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In-depth reviews

BMW 530e hybrid review

The BMW 5 Series plug-in hybrid is good to drive and cheap to run, but there’s a newer, faster, more efficient version on the way…

Overall rating

4.0 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
ModelElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
530e36-37 miles188-202mpg31-34g/km
530e xDrive32-34 miles157-177mpg37-40g/km

The plug-in hybrid BMW 5 Series has become so popular here in the UK – stealing sales from the almost-evergreen 520d – that its maker has decided it will soon drop diesel from the lineup entirely. The new 5 Series, due on sale later in 2023, will also spawn an pure-electric BMW i5 variant – proof that this company car favourite means business.

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Yet even the outgoing BMW 530e – reviewed here – is one of the best hybrid company cars you can buy. That may seem like a bold statement, but the 5 Series has always been at or near the top of this class, and in plug-in hybrid form it takes full advantage of the latest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rates to offer sporty, luxurious and practical motoring that doesn't cost the earth.

Long-distance comfort and motorway cruising ability are essential parts of the executive-car experience, and the 530e’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine has this covered. Better yet, its battery pack is good for up to 37 miles of zero-tailpipe-emissions motoring, making it easier on your wallet and the environment for shorter everyday trips around town.

To make the most of that capability, you'll need a home wallbox charging point to top up the 530e's battery between journeys – although a three-pin socket will do the job just fine, if not as quickly. A full charge from a wallbox will take around three-and-a-half hours, while a three-pin socket will take five-and-a-half. Total power from the engine and motor combined is 288bhp, so the 5 Series hybrid is quick: it’ll do 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, yet CO2 emissions can be as low as 31g/km, which is why company-car tax is so cheap.

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Two specs are offered: SE and M Sport, though most buyers favour the more aggressive look of the latter. Every car gets LED lights, BMW Live Cockpit Plus with navigation and part-electric front seats. Step up and you get racier exterior styling and bigger wheels, sports seats and other desirable extras. M Sport costs around £3,500 more.

Overall, very little that's great about the 5 Series was sacrificed in the transition from diesel to plug-in power. This is still one of the best cars in its class to drive, and also supremely comfortable. Rivals include the Mercedes E-Class hybrid, which was also recently updated, and Volvo S90 Recharge, which now boasts a bigger battery for up to 55 miles of electric running and thus slips into the ultra-low 8% BiK company car tax bracket. Neither of these two models can touch the BMW for handling, though.

There’s also a four-wheel drive 530e xDrive, and a more powerful 545e xDrive, which utilises a smoother six-cylinder engine. All three models are refined, partly thanks to their eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is very smooth but also fast-shifting when you need it. It’s a shame that the extra weight of the batteries mean the hybrid is not as comfortable as its diesel siblings, but we still think it’s one of the most cosseting large saloons you can buy.

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The only other compromise you make in the name of reduced emissions compared to a standard petrol or diesel 5 Series is a slightly smaller boot. The 530e’s battery is under the boot floor, which means you lose 120 litres of luggage space from those cars, but the 410 litres remaining is plenty for most people's needs.

Ultimately, the 530e is likely to be a tricky financial proposition for private buyers, although we think the 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 compared to a diesel saloon car, on top of the lower running costs. If the maths makes sense for you, the 530e is one of the best versions of one of the best executive cars in the world.

Click here to see why you can trust DrivingElectric, or for a more detailed look at the BMW 530e, read on for the rest of our in-depth review…

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Richard is editor of DrivingElectric, as well as sister site Carbuyer.co.uk, and a regular contributor to Auto Express. An electric and hybrid car advocate, he spent more than five years working on the news and reviews desk at Auto Express and has driven almost every new car currently on sale.

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