by Adam Lynton
The 530e iPerformance and its xDrive-badged equivalent are both mid-size luxury sedans that are plug-in hybrid trims of the seventh generation BMW 5 Series, first introduced in 2017. The 530e is the latest in BMW's range of hybridized offerings as they move towards greater levels of electrification, with almost 30 miles of electric range on offer. It's refreshing to see that unlike many other manufacturers who charge more for the hybrid trim, BMW has priced the 530e at the same price as the regular 530i, making it more appealing for buyers who won't want to fork out more cash for a hybrid when they can buy a gasoline-powered alternative at a much lower price. Both 530e trims come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with eight-speed automatic transmission and electric motor to make 248 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The 530e is, by default, rear-wheel-drive while the 530 xDrive comes in all-wheel-drive. The luxury mid-size segment may have a number of competitors, but when it comes to plug-in hybrids, there is just one alternative to the 530e, with Volvo's S90 T8 being the chief rival.
For 2019 BMW has added more standard safety features like adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and daytime pedestrian protection. It also comes with Apple CarPlay included, but it's only free for the first year after which it becomes a subscription-based service.
Based on the latest generation 5 Series, the 530e twins differ little from their purely combustion-powered counterparts. As with the rest of the iPerformance range from BMW, subtle blue hints allude to the use of electricity. The trademark kidney grille features active shutters and blue vertical slats, while blue on the center caps of the wheels and eDrive badging further differentiate the 530e from regular 5 Series derivatives, as does a charging port on the driver's side front fender. The rest is typical BMW design, with LED headlights flanking the grille, LED taillights, and 18-inch wheels filling the arches.
The dimensions of the 530e closely match most of the other mid-size sedans in its class and are identical in almost all metrics to the standard 5 Series. It has a length of 194.6 inches on a wheelbase of 117.1 inches. The height is 58.4 inches, and the width is 73.5 inches, excluding the mirrors. The 530e iPerformance has a curb weight of 4,264 lbs, and the 530e xDrive has a curb weight of 4,396 lbs, making the 530e approximately 500 lbs heavier than the regular 530i.
Both 530e models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot and an electric motor that make a combined 248 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Outputs are managed by BMW's favored ZF eight-speed automatic transmission sent to the rear wheels in 530e guise, and all corners when equipped with the xDrive moniker. Those figures might not sound like much in such a large car, but thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor filling the blanks left by the turbocharged engine, there's a surge of low-end torque to get the 530e moving quickly off the line while mitigating turbo-lag for on-the-go overtaking. The gasoline-powered 530i only makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and won't keep up with the 530e. The eight-speed automatic transmission has established itself as reliable and proficient across the BMW range, and in the 530e it's no different, shifting quickly and selecting the correct gear intuitively.
In typical EV fashion, the 530e is quick off the line thanks to the electric motor. The acceleration is linear, and the switch to the gasoline engine is almost seamless. The power only starts to taper off towards the top end, which is to be expected from any turbocharged engine. The E-drive options are Maximum, Auto, and Battery Control, which are useful for deciding how much electric power to use, and for saving battery life.
The ride is comfortable without being too firm, but the optional adaptive suspension is still worth the extra money. Thanks to the battery located beneath the trunk, the 530e is very well balanced, but the extra weight makes itself known around the corners with additional body roll present. Despite being one of the keener driver's sedans in the mid-size segment, it's by no means the sharpest driver's tool. It has the conventional Comfort, Sport, and Eco-Plus driving modes found in most other BMWs to change the driving dynamics depending on the driver's needs, switching from eco-warrior to back-road bomber at the touch of a button.
The main reason for getting a plug-in hybrid is for saving on fuel costs, and the 530e does just that - provided it's charged regularly. The 530e is rated at 29 mpg combined or 72 MPGe when utilizing electric power only, yielding a range of 29 miles in pure EV mode. A full charge of the 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack takes around three hours using a 240V charger, and around nine hours using a 110V charger. Thanks to the 29-mile range, it is possible for the 530e to be used in electric-only mode daily, provided your daily commute is within that range. The rival Volvo S90 T8 gets an estimated 29 mpg combined and 71 MPGe.
The interior of the 530e seats five occupants in typical BMW comfort and style. Front occupants have more than enough space with 38.3 inches of headroom and 41.4 inches of legroom. Rear passengers get adequate space with 37.5 inches of headroom and 36.5 inches of legroom, but the footwells can be tight if there are tall passengers in the front. The seats themselves are extremely comfortable with Sensatec upholstery as standard, with Dakota, Nappa, and Merino leather as available options. For those in the know, the interior of the 530e differs a little from regular 5 Series models, with a model-specific instrument cluster boasting hybrid and electric modes.
As a result of the battery pack stored in the rear of the car, available trunk space takes a knock. The 530e has 14.5 cubic feet of cargo space, four less than the regular 530i. The loading area looks strange because it is level with the lip of the trunk. It has two-tier storage with the option of storing items under a panel in the cargo area. Unlike many hybrids, the 530e has 60/40 split seats to increase the space further, adding an extra layer of practicality. The trunk will still accommodate two suitcases, provided they're relatively slim.
In addition to the trunk, there is a moderately-sized glovebox, a storage tray, and cupholders in the front of the center console, as well as a large storage area between the two front seats. All four doors get storage pockets, and there is also front seatback storage, cupholders, and a storage tray on the armrest in the rear.
The 530e has loads of standard features in addition to all the optional add-ons. Standard features include adaptive LED headlights, cruise control, a power sunroof, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with memory function, power-folding and heated mirrors, and dual-zone climate control. Other features include forward collision detection, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and a blind-spot monitor.
To add to the standard features, items like a head-up display ($1,100), heated seats ($850), and adaptive cruise control ($1,200) are all available as optional add-ons. There are also many equipment packages available such as the Premium Package at $1,950, the Lighting Package at $1,050, M Sport Package at $4,750, and Executive Package at $1,850.
The 530e comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen display with BMW's iDrive controller, onboard navigation, two USB ports, AUX input, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and 12 speakers. For those who love their sound, there's also a Harman Kardon sound system available at $875, and a Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system available for $4,200. Android Auto isn't available at all, and Apple CarPlay only comes free for the first year; after that, it operates on an annual subscription basis. BMW is the only manufacturer that does this and considering that Apple CarPay is free in many cheaper cars, they seem to be taking their penny-pinching too far.
While on the whole, the 5 Series has proven to be relatively reliable, there has been one recall for the 530e for electrical equipment failure. The capacitors in the TurboCord Portable Charger could possibly fail, leading to a fire or shock hazard. A total of 3,501 BMW vehicles could be affected, including both 530e derivatives. The 530e has a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan, basic and powertrain warranty of four years/50,000 miles and a warranty on its hybrid components for eight years/80,000 miles.
There is currently no test data from the NHTSA, but the 5 Series range was awarded the best-possible scores of good in almost all IIHS tests and was rated as a 2019 Top Safety Pick +. BMW has a brilliant safety record, and the 530e is no different. The 530e has many standard safety features like six airbags, including dual front, front-side, and side curtain airbags. It also has stability control, traction control, pre-collision safety system, emergency brake assist, four-wheel ABS brakes, and tire pressure monitoring. Some of the driver aids include a rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and a blind-spot monitor.
Now in its seventh generation, the 5 Series has been a staple of BMW for many years, and for good reason. In its class, it's known for its mixture of luxury and driveability. The 530e is the evolution of the 5 Series into hybrid territory, and it doesn't disappoint. At the same price as the entry-level 530i, with the same power, but with better fuel economy, it demands to be noticed. The handling is almost as good as the gasoline models, but the weight does contribute to some body roll, and the battery pack diminishes usable trunk volume by a fair amount. One of the drawbacks of the 530e is its very conservative styling which doesn't stand out compared to its rivals. In a class of only two, the BMW is a solid option for buyers who want a plug-in hybrid family sedan; but, compared to the Volvo S90, one almost feels the BMW doesn't do enough to stand out. Still, it's well worth a look.
The 530e iPerformance starts at an MSRP of $53,400 while the xDrive-badged derivative carries a sticker price of $55,700. These prices exclude any taxes, registration and licensing fees, and the destination fee of $995. Priced at the same level as the regular 530i, the 530e undercuts the Volvo S90 T8 Momentum, which starts at $63,650.
Both the 530e iPerformance and the 530e xDrive share the same 248 hp combination of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and eight-speed automatic transmission. They both also share the same features, equipped with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a power sunroof, power seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control, and a 10.25-inch infotainment suite. The only difference between the two is the drivetrain with the 530e iPerformance being rear-wheel-drive and the 530e xDrive being all-wheel-drive. Between the two, the price difference is only $2,300. They are both good cars, and unless you are living in a place that warrants the extra traction of all-wheel-drive, the 530e iPerformance should be good enough. For places where it's often raining or snowing, the 530e xDrive is the better option.
One of the biggest rivals to the 530e is its gasoline-powered sibling, the 530i. To make things even more interesting, the 530i and 530i xDrive exactly match the starting prices of both 530e models. The 530e makes 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque compared to the 530i's matching 248 hp, but it offers a lower torque figure of 258 lb-ft. Torque matters, and despite the extra weight of the 530e, that instant boost from the electric motor gets it up and going far quicker and makes overtaking a breeze. Although the 530e is heavier, it has better fuel economy and the ability to drive on electric power alone, but this comes at the sacrifice of four cubic feet of cargo space. Both cars are neck and neck in many aspects, so it ultimately comes down to the argument of cargo space versus fuel economy. For those who need more cargo space, the 530i is the one to go for. However, if you can forego some trunk space and live within 30 miles of the office, then the 530e will see you saving huge amounts on fuel over the period of ownership. To us, that's a win-win situation.
The 530e has very few direct rivals, with neither Mercedes nor Audi having a plug-in rival in the respective E-Class and A6 ranges. Lexus offers the GS450h, but it's a conventional hybrid, not a plug-in. This leaves the Volvo S90 T8. The S90 starts at $63,900 compared to the 530e's price of $53,400, and has a combined 400 hp from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor. The BMW has better ride quality and better overall driving dynamics while the Volvo has far better performance. In terms of features, the Volvo shines with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, loads of advanced driver assists, and an ultra-intuitive infotainment system. It also has a more premium-looking interior. The Volvo is a much better car but is it worth paying $10,000 more for it? It might just be.