Is this the perfect balance between executive pace and parsimony?
If you flick through the figures, you’d be thinking happy thoughts. A combined fuel economy in this hybrid of 141.2mpg, and nearly 300bhp on tap. All that with the usual executive elegance and driving enjoyment of a 5 Series. Sign where?
But it doesn’t quite work out like that. As you’ve already guessed, the official fuel figure is true in a very special world none of us are allowed to visit. In our world we couldn’t even manage 40mpg overall. And that near-300bhp doesn’t quite work out either. It’s made up of 182bhp from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and 111bhp from the electric motor. But system losses reduce that to 249bhp.
Oh and the famous 50/50 balance has gone as well, with a 47/53 front/rear split. So perhaps we need a little pause before you sign on the line.
BMW 530e iPerformance SE
Price: £43,985 (less £2500 gov’t grant)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol, plus electric motor
Power: 249bhp (combined)
Torque: 310lb ft (combined)
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1845kg
Top speed: 146mph
Economy: 141.2mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 46g/km, 9%
If you work in a city and are going to use your car to commute to work – which probably isn’t very green anyway – then this 530e makes sense. The 31 miles claimed on pure electric drive would work for you. It’s fabulously quiet in Max eDrive, the electric mode, although performance is not exactly startling.
Switch to Auto eDrive and that allows the petrol engine to kick in, which gives you considerably more pace. There’s a bit of a delay as it comes in as the gearbox seems to get caught unawares every time, but the operation is pretty smooth and flawless. There’s certainly enough speed to breeze past B-road traffic if the situation warrants.
While performance is pretty good, you do notice the extra weight, not just as a performance deficit but also for its effect on handling. Admittedly we were on winter tyres which can’t have helped, but there seems to be more lean than you’d expect from a 5 Series. Handling as well as ride feel below par, even with adaptive dampers fitted.
The sense of slight imbalance isn’t helped by the steering, which just doesn’t seem to weight up properly and needs constant adjustments. With the regenerative braking also making applying the brakes smoothly a rather difficult exercise, this is not the usual BMW smooth experience.
Yet another downside to the hybrid powertrain is that the boot is smaller by over 100 litres, at 410. The repositioned fuel tank means there’s less height to use in the boot, and that will restrict some items.
So, overall, instead of being the perfect balance between performance and parsimony, balance is one of the things that seems to be missing. If you really would use that electric mode regularly then perhaps this is worth a thought. But since we could match the fuel consumption, if not the emissions, in a comparable 5 Series diesel, we’re not quite sure that this represents a technological step forward, not even a small one, let alone a leap.