FIRST DRIVE: 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid

Test Drives | April 26th, 2017 by 2
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BMW is serious about electrifying their future and next model to be electrified is the all-new 530e iPerformance. The BMW 530e sets a best in …

BMW is serious about electrifying their future and next model to be electrified is the all-new 530e iPerformance. The BMW 530e sets a best in class pure electric range at 50 km or about 30 miles, and Bavarian engineers say this longer pure electric range should allow most owners to commute to work without using any petrol. The United States is the biggest market, followed closely by the UK for BMW’s iPerformance plug in hybrids, so it was very important that BMW get the design and execution right.

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We flew out out to Germany to test the new 530e iPerformance in the German Alps and on the Autobahn to demonstrate its impressive capabilities. The biggest compliment we can give this car after driving it, is that you don’t really realize that it’s a hybrid. The transitions from the different power modes are so smooth. If you are used to the one-pedal driving style, like in the i3, then the 530e will have a surprise in store for you with a different approach. What you will find instead though is a beautiful plug-in hybrid 5 Series that drives just as the rest of the line-up does.

While heading up a big mountain in the Alps – with tight switch backs – the gasoline engine kicked in helping add power to make the climb smooth and effortless. Once we reached the top of the mountain, we selected MAX eDrive and the engine shut off. During the entire trip back down the mountain, the 530e captured energy via brake regeneration and by the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, our battery was nearly full and our fuel consumption was showing a mere 0.8 L/100km.

The next part of the route took us on the Autobahn where we entered in MAX eDrive, this didn’t last long because once we sailed past 85 mph, the engine kicked on and kept on accelerating.

The 530e has 3 different hybrid modes available. In AUTO eDrive the car decides the most efficient settings between battery power vs gasoline motor, for any given condition. If however, you are trying not use any gasoline, select MAX eDrive mode and the gasoline motor will stay off until the battery is depleted or you go over 87 mph or floor the accelerator pedal. If you know you are going to be going on a long trip and want to save battery for your destination, simply choose Save Battery mode and the 530e will use the 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbo. All of these modes are selectable via an eDrive button next to the gear selector.

BMW has just launched the all new 5 Series G30 platform which has been getting rave reviews, along with strong sales. The BMW 530e iPerformance is priced aggressively at just $200 more than the base 530i in the United States. Unlike some plug-in hybrids, such as the 330e for example, the 530e can be optioned either rear-wheel drive or with xDrive. All0wheel drive availability is a huge factor in sales in the parts of the United States that see snow.

The 530e has all the technology available to the rest of the 5 Series lines, such as Blind Spot Detection System, Active Lane Keeping Assistant, 3D Surround View and Side Collision Avoidance systems. The 530e is also capable of driving itself in slow traffic and even allows the driver to choose how close it follows the vehicle in front of it. Not only does it pack all of the same incredible luxuries and technologies of the entire 5 Series model line, but it adds the advanced plug-in hybrid powertrain.

With the 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 50 km (30 miles) pure electric range, BMW feels that the 530e can easily do the daily commute, emission-free, for most drivers. If one choses to go on a long road trip, the hybrid and large battery allows the capture of kinetic energy when slowing through brake energy regeneration which helps you go farther on gas.

BMW 530e iPerformance has two motors, one electric and one petrol. The petrol motor is a 2.0 liter TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 180 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor makes 95 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. When the two motors are combined, they develop 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission which, with xDrive, can vary power from rear to front to all wheels as needed.

The BMW 530e iPerformance run 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds.

BMW 530e

The 530e’s battery pack resides under the rear seats which means the fuel tank was moved under the trunk. This allows the BMW 530e to have a flat-load trunk floor, opposed to the 740e’s trunk which has a large hump in the floor toward the back. With respect to charging the lithium-ion battery pack, one can use a 120V outlet, with the” Occasional Use” Cable which can fully charge a depleted battery in 7 hours. However with the BMW Charging Station or other J1772 style charger, the 530e’s battery can be fully charged from empty in just under three hours.

In plug-in hybrids, the whole key is really all about the powertrain. To learn more about the new hybrid tech, we sat down with the head engineer in charge for development of hybrid powertrain in the iPerformance line. He has been with BMW hybrid powertrains ever since they developed the first one, the X6 ActiveHybrid. We learned that Samsung supplies the batteries, but that they are less energy dense than the ones used in the i3. The reason being that these are much faster at getting energy back out of them to help with acceleration than the ones on the i3. Also under extreme cold conditions, the 530e will selectively fire up the gasoline engine until the batteries are warmed up and over about 85 mph the gasoline engine will turn on.

BMW 530e

Cosmetically, the only differences between the 530e and the other 5 Series is that there is an eDrive button next to the gear leaver, a charging door flap on the front fender, and different graphics on the digital instrument display. The best compliment I can give this car is that when you drive it, you really can’t tell that it is a hybrid because the transitions from pure electric mode to engine being on is seamless. Your foot on the gasoline pedal cannot tell a difference and for that reason, the new BMW 530e is one of the models one can buy in the 5 Series lineup.

 

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