The electric-hybrid market is getting more popular, even BMW, which has been called “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, now offers electric in all of their model lineup. Back in the day, even base trim 5 series came with a 6-cylinder engine, but time has changed. Now you find more luxury, more features, more technology, but fewer cylinders under the hood. We had a chance to test drive the 530e X-Drive on a frozen lake, which was a great opportunity to see how the X-Drive system works.
Exterior – Interior
BMW 530e differentiates itself from the other 5 series by having charging port on the left front fender and e-Drive badges on the rear quarter panels. Our particular test car has an M Performance package, so it comes with sportier bumpers, and 19” Rims. Other than that, the exterior is identical with the other 5 series models.
Interior of the 530e is really good and you immediately feel that you are sitting in a premium car. Soft touch plastics and leather parts are everywhere, no panel gaps, no hard plastics. You would not expect low quality parts in a $60.000 car, so nothing surprising here.
The car has many features, and many of them are integrated into the infotainment system. There are some dedicated buttons for air conditioning and heated seats, which are separate from the infotainment system. Other than that, you can control everything by a knob and you must use the main screen for radio, navigation, even car settings.
Engine – Drivetrain
Don’t let 530e badge fool you. Unfortunately, it is not a 3.0 liter 6 cylinder engine like it used to be in the good old days. It comes with 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged and direct injected engine with an electric motor. The engine produces 180 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque itself, and the electric motor produces 111 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. When they are combined, the total output is 248 hp and 310 lb-ft. 530e X-Drive feels slower than 250 hp due to its weight, which is over 4500 pounds. Although it is not surprising as it has both electric battery/motor and all-wheel drive system.
Since it is a plug-in hybrid, it can travel up to 30 miles – 50 kilometers on electric power itself. In our test, you must drive really slowly to get that advertised 30 mile range. If you drive it like you stole it, you will get worse results. However, gas powered engine matches with the electric motor really well, they operate quiet and very smoothly.
There is an eDrive button which offers three different driving modes. They are called Auto eDrive, which the car decides how to optimize the powertrain interaction, Max eDrive which prioritizes electric mode, and Battery Control mode which allows you to save battery power for later usage.
Along with eDrive driving modes, there are three another driving modes, which are called Sport – Comfort and ECO. The good thing about these modes are, you can customize them whichever way you like. For instance, they stiffen the suspension and steering in Sport mode, but I found that steering feels more natural in Comfort mode.
The 530e comes with slightly modified 8 speed ZF automatic transmission. They changed the torque converter with an electric motor for more efficient shifting in all-electric mode.
Handling – Suspension
Our test car has an M suspension, which offers stiffer ride than regular model. Although an Electric car with sports suspension sounds like a paradox, the suspension is tuned extremely well for public roads. We were really impressed when we found that the car comes with 19” rims, Run flat tires and it is still comfortable. The equilibrium of comfort and stiffness are adjusted really good, as there is little to no body roll in the corner.
Our test car is an All Wheel Drive version, which is a rear-biased AWD system. It operates as a RWD when you don’t need extra traction. As soon as the car oversteers or understeers, AWD system activates and it sends power to the front wheels. Handling limits are really high and you must do something really wrong to get the car out of control on the pavement. On snowy roads, rear-biased All Wheel Drive really shines and makes the driver happy. It really likes to oversteer and easy to control.
Price and Overall Driving Experience
Overall performance of 530e is not bad at all, although it is not the fastest car in its segment. Both gas and electric powered motors provide enough torque to move the car. As soon as you get in the car, you feel that this car is made for people who prioritizes not only comfort, but also quality and brand image. If you want to have all of them in one car, you must pay the premium for that.
Our test car costs $80.000 Canadian OTD. For this price range, there are many alternatives on the market. BMW 530e is definitely not a bad option, but it has a weak 30-mile range with fully electric mode, which is not appealing for potential buyers who are looking for electric alternatives. If you are not interested in electric-hybrid cars, then for a very similar price, you can step up to 540i X-Drive and enjoy the extra horsepower.
Article and photos by Dan Gunay