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Has the plug-in hybrid sporting executive saloon finally come of age?

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Despite the prosaic remit, the BMW 5 Series has always been championed at Autocar.

For one thing, the concept itself hardly lacks breadth. Our preferred executive saloon sets out not simply to convey occupants down motorways in superb comfort, but also to reward its driver on decent roads, to purvey a sense of subtle luxury through both its interior quality and exterior design, and to offer plenty of practicality to boot. Over the decades, the 5 Series has often delivered on all these fronts.

The outgoing car, codenamed G30, was no different. Sheer scope meant it was arguably a greater achievement than any of its forebears. It could nudge 50mpg in no-nonsense 520d guise, or play up to its rich heritage as a blue-blooded performance saloon in six-cylinder 540i M Sport form.

At the top of the tree, the M5 CS was such an extraordinarily talented family supercar that Ferrari was decidedly lukewarm about the idea of us putting one up against the Purosangue.

But no matter the flavour, the G30’s baseline credibility concerning everything from dynamic polish to cabin ergonomics was often class-leading. 

So, the eighth-generation car has plenty to live up to. What’s more, the G60 enters a world less fussed with traditional saloons than ever, and one where slipping a big, un-hybridised engine under the bonnet isn’t an option. Interior tech is also evolving at a frightening rate, as is the notion among car makers that even discreet saloons should now stand out. Physical size, striking looks, pixel count and low on-paper emissions are today’s priorities.

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It all contrives to send the 5 Series into uncharted waters. So, while you might have made up your mind about the styling of the new generation, does the same rich substance – that old 5 Series magic – still reside within? Let’s find out.

The range at a glance

Models Power From
520i M Sport 205bhp £51,000
530e M Sport 295bhp £59,455
i5 eDrive40 M Sport 335bhp £74,105
550e xDrive M Sport 483bhp £76,605
i5 M60 xDrive 593bhp £97,745

Shorn of its predecessors’ diesel engines, the eighth-generation 5 Series range consists of two plug-in hybrids, two electric i5s and the entry-level 520i mild-hybrid petrol.

There are three de facto trims for UK buyers: M Sport, M Sport Pro (tested here) and M Performance (as represented by the range-topping i5 M60). The last two are distinguished by exterior styling elements (eg an illuminated grille) and gain extra kit.


bmw 530e review 2024 02 panning

With its pinched face and leering grille, the G60 takes inspiration from the BMW iX SUV. This seems a questionable approach for a car many still expect to embody a certain elegance.

That said, this isn’t the first time BMW has challenged the status quo. The E39 5 Series killed off BMW’s much-loved shark nose aesthetic and the ‘Bangle’ E60 that succeeded it caused outrage in some circles with its flame surfacing. Like those cars, the G60 is not instantly lovable, though the sloping boot does hark back to the Paul Bracq-penned E12 5 Series, with its neat Italianate aesthetic and superb proportions.

On that subject, this is the biggest 5 Series yet. You would expect as much, but the fact that the G60 has more or less the same footprint as the old-shape 7 Series feels notable. At 2995mm, the wheelbase has grown 24mm. This elongation of the CLAR platform, along with the 5 Series’ monolithic-looking body, pushes length beyond five metres – until now the preserve of full-size limos.

Weight is also up. The entry-level 520i M Sport tips the scales at 1725kg, versus 1610kg before. The addition of a 48V mild-hybrid set-up accounts for some of the gain.

The flexible CLAR platform has been in service since 2015 but, to accommodate both the electric innards of the new i5 and the plug-in hybrid arrangement in the 5 Series, it has been updated. The mechanical make-up of the 5 Series is otherwise unchanged.

Aluminium suspension (wishbones at the front, multiple links at the back) is marshalled by springs and electronically controlled dampers. ICE models use BMW’s trusty ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, integrated into which is the electric motor that gives the PHEV derivatives extraordinary claimed economy and a good deal of EV driving range. Four-wheel drive is available but now deployed only on the flagship 550e xDrive.

M Sport trim (standard on all 5 Series in the UK except the i5 eDrive40) brings firmer springs and dampers and places the body 8mm closer to the ground. EV and PHEV models, no matter the trim, also get self-levelling air springs at the rear. Adaptive Suspension Professional, with its adaptive, stroke-dependent dampers and rear-wheel steering, comes as standard on the 550e and is an option on the 530e. The i5 M60 is the only model that can be specified with Adaptive M Suspension Professional, which adds active anti-roll bars.

The engine line-up itself is less varied than it once was, at least for the UK. Diesels are out. Moreover, to have a juicy twin-turbo V8, as the old M550i was furnished with, you will need to opt for the upcoming M5.

So don’t let the nomenclature fool you: the 550e xDrive in the pictures uses a 308bhp version of the 3.0-litre B58 six-cylinder petrol engine, plus a 194bhp electric motor. Total output is a healthy 483bhp, and electrically operated Vanos camshaft phasing is said to have lowered emissions.

The only other engine is the B48 2.0-litre four-pot petrol, either in 205bhp mild-hybrid 520i guise or 295bhp 530e PHEV form. Of course, you could also go down the i5 path, though this comes with a considerable premium, especially if you opt for the range-topping M60.


bmw 530e review 2024 09 dash

If you like the interior of the new BMW 7 Series, you will like that of this 5 Series.

Of course, the opposite is also true. Whatever your view, it is undeniable that this represents the greatest generational shift for the 5 Series’ cabin since the iDrive system’s debut 23 years ago.

There is some nice surfacing in the new 5 Series, but the buttons on the faceted light panels require a second or third stab too often.

Yes, BMW’s slide into the world of touch-sensitive screen-based controls and expansive high-resolution displays continues apace here. While the infotainment remains characteristically angled towards the driver, the only other tangible vestige of the old 5 Series is the rotary iDrive controller on the transmission tunnel, though even this is now rendered for visual impact, being in the style of cut glass, with angular facets if you ticked the box for ‘Crafted Clarity’.

Crystalline influence is also found on the convex dashboard. A strip of backlit plastic, which extends along the door cards, is from the 7 Series. On acquaintance it is quite arresting, and its colour-configurability results in a nice night-time ambience. However, in direct sunlight the smudges from any prodding of controls (for the door locks, air vents and headlights) are unsightly. The commands themselves are also not responsive enough. Even firing up the hazard lights often requires a second go. BMW is not alone when it comes to this sort of frustration, mind.

In terms of digital integration of common controls, thankfully the 5 Series doesn’t go as far as some. Wing mirrors, volume, gear selector – all remain in the realm of things you can twist or push. However, climate controls are almost entirely digital, and while the useful shortcuts that surround the iDrive rotary remain, they are harder to press at a glance. Indeed, all testers found they had to look away from the road more than was desirable.

Another observation was that while build quality remains undeniably high in the 5 Series, materials quality isn’t what it was. There is too much gloss black, and a few too many uninspiring plastics.

Driving ergonomics are good, however. The hip point feels a touch high compared to previous generations, but the relationship between ankle, hip and hands is pedigree, with 20mm improved adjustability in the steering column and seat.

This is also a vast cabin, at least in the context of a mid-size saloon (which arguably the 5 Series no longer is). Up front, elbow room is 7 Series-esque, and oddment storage excellent, though rear leg room and boot space could better reflect the 5 Series’ dimensions. Then again, because the battery for the electrified models is carried under the cabin floor, boot space is largely unaffected in those versions and stands at more than 500 litres.

Multimedia system

We are now onto BMW’s iDrive Operating System 8.5 infotainment generation. Just as it does in the iX and i7, the system incorporates the heater controls, seat adjustment controls, interior lighting controls and many other functions you might expect to find physical switchgear for.

The system’s saving grace for drivers is that there’s still an iDrive-style cursor controller on the centre console. However, there’s no cursor controller on the steering wheel (like Mercedes provides), and going through the main menu screen to find a particular function to adjust can be slow and distracting.

BMW tries to provide shortcut functions around the margins of the screen to make it easier to reach particular controls quickly, but they are small and fiddly to hit while driving. It's also possible to create additional shortcuts housed in a drop-down menu. However, these are still inferior to the old ow of numbered buttons that BMWs used to have, and you need to be logged in to the car with a myBMW account for the functionality to be enabled.

The navigation system is easy to program via voice command and its routes aree sensibe, is easy to follow, with excellent traffic updates. Equally, integration for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is slick, as per BMW’s usual standards.


bmw 530e review 2024 21 engine

Since the designation made its debut in 2005, the presence of ‘550’ on the backside of a petrol 5 Series has always meant one thing: a thumping V8 up front. This, of course, changes for the latest generation, but the loss of two cylinders hardly portends a shortfall in performance.

A recorded 0-60mph of 4.4sec makes the 550e 0.2sec quicker than the V10-hearted E60-gen M5, and we suspect this is also the first sub-M-car to sprint to 100mph in less than 10sec.

One reason the 550e is so savage when it comes to roll-on acceleration in second and third gear could be to do with BMW’s patented pretransmission ratio, which multiplies torque from 184lb ft to an effective 332lb ft, negating the need for a bigger motor. It really pins you back.

Of course, the hottest PHEV 5 Series barely hints at this sort of pace when you first slide aboard. Defaulting into EV mode, it pulls off the mark with barely a ripple, the straight six igniting only once battery charge is depleted, when a serious bout of acceleration is called for, or when you put the gearbox into ‘S’ mode, for snappier upshifts programmed to slot home closer to the 7400rpm redline.

The nature of the performance is familiar – as a non-M model with a torque converter, gearchanges aren’t whip-crack fast, but this ZF unit (now with an upgraded oil pump and improved vibration damping) continues to ensure there’s no meaningful break in the considerable flow of torque.

The linear B58 motor is as sweet as ever, too. It develops peak torque at 1750rpm, sustaining it until nearly 5000rpm. Does this motor justify the £17k premium the 550e asks over the four-cylinder (and purely RWD) 530e? Rationally, no, but any 550-badged 5 Series has always been more about ‘want’ than ‘need’.

As for the lack of a V8, it is a shame, but the 550e has one trick up its sleeve beyond its ability to unobtrusively slip between electric and combustion propulsion (and, if you so choose, return long-term economy stats of which owners of the old 550i could only have dreamed). In Sport mode, hybrid assistance means tip-in throttle response is outrageous. The 1.9sec taken for the 20-40mph dash in third gear actually beats that of the M5 CS we tested in 2021.

However, gut-punch speed is a quirk of the 550e, not a hallmark. It’s mostly a relaxed, tourer-type personality, capable of wild pace at the drop of a hat but never much encouraging you to overindulge in it, as an M5 does. Happily, the 550e’s Q-car credentials remain intact.

While the 550e is the star of the 5 Series line-up (until the M5 arrives, at least), most buyers are likely to choose the 520i or 530e. Thankfully, those versions impress as well. The 530e plug-in hybrid lacks the kudos of the 550e's six-cylinder, it certainly doen't lack for everyday performance. With the same 181bhp electric motor, it can do a creditable impression of an EV in electric mode, and manages its power very cleverly to subtly augment the 2.0-litre petrol engine to make it feel more muscular and effortless than it otherwise would be. Even when the battery is depleted, the software keeps a decent amount in reserve in order to function as a full hybrid.


bmw 530e review 2024 22 front cornering

The 5 Series cuts an unflustered figure. Given the old-shape car was already impressive in its all-round composure, and the new one has a longer wheelbase, wider tracks and, says BMW, even better weight distribution, this is hardly surprising.

In 550e guise, the new 5 Series also benefits from rear-wheel steering as part of the standard-fit, 5mm-lowered Adaptive Suspension Professional. This not only shaves half a metre off the turning circle but increases directional stability at higher speeds, when the hubs on both axles turn the same way. 

BMW’s PHEV-specific, stroke-dependent new damper control makes a difference. This is the best-riding 5 Series I’ve experienced, and it sets a new class benchmark.

When it comes to carrying speed, the 550e is mighty. The grip from its efficiency-minded Michelins is, if not outright superb, then more than good enough. However, it’s the quiet control of the chassis that leaves a lasting impression.

Mid-corner crests, crenellations in the road and unexpectedly tight bends elicit pitch and roll, sure, but these are deft movements, neatly cushioned at the variable extremities of the suspension’s travel (Sport mode is tightly controlled but leaves plenty of head room for the M5). Brake-pedal feel is also good, instilling confidence. It adds to the intuitive drivability of this 483bhp 5 Series.

However, you can’t ever quite escape the feeling you’re driving rather a large car – certainly one more so than before. The 5 Series no longer feels ‘right-sized’. In fact, many of the sensory cues during driving – the width of the bonnet, the well-managed but palpable heft of the body, the nicely weighted but manifestly ‘electric’ steering feel – are now more suggestive of 7 Series than 5.

The 550e is an accurate, assured and, when pushed, throttle-adjustable saloon, but all the chassis tuning in the world can’t disguise such size on the road.

You might expect the rear-drive 530e to be the purer driver's car, but in reality it feels like a slightly less rounded version of the 550e, at least without the Adaptive Suspension Professional. There's ample grip and body control, precise steering and subtle rear-drive balance, but not enough power to ever dent its composure

Comfort & Isolation

We've mentioned it a few times already in this review, but when it comes to ride comfort in the new 5 Series, the Adaptive Suspension Professional is absolutely pivotal. When we road tested the i5 40 on passive suspension, its rolling refinement was hamstrung by a reactive ride. It's a similar story for the 530e when not specified with upgraded suspension: although well-damped, the suspension is very firm and perpetually fidgety. It never really settles down, not even on the motorway.

On adaptive dampers, however, the 5 Series becomes a completely different proposition. For a car of its ilk, it provides wonderfully refined company both on the motorway and on more tortuous commuting routes alike, where it slips into EV mode whenever possible.

Its gait is fluid but never sickly in its movements, and the chassis’ isolation of vicious potholes and road-surface corrugations proved a thoroughly pleasant surprise, especially in light of those striking 20in rims.

Noise recordings of 66dBA at 70mph and 62dBA at 50mph are also excellent, and you can deduct 2dBA from each figure when in EV mode.

Less beloved by testers were the substantial A- and B-pillars, which inhibit visibility at junctions, and the fact that the bolster adjustment for the Comfort front seats is now accessed only via the touchscreen.

Track notes

Given the plug-in 5 Series’ mass and the scale of its new-found footprint, it would be tempting to chalk it up as a limousine with better than average handling and a good degree of pedigree feel – much like how we regard the 7 Series. However, when driven to its limits, the G60 5 Series reveals an additional layer of composure and dynamism beyond that of its bigger sibling.

Get the suspension loaded up and this is a five-metre saloon that will tighten its cornering line with a lifted throttle, and one in which the tail can be prompted to neatly arc around, then caught with ease using the accurate steering. This sort of ingrained poise bodes well for the upcoming M5, which will be no smaller than the 550e and, in all likelihood, will be heavier still.

Performance, of course, is more than adequate. Even on the steep Hill Route at Millbrook, this near-500bhp powertrain effectively stripped 500kg from the chassis.


bmw 5 series

The 5 Series line-up starts at £51,015 for the four-cylinder 520i, rising to £59,455 for the plug-in hybrid 530e and £76,605 for the six-cylinder 550e. They all come in M Sport trim as standard, but the better-equipped M Sport Pro offers superior value for money. No version is cheap, and the 550e is downright expensive but it’s difficult to contextualise it as the 550e xDrive is unique – no rival offers a six-pot PHEV saloon.

So, while we generally would not bring used cars into the equation, in this case we will point out that low-mileage examples of the old V8-engined, and still very modern-feeling, M550i can be had for less than £50,000.

I like how the PHEVs manage their state of charge. Put a destination in the navigation, and the car will strategically use its electric power to ensure that there's charge to allow for electric running in town and in traffic, but then use it all up by the end.

In electric matters, either PHEV model is commendable. In the 530e, we made it 60 miles before the engine was forced to kick in. Because the electric motor drives through the eight-speed gearbox, it proved more efficient at higher speeds than in congested urban drudgery. Because its larger engine makes the 550e even heavier, it's slightly less efficient on electric power.

Touring economy is also strong. With the drive battery depleted, our 530e test car returned 45.5mpg and the 550e 40.1mpg.

For this generation of 5 Series PHEV, maximum charging speed has increased to 7.4kW, which is still down on the 11kW AC charging and 50kW DC charging of some rivals.


bmw 530e review 2024 24 static

Whether the G60 5 Series has heightened or diminished the appeal of this storied model line will depend on your criteria for an exec saloon.

On one hand, the 550e xDrive, which is equipped with the most capable suspension offered for the new 5 Series, has limousine qualities in abundance. We found it to be quieter even than an E-Class, and it rides with an unexpected grace that becomes even more remarkable as you discover just how composed this chassis remains when fired down a tricky B-road with almost 500bhp. 

However, a little of the ‘Goldilocks’ magic of the 5 Series has been lost along the way. The dimensions have increased – palpably so from the driver’s seat – and yet cabin ergonomics don’t take full advantage of this development. A slight over-reliance on touch-sensitive tech and some questionable materials also undermine the warmth and intuitiveness of the cabin. Overall, the 5 Series can feel a touch synthetic and more coldly capable than before.

All of that said, with its fine pure-EV attributes, the plug-in hybrids are still immensely versatile, with company car drivers getting a particularly sweet deal. But as a concept, the 5 Series is now less neatly defined than before, and less lovable for it. 


Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat.