Going electric: BMW 530e road test and review
ADOPTION of the combustion engine took time.
Customers weren't flocking from the horse and cart in favour of the Ford Model T when the dealership doors flung open.
That's the sentiment driving BMW's foray into electrification.
Having just launched its fourth plug-in hybrid vehicle in the 530e, a quadrant that sits alongside the pint-size all-electric i3 and the three-cylinder i8 sports car.
Keen to bolster its credentials Down Under, BMW has priced the 530e the same as its petrol-power equivalent - $108,900. Yet for your coin there is extra torque and average fuel consumption of less than three litres for every 100km.
The new 530e has an all-electric range of more than 30km - which surpasses the average distance travelled by most Aussies every day.
Those chasing best bang for buck would need to regularly face congestion or undertake short trips.
The 530e does its best work in stop-start conditions when you can make full use of the battery power and operate emission-free.
Equipment remains strong and matches the 530i, with a 10.25-inch colour screen, 19-inch alloys, automatic boot opener, 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, sat-nav and leather trim.
Charging the battery takes about five hours from a standard power point but the BMW wall box can be installed for about $2000 (depending on your home set-up), which halves the time.
Expect a wireless charging pad function next year, which, using camera guides, you simply park the vehicle on top of a mat to refuel.
It's top-notch in this area - there's six cameras, five radar sensors and 12 ultrasonic sensors used for the standard functionality of radar cruise control, steering and lane keeping assist, constant speed limit sign recognition, automatic parking and cross traffic alert.
Along highways the car can steer itself for up to 40 seconds before you are asked to touch the wheel again.
On the road
Among the benefits of electric vehicles is the instantaneous take-up. While combustion engines take a little time to wind up, all the torque from electric motors is available at the get-go.
You can really launch off the line with gusto.
Operationally it's super quiet without the petrol engine and the only noise generated is when you really plant your foot.
There are three e-modes available - auto, which uses a combination of petrol and battery power; pure battery, which works at speeds up to 140kmh; and a power-saving mode, which can keep the battery for later use.
Performance isn't compromised by an additional 230kg and it's typically BMW, with responsive steering and impressive cornering prowess.
With the same 6.2-second, 0-100kmh sprint time as the 530i, the primary trade-off comes via the boot.
Allowing for the lithium-ion high-voltage battery pack means only 410 litres of space, which is similar to a Mazda3.
There are a few indicators of its i-technology - the blue hue in the kidney grille and wheel hubs, as well as the plug near the front passenger door.
Other than that, it's the same proportions and typical elegance of a 5 Series.
For most, opting for the 530e over its pure petrol-powered equivalent is a no-brainer.
Electric vehicles and their offshoots may only account for 1% of the total market in Australia but you can be assured the revolution is coming, even if successive governments can't see the writing on the wall.
For now, vehicles like the 530e offer the perfect compromise.
It drives exceptionally, accelerates like a sports car and has the latest safety features. It's putting a toe in green waters before going knee deep.
At a glance
BMW 530e iPerformance
ENGINE Electric motor 70kW/250Nm, while the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol 135 kW/320Nm - combined 185kW/420Nm.
TRANSMISSION Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive.
THIRST 2.3L/100km (combined average).
DIMENSIONS 4936 (L), 1868 (W), 1479 (H), 2975 (WB).
PERFORMANCE 0-100kmh in 6.2-seconds.
SPARE None, run flat tyres.
WARRANTY Three years unlimited, battery six years or 100,000km
CAPPED PRICE SERVICING $1640 five years, 80,000km.
SERVICE INTERVALS Conditioned based, two years or 30,000km.
What matters most
WHAT'S IT GOT Strong acceleration, outstanding safety technology, typical fun BMW driveability.
WHAT IT HASN'T Government subsidies or concessions, boot space expected of a large sedan, wireless Apple CarPlay (it's an option).