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BMW 530e iPerformance 2017 Road Test

The 530e iPerformance is BMW’s first large premium exec to get the plug-in hybrid treatment and - on paper at least - it reads like the utopian answer to the growing opposition to diesel, with low tailpipe emissions, a useable all-electric range and official economy peaking at 141.2mpg.

Given the negative headlines that surround diesels and emissions, it’s perhaps understandable that BMW has decided to get serious about plug-in hybrid technology. Eight out of 10 large premium cars are snapped up by fleets and any future legislation that would limit or ban diesel use in towns or cities would be disastrous for a car like the 5 Series.  

The benefits of the plug-in hybrid powertrain in the 5 Series are obvious from a cost perspective as well as an environmental one; the 530e iPerformance has cheap first year VED, is efficient (140+mpg) and qualifies for a Government grant of £2500. Tailpipe emissions are also low with 46g/km of CO2, which means the Benefit-in-kind (BiK) tax rate for 2017/18 starts from just nine per cent. However, owing to the new VED rules, the 530e will qualify for both the hybrid and premium tax rates, which means VED from years two to five will come to a total of £1760

Given the frugal fuel and emission figures, you might think that the 530e iPerformance is something of a forgettable car to drive, but BMW has managed to avoid the typical hybrid snoreathon by pairing a 184PS 2.0-litre petrol with a 95PS electric motor. This means performance is respectable, with the pair developing 252PS and 420Nm of torque, which allows the 530e to whistle its way from zero to 62mph in just 6.2 seconds. That's pretty impressive, especially when you consider that this car weighs a hefty 1845kg - which is 230kg more than the 530i petrol.

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The additional bulk comes from the battery pack, placed underneath the rear seats. These lithium-ion cells allow the 5 Series to drive up to 29 miles on pure electricity and can be charged in under five hours from a standard domestic power socket, or in under three hours if hooked up to a wallbox. As with any hybrid, when the battery is empty, the engine takes over. 

Despite weighing the best part of two tonnes, the 530e wafts around the road rather well, with smooth body control that's aided by firm and responsive steering. The decision to place the battery pack in the floor at the back of the vehicle enables the centre of gravity to remain low, which, with the help of the excellent suspension set-up, means there is almost zero body roll in the corners.

As with any plug-in hybrid, the startup is silent and the soft engine note only breaks into a rumble when you put your foot to the floor. The four-cylinder engine and electric motor for the most part work in blissful harmony, with only the occasional stutter under acceleration when driving in the most efficient driving mode.

The hybrid system has three modes – Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Battery Control – with the full automatic option using the battery at low speeds and engaging the engine above 50mph. Max eDRIVE mode is designed for use in towns or cities, with the car running on electric power alone, while Battery Control allows the drive to set the recharge level and/or conserve battery charge for later use. 

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Tinkering with the system is easy - via the eDrive button on the centre console - and the near seamless process is made all the more fluid with the 530e's excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. As with the standard 5 Series, there is also an iDrive rotary controller, which lets you sharpen or soften the steering, throttle and gearbox responses. You can also use the dial to browse through the infotainment and navigation options.  

The only area that provides some disappointment is the space in the rear. We found it to be a bit of a fiddle to get in and out of the back seats, as the high lip on the floor can trip up passengers as they get out. Leg room is also a little on the tight side, which can result in feet getting stuck in under the seat in front when sat behind a tall driver or front passenger.

That said, for company car drivers, it's difficult to think of more sophisticated or polished plug-in petrol than the 530e iPerformance. Indeed, with a silky smooth hybrid system and wonderfully crafted interior, the 530e ticks all of the large premium car boxes, while its 29 mile pure-electric range makes it perfect for inner city commuting. The dollop of performance will also win the 530e fans when it comes to the motorway.

For private buyers, however, the appeal of the 530e is somewhat limited. Priced from £43,985 (including the Gov grant), the plug-in petrol 5 Series requires a significant outlay compared to the 530i (£40,190) and it'll take a significant amount of time for the fuel savings repay the additional £3800 to buy the plug-in hybrid. 

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