by Deiondre van der Merwe
The 2020 BMW 5 Series range is impressive - there's a reason Jack Ryan chose the mid-size sedan as the prime getaway vehicle on his mission to stop global destruction; but if an endorsement from a fictional CIA agent isn't enough for you, the 5 Series range has plenty of real-life merits to back it up, not the least of which are from its pair of dedicated plug-in hybrid models. The 530e and 530e xDrive mate their 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines to a 111-hp electric motor to produce 248 hp, channeled to either the rear wheels or all four, achieving up to 27 mpg in the process. Enticing driving dynamics, an all-electric driving range of 21 miles, and a refined cabin all make for an appealing package, and with no direct rivals, it would seem the luxury midsize hybrid game is BMW's to lose.
BMW's plug-in hybrid range welcomes the addition of bigger, high-voltage hybrid batteries for 2020, with a 12 kWh battery pack replacing the 9.2 kWh batteries found on the 2019 models. New for 2020, keyless entry and a multi-function key now come standard across all models, and, on a negative note, 2020 models somehow manage to be less fuel-efficient, with the manufacturer reporting decreased EPA estimates of 27 mpg, despite a slightly higher electric range.
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The 5 Series remains graceful with little exterior change from the previous year, still being as stately as 2019's model. Standard features include gloss black accents, a panoramic sunroof, all-season run-flat tires, adaptive LED headlights with daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Subtle blue accents differentiate the 530e from its non-electric siblings, though the charging port on the front left-side fender is the primary difference.
Long and elegant, the 530e and 530e xDrive have a length of 194.6 inches, a width of 73.5 inches, and a height of 52.8 inches. The hybrid is also slightly more portly than its non-hybrid siblings, with the 530e weighing in at 4,264 pounds, though the xDrive is heavier and carries an extra 105 lbs due to the AWD system, with both hybrids adding approximately 600 lbs to a comparable non-hybrid version. Beneath the skin, a wheelbase of 117.1 inches affords the 5 Series its renowned interior space.
Both the 530e and 530e xDrive employ a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pairs up with a high-voltage battery and 111-hp electric motor for the greater good. Environmental benefits aside, the powertrain produces a respectable 248 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque combined. The pair of Bimmers also share an identical and silky-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. Passing slower cars on the highway should prove to be relatively effortless, and there should be a few to overtake, given the punchy acceleration of the hybrid. 0-60 mph comes up in 5.9 seconds for both models, proving that eco-friendliness needn't come at the expense of performance.
The BMW plug-in hybrid does a fantastic job with smooth, powerful acceleration and lithe handling. The 2.0-liter turbo is perfectly mated to the hybrid motor, integrating combustion and electric performance flawlessly. The switch between the two is nearly imperceptible.
Agile handling and the 5 Series Hybrid are part and parcel and the available adaptive suspension option takes it up to a new level especially when switching to Sport mode. The sedan is surprisingly nimble considering its size and steering is sharper than what's expected, although the driver is relatively divorced from the experience in stark contrast to BMW's history. Double-wishbone suspension contributes to tremendous handling capabilities and the ride of the 5 Series is lush and pleasant, with no negative impact on the ride comfort with the additional weight of the batteries.
Eco-conscious as ever, the hybrids sip lightly on the gas with the assistance of the electric motor. The 530e has a combined MPGe figure of 69 miles in electric-only mode, while the xDrive model achieves 65 MPGe. On combined propulsion, the EPA estimates 27 and 25 mpg respectively, strangely representing a decrease from last year's model and even more surprising, making the 530e less efficient than the standard 530i, despite an increased electric range of around 20 miles from a larger 12 kWh battery pack for the new year. Still, the 12.1-gallon gas tank on the pair of hybrids allows for up to 350 miles range in mixed conditions, while charging the battery to full takes approximately seven hours on a household outlet and less than three on a 240-volt system.
The 5 Series sedan is technically classified as a large sedan, seating up to five occupants. But, for the sake of comfort in the real world, perhaps four is more realistic if you want your passengers to enjoy their trip. Both models have 38.8 inches of headroom to work with in the front, which is ample for the taller driver, although the Tesla Model 3 boasts 40.3 inches. Legroom is similarly competitive with 41.4 inches up front, but those in the rear see this figure reduced to 36.5 inches. Shoulder room is ample, and larger occupants won't be left wanting for the most part; together with 16-way adjustable front sport seats (with side bolsters and lumbar support), plush SensaTec leatherette, and optional heating, the interior of the 5 Series Hybrid should be a relaxing, pleasant place to spend time.
When it comes to cargo volume, the non-hybrid 5 Series takes the cake, offering 18.7 cubic feet - which decreases to 14.5 cubes in the 5 Series Hybrid thanks to the necessary accommodation of the battery pack. Although this isn't awful, other potential rivals like the Tesla Model 3 manage to provide 15 cubic feet in total. Still, the rear seat does fold down in 40/20/40 split to open up some more space. With the seats up, you'll be able to fit two slender suitcases in the back, with a bit of space left over for softer items. There's also clever dual-level storage, though, which allows you another layer of practicality under the floor of the trunk.
Small items can be stowed in the door pockets, as well in the average-sized glovebox. There are cupholders in the center console, too, and an armrest with a storage tray for added convenience. While not the best in class, you shouldn't want for interior storage space either.
As is expected from a luxury BMW, hybrid or otherwise, there's an ample spread of standard features, and the available options are abundant, too. Both the 530e and 530e xDrive include cruise control, push-button start, automatic climate control, and park distance control. A universal remote transmitter, keyless entry and heated mirrors also come standard on these models, while a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-assist are stock-fitted safety features. The SensaTec leatherette upholstered seats are 16-way power-adjustable for both the driver and front passenger, with memory functionality and dual-zone climate control for added comfort. Both models also receive a two-way power glass moonroof and extended ambient lighting around the door handles and front footwells. A head-up display can be optioned on together with wireless phone charging by means of the Premium Package.
Infotainment is not as strong a point in the 5 Series as in some rivals, but standard features are good enough for most, including Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. Android Auto is nowhere to be found, although from mid-2020 BMW is scheduled to be rolling the tech out on select models. BMW's Live Cockpit Professional is stock-fitted, and includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central display, driven by iDrive 7.0; navigation, a 32 GB hard drive for multimedia storage, and voice-operation are included, giving the cockpit a premium, digital feel. Pre-wiring is included for SiriusXM, and HD Radio is included as standard, with audio siphoned through a 12-speaker sound system. As with any model offered by BMW, the 5 Series has BMW TeleServices as standard to book your service with BMW digitally. Gesture control and wireless device charging are also available through the options list.
The 2020 530e and 530e xDrive have suffered one recall to date for a possibly faulty rearview camera, while the 2019 530e suffered two recalls, one for the same rearview issue as well as the risk of shock or fire from the charging cable. Still, J.D. Power saw fit to bestow an 85 out of 100 rating on the 5 Series Hybrid for quality and reliability.
The 5 Series range has a basic warranty of four years/50,000 miles and a maintenance plan for three years/36,000 miles. Roadside assistance is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for four years with unlimited mileage parameters.
The 2020 5 Series has not been rated by the NHTSA. However, the 2019 5 Series lineup scored a 2019 Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and was awarded the highest available marks in all crash tests for 2020. The results are thanks to six standard airbags (dual front, front side, and side curtain), front and rear park sensors, and the standard fitment of BMW's Active Driving Assistant, which includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive full-LED headlights and a head-up display are available for additional safety.
Considering BMW sells the hybrid version of the 5 Series at the same price as the regular 530i, one would expect decreased running costs aided by hybridization. But in spite of a larger battery for the new year, the 530e attains worse mileage estimates than the regular model, which calls into question the purpose of the 530e's existence. The batteries eat up trunk space, making the 530e less practical, and with no real improvement in any major area, it seems a fruitless exercise to opt for the plug-in over a regular version. As a 5 Series, it's not the best there's been, either. Despite a plush ride and high levels of specification, it's a numb machine. Refined it may be, but it doesn't do enough to justify selecting one over a regular 5 Series.
It's a common trend for hybrid derivatives to be priced higher than their combustion-only counterparts, but BMW has cleverly kept the pricing of the 530e and 530e xDrive identical to the 530i. That means a RWD 530e will cost $53,900 before options, tax, licensing, registration, and a $995 destination charge. Opting for the extra driven axle of the 530e xDrive sees the MSRP climb to $56,200.
Considering the identical price and lower gas mileage figures of the 530e compared to a 530i, it's difficult to recommend the hybrid at all. But if you have your heart set on a few miles of all-electric driving, we'd opt for the base 530e. Its mileage estimates are closest to the 530i, and the high levels of standard specification mean it offers plenty of value for money. We'd stick with the standard Sport Line exterior and 18-inch alloy wheels but spend $550 on the Imperial Blue Metallic paint. From the options list, we'd equip the $2,200 Premium Package for the addition of heated front seats, a head-up display, power tailgate, SiriusXM satellite radio, and wireless device charging, while the $1,700 Driving Assistance Plus Package and $1,050 Lighting Package are also worthwhile investments. All-in, it's $59,400 for the ideal 530e.
The pair of hybrid 5 Series models share plenty of features with their gas-only siblings, with almost identical specifications to the standard 530i and 530i xDrive, right down to the price BMW asks. At this base level, the 530e and 530i produce the same amount of power, but the hybrid is surprisingly a little less fuel-efficient than the standard variant. It gets around 20 miles of electric range, though, but the large battery pack results in less trunk space. The hybrid and non-hybrid 530 variants perform identically, too, which begs the question, does the hybrid offer anything the standard model doesn't? In our opinion, no, it doesn't, as it's less practical and less fuel-efficient. Go for the standard 530i, unless you must brag to your country club friends how much you care for the environment.
With more than $10,000 separating them, the Tesla Model 3 being the cheaper option, one has to wonder if the hybrid option is the better of the two or not? With 10 hp more in standard guise than the BMW 530e, the Tesla is more appealing right out of the gate, and the performance figures back this up with a 0-60 mph sprint 0.6 seconds quicker than the BMW. You can only manage 250 miles on a charge from the Standard Model 3, but opting for the Long Range increases this to 310 miles, only falling shy of the 530e by 40 miles. The Tesla is jam-packed with many of the same features as the 530e, but the BMW feels more luxurious and has a reputation of better build quality. The Tesla boasts more space, though, and greater levels of practicality, which makes this an incredibly close comparison. However, it's the Tesla's price that seals the deal for us. It's as good as, if not better than, the 530e in almost everywhere, and cheaper to boot. Skip hybridization and go full electric.