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

Simply put, the BMW 530e is one of the best large company cars available in the UK. The 5 Series has always been at or near the top of this class, but 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 is essential in cars of this type, and that's taken care of by the 530e's 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. But it also packs a battery pack and electric motor to enable up to 37 miles of zero-emissions driving and keep average CO2 emissions way down.

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 an 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.

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 and Volvo S90 Recharge, neither of which can touch the BMW for handling. Like all plug-ins, driving in electric mode is near-silent, yet even with the engine running, the 530e is refined.

The four-wheel-drive 530e xDrive version feels much the same. While it's perhaps a touch more inclined to understeer than the rear-drive model, you'd be hard-pressed to notice. You're more likely to value the all-weather ability and additional confidence-inspiring grip on greasy roads that this model offers.

The 530e's refinement is party thanks to its 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 in the 530e mean it’s not as comfortable as its non-hybrid siblings, but it’s still one of the most cosseting large saloons you can buy.

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 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 compared to a 520d, 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.

For a more detailed look at the BMW 530e, check out our twin test against the Mercedes E-Class and our triple test against the Audi A6 and Volvo S90 hybrids – or click below for the rest of our in-depth review...

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