score 8/10