In 2017, BMW shifted almost 100,000 plug-in or EV models, with the BMW 330e accounting for 25% of all 3 Series sales. Fast forward to 2019 & with the European Union’s newly developed test, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), BMW stopped selling the 330e in 2018, primarily because there is a new 3 Series due in 2019 & BMW decided that it wasn’t worth the investment required, to update the old 330e engine to meet the new standards.
Luckily for BMW, they have the perfect replacement in the hybrid 5 Series 530e & one made it’s way north to Company Car Towers for us to review recently.
If you read the literature on the 530e, it’s easy to see why business users will be queuing up to have one. Higher rate tax payers pay just 9% in Benefit in Kind for a new 530e, saving more than £3,000 a year over an equivalent 530d (or £2,000 against a 520d). Factor in the 28-mile electric range, a £2,500 government plug-in grant off the asking price & claimed 141.2mpg fuel economy & surely a 530e is a no brainer. Or is it ?
First & foremost, the 530e is virtually identical inside & out to it’s diesel brethren & as the 520d carried off our 2018 Car of the Year Award, that has to be a good thing. It’s also priced at just £200 more than the equivalent 530d at £48,325, another tick in the box.
The only things that make you realise your are in the plug-in & not the diesel are the eDrive button by the gear lever & slightly different dials in the cabin. On the outside, the e badges, blue brake calipers & the extra charge port make it stand out even more & even when you drive it, especially up & down the motorway & on most A & B roads, you get the same excellent rear wheel drive & handling you’d expect in a 5 Series & a bit of oomph when required.
It is only when you spend a bit more time in the 530e that you notice the subtle differences. If you want a large boot, the battery reduces the boot space of the normal 5 Series by 120 litres a7 you will also have to account for the two charging cables bagged up in the boot; one for domestic & one for fast socket charging.
And when you drive the plug-in hard on twisting roads, you can feel the extra weight of the battery, which reduces the fun factor ever so slightly. The battery makes this models weight a hefty 2420kg, a full 650kg heavier than the 530d, so is that any surprise ? Having said that, the 182bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine plus the 95bhp electric motor produce 249bhp & a total of 310lb ft of torque, so it’s no slouch. The 0-62mph time is almost identical to the 530d as well at 6.2 seconds.
The auto box is also a delight to use. In Auto mode, it will switch between electric a petrol power & you won’t even notice when it does. Select the Max eDrive setting & the engine will select the battery & will allow you to use it all the way up to 87mph . You can also use the engine to charge the battery up for use, later in your journey, although as with the VW Golf GTE, the petrol tank will empty alarmingly fast
What BMW have also managed to do with the 530e , as they also do in all of their cars is, to keep them up to date & right-on-trend with their entertainment, information & safety technology. The latest i-Drive system is incredibly intuitive & a pleasure to use. If you have the time & inclination, you can also get very geeky with the amount of information on tap within this, but for me with just a week in the car, I am happy to report that on long motorway journeys where I like to utilise Bluetooth for my mobile phone, the BMW’s telephone system is one of the best I’ve encountered being both easy to connect & extremely clear when making or receiving calls. The SatNav is well balanced between it’s ease of use & it’s concise display. Throw in an MP3 connection & a logical DAB radio set up & for me it’s another class win for BMW.
Some of the options fitted onto my test car such as the Display key, which costs £195, are more gimmicky than practical. Yes you can start the car before you get into it & Gesture Control, a £160 extra, let’s drivers or the front seat passenger move their fingers to control things like the audio system. Both beg the question why, but for me the real downside is that the key itself is as large as a mobile phone. When I go out, I usually take my my mobile phone, my wallet plus my car & house keys. Usually I have room for these on my person, utilising coat & jacket pockets but with the Display Key as well, I was dangerously close to requiring a “ man-bag “ for a trip to the supermarket, something as with eating quiche, real men just don’t do !
Front & rear seat passengers get excellent head & leg room. Only the rear centre passenger will struggle. Around the cabin there’s plenty of storage space including large door bins, a cubby hole hidden beneath the armrest that’s located between the front seats & space in the centre console to fit two bottles of water & there’s also a space to wirelessly charge the Display Key or your mobile phone
I have gushed enough about the 530e. Now it’s time to look at the negatives. BMW claim that the 530e’s total range is just over 400 miles. I spent a week driving on all types of roads at varying speeds & over different distances. A 40 minute log-jam on the M6 saw my electric range disappear completely. I had spent 5 hours charging the 530e up at home on a domestic connection the day before, although using a proper EV wall box will reduce this time by almost 50%.
I drove the 530e for almost 330 miles, at an average fuel economy of 33.4mpg ( I only managed 37.8mpg in the 520d ) & left 20 miles worth of petrol in it before BMW collected it, so the 400 miles range is more likely to be 350 miles. But & it is a big but, that is about it.
As with all plug-in models, it will be up to the driver to make the 530e a cost effective choice. You’ll need to charge the battery regularly, preferably from a fast charger socket at home or at work. Government support will reduce the cost of having a fast-charge plug fitted at home or at your office, to a reasonable £200, so this shouldn’t put buyers off.
Those who only travel short distances to & from work or who drive mostly around their local area will benefit the most from the 5 Series plug-in. What we can most definitely say is that just like the diesel 5, the plug-in 5 is a wonderful car to drive or to be a passenger in. It offers the best handling of any pug-in that we’ve experienced as well.
Furthermore, those company car drivers who can persuade their fleet manager or director to let them have one, will benefit massively, by saving enough tax in a year, to pay for their family Summer holiday. And if that doesn’t convince you nothing will !
A Holidays in the Sun 4/5.