BMW 5 Series Hybrid review
The BMW 5 Series plug-in hybrids offer superb cabins, good electric range and sharp driving manners – but at a cost to both boot space and your wallet
Find out more about the BMW 5 Series Hybrid
Time was when BMW’s 5 Series was affectionately known as the ‘Best Car in the World’. But things move on fast in the car game, so is the BMW saloon car still one of the finest things in its class? And can one of three plug-in hybrid variants tempt you into the latest 5 Series?
That’s right, three PHEVs. The 530e, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and 80kW (109hp) electric motor, can be ordered with rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-corners traction, while the mighty 545e swaps out the 2.0 unit for a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine. And it’s xDrive AWD only.
That’s so much PHEV choice in one line-up that it’s like walking into a Starbucks and then dithering over whether to go for a flat white, a skinny macchiato or a coconut-milk latte.
No 5 Series PHEV is easy to spot, as only subtle boot badging and a flap to cover the charging port identifies them as the plug-in models if you’re viewing them at a distance. Thankfully, the 5 Series hasn’t yet succumbed to BMW’s latest fetish for gigantic kidney grilles, but even so it’s not the most dashing of machines in this segment – an Audi A6 TFSI e or Volvo S90 Recharge would arguably turn more heads as they rolled on by.
The 5 Series more than makes up for this inside. Few cars in any class have an interior as well-built, as cleverly laid-out and as good to sit in as this one. Space is not an issue for anyone lucky enough to travel within the BMW, apart from that centre-rear seat in which an occupant’s legs will have to straddle the chunky transmission tunnel that resides in the footwell.
To seal the 5 Series deal, the best infotainment system in the business is thrown in for good measure. BMW’s iDrive is presented on either a glossy 10.25- or even 12.3-inch screen that has about four different methods of control, all of them excellent. It supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay too – just in case you somehow don’t get on with the company’s own software.
It’s the usual lament about boot space and PHEVs, though. In order to accommodate the 5 Series plug-in models’ 12kWh lithium-ion battery, cargo capacity tumbles from the normal 530 litres to 410 litres in these petrol-electric variants.
The silky-smooth 545e is extremely tempting, but the more affordable 530e is my pick of the range.
As already stated, there are two main levels of 5 Series plug-in and three disparate models. Either version of the 530e has 292hp in total and can do 0-62mph in less than six seconds. The 394hp 545e, though, is like a part-electric M5 in disguise, sprinting to 62mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds. It also sounds better when being driven hard, thanks to its six-cylinder engine being more musical than the gruff four-banger in the 530e.
Charging times are identical no matter which 5 Series PHEV you go for, because they have the same battery pack. BMW quotes two-and-a-half hours on a 7kW AC connection for a full charge, or more like five hours on a three-pin domestic plug. And once the battery is ready to go, you’ll get anything from 29 to 37 miles of zero-emissions driving out of these BMWs as a result.
To drive, the BMW 5 Series plug-in hybrids are excellent. They’re comfortable when you need them to be, especially if you option up the adaptive suspension, and then they’re fun in the corners when the mood takes you.
However, despite this, the Mercedes E-Class is probably even more sumptuous to travel in than either 5 Series PHEV. But then the Merc won’t be as much of a laugh when you’re on your favourite country road.
Anyway, even if you don’t know which hot beverage you want when you absent-mindedly wander into a high-street coffee shop of a morning, you ought to know which executive plug-in hybrid to buy. The 545e is a tremendous creation but it’s rather dear and the 530e hits the spot in much the same way, only for less cash. Sometimes, all you really want to drink is an Americano, right?
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