By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Like it or not, the electrification of the automobile is proceeding at the pace of an avalanche. As one of the leaders in the movement, BMW, going full speed ahead, but with no compromise to their trademark performance.
BMW’s latest electric addition falls in the 5 Series column, with their latest being a Plug-in Hybrid, the 530e. While a Plug-in Hybrid might sound like an oxymoron for BMWs “The Ultimate Driving Machine®” image, it makes perfect sense especially when so well executed.
A 0 to 60 mph sprint in the traditional gasoline-powered 530i with xDrive takes 5.8 seconds. The same run in the 530e xDrive also takes 5.8 seconds. The base price of the 530i xDrive is $55,945, including the destination charge. Ditto for the 530e xDrive. However, when the owner plugs in the 530e and takes advantage of the electric assist, the fuel economy goes from the BMW 530i’s 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway (for the xDrive) to a combined of 67 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). The plug-in hybrid has a range of 15 miles on electric power only, according to EPA estimates.
The sophisticated BMW eDrive system starts with a 180-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, then adds a 95-hp electric motor to give the system a total output of 248 hp, or the same as the 530i. Plus it has BMWs excellent eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters, so you don’t have to give up control to the system. Because the electric motor input comes in before the transmission, the transmission works even in the all-electric mode.
The 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the rear seat and includes efficient refrigerant cooling with a highly integrated low-temperature circuit. The battery position only uses 4.2 cubic feet of the cargo space and leaves a generous 14.5 cubic feet and a flat floor. The battery can be charged to full capacity in under 7 hours from a residential 120V. An available 240v charger can reduce the charge time to about 3 hours.
Adjusting the Driving Dynamics Control switch, the driver can choose Sport, Comfort or Eco Pro setting to change the drive system to deliver the best matching performance for that setting. It also can maximize the amount of charge sent to the battery and the usage on the Eco Pro setting.
The luxury sedan has available a full spectrum of driver assists including an active cruise control that works at selected speeds between 19 and 130 mph — in case you find yourself on the Autobahn. For the metropolitan traffic the system also handles Stop & Go traffic quite nicely and will start moving again when the lead vehicle moves. Other key features are the Active Lane Departure Warning, parking assistance technologies, Active Driving Assistant Plus which helps the driver avoid a wreck by judging unobstructed space available and maintaining vehicle stability. There are also abundant safety and infotainment features along with an innovative wide-screen navigation system.
While the 530e qualifies as a luxury vehicle it’s better suited for driver comfort and convenience more than for bling. In typical BMW form, the cabin of the 530e is very business-like and simple with supportive seats, excellent driving position and an emphasis on quality. But overall it drives like a BMW and you would never know it’s a plug-in hybrid, unless your saw the plug.
The BMW 5 Series is available with four, six and eight-cylinder engines and from 248-hp to 456-hp. The plug-in hybrid makes a nice addition to the lineup taking advantage of the latest technologies and delivering a more economical option for owners that are content to have just a very good performing and excellent handling sedan.