CarBuyer has a brief but early drive of BMW’s plug-in 530e. It costs the same to buy as a normal 530i, but certainly doesn’t feel the same…
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — The first thing you notice is the noise, or rather the lack of it. Trundling along downtown Sydney traffic in a BMW 740e and later, a 530e, I’m reminded just how refined electric vehicles can be. The BMWs move off silently, as if pushed by ghosts, and pick up speed sharply, as if those ghosts work out in the gym a lot.
The 530e seems the best candidate for success in Singapore, given that it costs the same as the 530i (currently the cheapest petrol-driven 5 Series here).
It’s so spookily quiet that when the petrol engine does wake up, it’s almost an intrusion. The 2.0-litre turbo engine that BMW uses in many of its iPerformance cars is hardly agricultural, but compared to a polite electric motor, it seems positively shouty.
The 530e has various driving modes to let you use it in different ways. Max eDrive puts the petrol engine to sleep so you can drive without emissions, while Save Battery mode does the opposite, using the petrol engine to propel the car and recharge the battery to a target level. This lets you switch back to EV mode where petrol is particularly inefficient, like in the city or during a jam.
But Auto eDrive is the most straightforward setting, and lets the car juggle the mix between petrol and electric power by itself. In that mode, we covered a little over 30km of mixed roads and used petrol at the rate of 2.8L/100km. The car had 15km left in the battery when we left it.
Driven that way every day, a 530e should be able to cover more than 1,600km between fuel stops, even though its tank is just 46 litres in size. The average driver here would stop for petrol only once a month at that rate.
It has a smaller boot than the 530i (410 litres instead of 530 litres), but anyone with a place to charge it would probably be delighted with a 530e. That doesn’t only apply to eco warriors, either. The driving experience means the 530e could tempt buyers from the 530i not because it’s a Greener car, but because it feels like a better car.
Four plug-in BMWs have been launched here, with one more on the way. Their prices are surprising…