What is it?
Breaking news: BMW ditches 50/50 weight distribution. Okay, a slightly tabloidian embellishment; that long-standing philosophy is still true for most of its models, but not the new 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid.
With a 182bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine up front, a 111bhp electric motor sitting in the bell housing where you’d normally find a torque converter for the eight-speed automatic gearbox, a 9.2kWh battery pack under the rear seats that can be charged in less than three hours, and a 46-litre fuel tank over the rear axle, that particular engineering ideal was clearly too much. The weight distribution has ended up at 47% front, 53% rear instead.
Still, with the standard G30 5 Series being such a beautifully balanced machine, what difference will a slightly weightier bottom make?
What's it like?
Performance, both the green and the grunt kind, appear solid. Claimed CO2 emissions are as little as 46g/km, while combined fuel economy is 141.2mpg. Yet, as anyone with a cursory knowledge of hybrids will tell you, you’ll be catching fairies before you achieve those figures in the real world. Perhaps more representative, then, are the claimed 0-62mph sprint time of 6.2sec and 146mph top speed – or 87mph on electric power alone. Incidentally, due to system losses, that’s from a combined power output of 249bhp.
Is the 530e the ultimate combination of performance and parsimony, then? No, not really. Start off in all-electric Max eDrive mode and it’s a magnificently quiet car, but its modest performance is best suited for crossing town rather than country. The claimed 31-mile range disappears alarmingly quickly at motorway speeds, too.
Switch to Auto eDrive mode and the petrol engine kicks in when required. At gentler speeds the transition is smooth, but bury your foot hard to the accelerator stop and it’s less sublime, with a consistent two-second delay as the gearbox sorts itself out, before the colourless but largely unobtrusive background buzz from the engine kicks in.
Pace is good, mind. There’s enough of it to breeze you past bumbling trucks on a B-road, or carry you easily into three-figure speeds on an autobahn.