In-depth reviews

BMW 530e hybrid review

The BMW 5 Series plug-in hybrid is a lot like every other version of the 5 Series, in that it's great to drive, comfortable and luxurious

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Limo-like luxury and refinement
  • Four-wheel-drive version
  • Low company-car tax

Cons

  • Boot size is compromised
  • Some safety kit costs extra
  • Mercedes E-Class more comfortable
Car typeElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid29-37 miles157-202mpg31-41g/km

Company-car drivers ought to take note of the BMW 530e plug-in hybrid. It’s among the best choices when it comes to driving in luxury without costing the earth to run – it’s cheap to tax but also fantastic to drive, comfortable and practical.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine means it’s capable of the long-distance comfort that we’ve come to expect from the 5 Series, yet with its electric motor and small battery pack, it can travel up to 37 miles (officially) on electric power alone.

The 530e uses a standard Type 2 plug for charging, and cables for Type 2 and three-pin domestic sockets are included, so it can top up at most charging points and at home. A full charge from a dedicated wallbox charger will take around three and a half hours, or a three-pin plug will take five and a half hours.

The total output from the engine and motor together is 288bhp, so the 5 Series hybrid is quick: it’ll manage 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, yet official CO2 emissions can be as low as 31g/km, which is part of why company car tax is cheap on this model. The 530e is a little pricey next to the good-value 520d model, a previous company-car favourite, yet the 530e is more powerful, more relaxing to drive and costs a lot less to tax.

The 5 Series plug-in has sacrificed little in the change to 530e form, as it’s still one of the best cars in its class to drive and is also supremely comfortable at the same time. Rivals include the Mercedes E-Class hybrid and Volvo S90 Recharge, neither of which can touch the BMW for handling or comfort. Like all plug-ins, driving in electric-only mode is quiet and relaxing, yet even with the engine running the BMW is really refined.

That’s partly thanks to the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is really smooth but also fast-shifting when you need it - it’s one of the best of its type. It’s a shame that the extra weight of the batteries in the 530e mean it’s not as comfortable as its non-hybrid siblings, but it’s still one of the most comfortable large saloons you can buy.

The four-wheel-drive 530e xDrive feels much the same. While it does feel a touch more inclined to understeer than the rear-wheel drive, you'd be hard-pressed to notice; instead, it's the all-weather ability that will more than justify the £2,000 premium that the xDrive system commands. 

The only other compromise you make in the name of pure-electric running over a standard petrol or diesel 5 Series is a slightly smaller boot. The 530e’s battery is slotted under the boot floor, which means you lose 120 litres compared to the standard diesel or petrol 5 Series, but the 410 litres remaining is plenty for most regular executive and family-car duties.

Ultimately, the 530e is likely to be a tricky financial proposition for retail buyers, although big potential fuel savings could make it worth the extra initial outlay. This car’s real appeal is to business users, who’ll save a considerable amount per year on BiK tax compared to a 520d SE, on top of the lower running costs. If the maths adds up, the 530e is one of the best versions of one of the best executive cars in the world.

For a more detailed look at the BMW 530e, read on for the rest of our in-depth review, or check out our twin test where we put it up against the Mercedes E 300 e. You can also read a triple test of the 530e against the Audi A6 and Volvo S90 hybrids.

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