BMW gives you a valid alternative to diesel with this plug-in hybrid
Flip this plug-in hybrid into Auto eDrive mode and the car itself selects the best mix of power source, either the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo petrol engine or the electric motor. In 112bhp electric mode, you have about 29 miles of what submarines call silent running. But put your foot down more and you bring in the 181bhp petrol engine so smoothly and quietly the submariners would be impressed.
It’s probably fair to say that those seamen lurking silently under our oceans are not the main target audience for this 5 Series, but with a price just £770 more than for the 530d SE diesel version, and with 46g/km of CO2, this plug-in hybrid could find a considerably wider audience.
The Auto eDrive mode matches the driver’s input with the sat nav’s input on the terrain ahead to try to smooth things out further. But this is a car that can reach 62mph in only 6.2 seconds so don’t go away thinking this is the sort of car driven by those who knit their own shoes out of kelp.
BMW 530e iPerformance SE
Engine: four cylinder, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol; with electric motor assist
Power: 249bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 310lb ft at 1350-4250rpm petrol engine
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 146mph
Co2: 46g/km, 9%
There’s an enjoyable amount of poke on offer, from way low down to further up, yet at no point is there anything other than a faintly pleasing hum of automotive power. If you want to avoid troubling the petrol engine then you can switch to Max eDrive, which works up to 87mph. Obviously driving near that figure isn’t going to give you the 29 miles claimed, but it’s quite fun watching to see how you can balance range against performance.
If you fork out £570 – and the government forks out some on the behalf of the rest of us – then you can have a wallbox charger at home and that can give you a full recharge in just two and a half hours.
So the powerplant works extremely well here, and it’s perfectly balanced by the chassis which is fluid, compliant and controlled. You’ll enjoy driving this car over many different sorts of roads, although the steering really could do with some more feedback and heft. It points the car in the right direction precisely enough, but you only have your eyes to confirm what’s going on.
At a time when diesel engines are being treated as potential threats, it makes sense to look at the options. This hybrid, to go back to our submariner analogy, is like comparing a modern sub with its electric drive and nuclear powerplant with an older sub that produced its electric drive from a clattery diesel. Guess which one would have a longer life expectancy in a world where any sound can bring unwanted attention.
So it is with this new 530e iPerformance. The SE trim gives you all you need, the price is sensible and relevant, the execution of electric and petrol power is seamless and faultless, and you gain all the undoubted benefits of the latest 5 Series from BMW.