For the 2018 model year, BMW has finally embraced rationality in terms of its hybrid 5 Series offering, listing the model at the same $52,650 base price as the standard 530i. What’s more, when you factor in the $4,700 tax incentive you’ll get from the Feds, the 2018 BMW 530e iPerformance will actually cost less than the standard model.
Meanwhile, the look is identical, save the plug-in port on the left front fender and the eDrive badges just aft of the traditional BMW Hofmeister kink on the C-pillar. Even better, performance is on par with the standard 530i and handling is commensurate as well. In other words, you can now get a 36-mpg BMW mid-size sedan and enjoy driving it too.
The powertrain features a 180-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, which is good for 255 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to a 111-horsepower electric motor capable of 184 lb-ft. of torque. Total system output comes in at 248 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission routes power to the drive wheels—its torque converter replaced by the electric motor. And yes, there is also an all-wheel drive 530e xDrive iPerformance.
Theoretically, the 530e iPerformance is capable of traveling 30 miles on electric power alone, though we only saw 16 during our testing. Granted, we only used electricity around town and ran the gasoline engine on the highway, using it to recharge the battery pack as we traveled. This gave us the best of both worlds, as the internal combustion engine is at its most efficient in steady state running on the highway. This freed the electric motor to deal with stop and go driving on city streets.
We’re talking modern BMW here, so of course there are drive modes aplenty from which to choose. You can also let the car decide whether it should be running purely electric, or mixing and matching the gasoline engine and electric motor as the situation dictates. The powertrain is capable of all-electric operation up to 87 miles per hour, so it will easily deal with highway speeds without consuming gasoline. Top speed is 146 miles per hour with gasoline and electricity powering the BMW in tandem. Total range is approximately 400 miles—assuming you’re careless enough to run the car out of both gasoline and electricity.
While capable of recharging its battery pack on the fly—as is every other hybrid out there—the 530e iPerformance is also a plug-in hybrid, which means you can also recharge while the car is at rest. A fully depleted battery pack takes three hours to recharge using a Level 2 charging station. You can also tell the car what time you plan to depart and it will pre-heat or cool the cabin before you get in, using power from the grid.
Getting back to the multiple drive modes, you’ll find BMW’s usual sport, eco, normal and comfort settings. Choose sport and you’ll see red—literally. The gauges take on a red hue and the gasoline engine remains in operation at all times. Happily, the 530e iPerformance then drives with the brio you’d expect from a BMW. In fact, its acceleration to 60 is rated at just 1.1 second more than that of the 335-horsepower 540i’s 4.9-second figure.
Handling is also on par, with nice grip in the corners and exceptional stability at speed. Steering feel could be better, as is true for all modern “drive-by-wire” cars. But its accuracy is just right, turn-in is reassuringly responsive and ride quality is supple. Interestingly, the battery pack adds more weight over the rear wheels and lowers the center of gravity, so the 530e is actually balanced better than the 530i (though it does weigh 500 pounds more). The smoothness with which the BMW hybrid operates is commendable, even when the four-cylinder engine is running at full chat.
Just as with other hybrid configurations, the engine starts and stops on an as-needed basis—depending upon the drive mode you select and what you’re asking the car to do. We found these transitions to be largely imperceptible. In fact, a couple of times we had to shut the audio system off and listen carefully to determine the engine’s operational status. (It was running both times.)
So, with the 2018 BMW 530e iPerformance, you’ll see greater fuel economy, more torque and better balance—along with the sophistication that makes a 5 Series BMW a 5 Series BMW.