Test Drive Notes Library
- Improve your image. This is a car for rich people who want to assure their neighbors that they’re not Republicans. Or at least, they’re moderate Republicans, not of the climate change denying variety. It’s a luxury car with a small helping of eco cred thrown in.
- It’s a BMW 5 Series. It’s a damn nice car overall. See our
previous reviews for our earlier thoughts on the 5 Series.
- Price premium. The best argument for this car is that it’s a $200 option over the regular BMW 530i. So, for $200, you get a hybrid that has a plug in option. While you don’t get a lot of electric-only miles per change (we got 10-12 miles on average), you do get a mild hybrid the rest of the time. The result is a boost in overall mpg of about 2 miles per gallon. If you do a lot of short trips, don’t mind plugging in, and spend more time in all-electric mode, obviously your mileage will be even better.
- Performance. The regular gasoline-only 530i has a four cylinder engine that produces 248 hp. What a coincidence! The 530e, with a combined 180 hp version of the four cylinder engine and the electric motor also gets 248 hp. So there’s plenty of power. And in electric mode, this car just glides away from the stop light. It’s sensitive to how lead-filled your foot is. If you accelerate moderately (about 40% of gas pedal effort), you stay in all electric mode. If you really stomp on it, the gasoline engine kicks in and adds power.
- Smooth. Under electric power, the 530e feels like a glider. The gasoline engine produces a little growling noise when it kicks in, but either way, it’s a smooth, solid feeling powertrain with BMW’s excellent 8-speed automatic transmission. And with the $1,000 dynamic damper control, the ride is slightly firm but great.
- Quiet. Aside from the distant harsh growl of the gasoline engine under heavy acceleration, it’s really quiet and luxurious inside the 5 Series. It feels like a leather-swathed tank.
- Safety. The 530e has a full complement of the safety systems you need today, including an excellent heads-up display. You’ll pay for a bunch of these systems, as “Driver Assistance Package” options, but at least they’re available.*
- All wheel drive option. You can have your hybrid, and get to work in the snow, too.
- Entertainment system worked really well, without bugs. Even juggling between bluetooth and the plug in cable didn’t throw it off, as it does on lots of cars. We used to make fun of BMW’s iDrive system, when it was the first menu-based infotainment system on the market. But by starting early and constantly improving it, the iDrive is now as good as any out there now.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Plug in novelty. Twelve miles of electric range is almost in the realm of novelty these days. Unlike BMW’s “gesture control,” which is absolutely a novelty. With the Chevy Volt offering 50 electric miles per plug in, and the Prius Prime offering 20-25 electric miles per charge, the 530e feels behind the times. We found that most days, even without extensive travel, we’d use up the electric charge and switch to gasoline-hybrid mode. Unless you work less than 5 miles from home, or 10 miles from home and charge at work, you’ll be dipping into the gas tank on most days.
- Rear automatic braking. This is supposed to be a safety feature, that brakes automatically when you’re parking, and about to back into “Joey The Hitman Pepperoni”’s Cadillac. But several times, while backing out of driveways that went slightly downhill towards the street, the 530e jarringly slammed on the brakes and refused to move. It seems to have a little trouble telling asphalt from automobile. It was disturbing and annoying enough that we had to turn it off. Needs more work, fellas.
- BMW was thoughtful enough to put a light in the compartment where you plug in the electric charger. What would be REALLY helpful is if they light up the car’s socket itself, as other manufacturers have begun to do with USB outlets inside the car. When you go to plug in the 530e in the dark, on your driveway or darkened garage, when you get home from work at 7PM, you have to use braille to match up the charging plug to the outlet. Lighting up the outlet (or the outline of the outlet) itself, rather than the metal flap that covers the compartment would be really helpful. Especially since you’ll be plugging in your 530e every night.
- We really do commend BMW for making the plug in hybrid a $200 option. That may be the lowest price option on any BMW. I think the floor mats are $201. And you’ll pay a lot for other stuff you want. Our test 530e with rear wheel drive lists for $51,400. By the time you add the safety equipment you need, heated seats, rear view camera, keyless entry, Apple CarPlay and dynamic damper control, you’ll also be buying soft close doors, ceramic controls (ceramic controls??), some of which are tossed into packages which things you do want, you’re up to $66,500.
- *We can’t help complimenting BMW on an excellent typo in the 530e’s press release. Among the safety features it boasts, according to BMW, are “Blond Spot Monitors.” We’re guessing those were developed for BMW drivers who dye their hair, but we’ll certainly issue a clarification if BMW provides more detail.
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