Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2019 BMW 530e Plug-in Hybrid

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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The 2019 BMW 530e is an electrified variant of the popular 5 Series, and it gives luxury-minded shoppers a new option for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) ownership. With electrification enhancing several important 5 Series attributes, this latest model provides an authentic 5 Series driving experience with efficiency to spare.

Though the electric motor is a fuel-saving weapon, it also enables some stellar throttle response and serves up a mountain of creamy and quiet torque.

Styling: 9/10

When you’re building your 530e online, be sure to select the M Performance Package in the configurator, choose the colour you like best, and give the result a good, hard gander. My tester, finished in Mediterranean Blue Metallic and clad in full M Sport attire, flaunted an athletic, classy, and business-ready look.

On board, the look is similarly inviting. Fully digital instruments are vivid in appearance, liquid smooth in animation, and never show a detectable pixel. Stitched and quilted leather occupies much of the scenery, with swoopy aluminum and glossy panels and display screens covering the rest. It’s high-tech, highly luxurious, and will totally satisfy your childhood dreams of being a space pilot. (Those easily intimidated by modern electronics may wish to secure some tech support from their nearest teenager for the learning process.)

Safety: 9/10

The 530e’s responsive handling, strong braking performance, and responsive reflexes impart plenty of drama-free confidence should an emergency manoeuvre be required. Brake pedal feel is somewhat vague at times (that’s par for the course with hybrid cars), but the performance is strong once you’ve gotten into the pedal a little.

The stability and anti-lock systems work to help maintain predictable order during brake-and-evade manoeuvres from highway speeds.

Decent outward sightlines and adequately sized mirrors (as well as numerous parking cameras and sensors) help drivers stay alert to the goings on in the world around them.

Practicality: 7/10

Four adults of average size will find the 530e to feel just about perfect in terms of space at each seat, in every dimension. A comfortable amount of personal space is provided, but without feeling cavernous. Probably, this is the ideal layout for a luxury sports sedan. I noted no issues with entry or exit, or with nearby storage or charging facilities, either.

Thanks to the 530e’s great big traction battery, trunk space is reduced – mostly in vertical depth. With the battery beneath, the trunk is long and wide, but shallow. I found no issue for a full load of groceries, or a trunk-full of camera gear – though family road trips may require packing lightly.

User Friendliness: 9/10

User friendliness from the 530e is on par with any other 5 Series variant currently on offer. The interfaces, displays, and all on-board functions work the same way, through the same touchscreen or iDrive dial interface. Past BMW owners will feel right at home, and most of the rest of us will have the system working like second nature after a week or so.

User friendliness from the PHEV system is also very good. Like all PHEV’s, the 530e can be easily connected to a charger whenever convenient, in a matter of seconds.

Control over the resulting battery charge is remarkably easy to manage: a simple tap on the “e-Drive” button near the shifter toggles between three modes which either store the charge for later, use it immediately, or use it automatically. From that basis, drivers can also easily select and customize various drive modes, with a few button taps.

Whether controlling the PHEV driveline, drive-mode selector, or the iDrive system, you will begin to feel like the boss of the BMW 530e very soon.

Moreover, the 530e even makes maximizing your return on investment in the PHEV driveline a user-friendly experience. Choose the Eco Pro drive mode, and the instrument cluster morphs into a visual coach and instructor, helping drivers hone in on the most fuel-efficient driving possible. A readout, complete with tips and tricks, can even be called up on screen. It’s like a PHEV report card. For the driver enthusiastic about this technology, the BMW 530e will inspire and fascinate, right from the instrument cluster.

Features: 8/10

My tester was a world-class luxury sport sedan packing a cutting-edge driveline, and it was equipped accordingly. A large sunroof; highly adjustable seats; a head-up display (HUD); keyless ignition; a voice-command assistant; automatic lights, wipers, and climate control; and a potent lighting system are some examples. It all sees drivers surrounded by plenty of easily deployable features and technologies, many of which represent amongst the segment’s best offerings at the moment.

I was, however, surprised to find my tester lacking an adaptive cruise control system, which often comes standard these days on far less expensive cars.

Power: 8/10

Speed and acceleration are but a mere part of the “power” score here. We also consider things like, say, the way that power is delivered, and how that makes the driver feel. That’s where this car does its best work.

Total system output from the 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder and electric motor system is rated at 248 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

This isn’t the 5 Series you buy for the acceleration figures. With 0–100 in about six seconds, it’s neither faster nor slower than its non-electrified brother, the 530i – although it does use much less fuel.

With the noiseless electric motor delivering maximum torque output from (literally) the first fraction of an inch of accelerator input, and blending that with the deep well of torque from the turbo four a moment later, the performance is exceptionally refined.

Though the electric motor is a fuel-saving weapon, it also enables some stellar throttle response and serves up a mountain of creamy and quiet torque. For this writer, the biggest full-throttle grins came from the charming disconnect between the sturdy shove into my seat, and the small amount of resulting noise.

Comfort: 7/10

Equipped with the M Performance package, my tester’s ride comfort was largely at the mercy of the surfaces passing beneath.

On smooth highways, it’s an expert cruiser: heavy, stable, soft but not squishy, and appreciably hushed on board. Even past the highway speed limit, there’s no need to raise your voice for a conversation.

Most drivers will also appreciate the reduced workload facilitated by the steering system and how it feels in your hands. It’s heavy enough to “lock” the car into position confidently, minimizing the need to readjust.

Rougher in-town roads knock the ride quality down by a fair margin. Largely due to my tester’s big wheels and thin, sporty tires, impacts with potholes and bumps pass through the suspension and into the cabin with minimal elasto-kinematic filtration.

If you’re set on the M Performance package, and will primarily drive on smooth roads and highways, you’ll be fine. If you live in Sudbury (like me), the compromise to ride quality will likely prove too great.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Cruising, it feels solid, confident and dense – helping towards a premium, substantial feel around the driver, and at the tips of their fingers and toes. There’s virtually no sound or vibration detectable from the driveline, especially during electric-only driving.

Brake pedal feel is vaguer than the norm for a BMW, but better than average by hybrid car standards. Given a good smash, they pull the 530e down with an almost startling bite.

Steering varies from heavy and relaxed, to heavy and stiff, depending on the current drive mode. Typically, it’s never heavy enough to be labour-intensive, and many drivers will appreciate the substantial feel.

The 530e’s electrical bits add more weight to the overall package here, though the average driver won’t notice it in any meaningful way. Use Sport mode on winding backroads, and you can expect flat and tidy handling, eager steering, and a smooth and unbothered demeanour, even during more spirited motoring. The overall feel is a car that’s not trying to defy its size or mass, but rather, one set on building an experience around them.

Also noteworthy is the after-dark driving experience. The powerful headlight system helps reduce eye fatigue and beautifully illuminates the road ahead, as well as nearby treelines and culverts. On board, displays can be customized, minimized, or even disabled to varying degrees, while soft LED accent lighting elsewhere through the cabin can be adjusted to the driver’s taste.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

With nightly charging at home on a Level 2 charger, I arrived each morning to about 27 kilometres of electric-only driving range, a few less if using the heat or air conditioner. For where and how I drive, this meant I could handle all of my weekday driving with no gasoline.

On electric power, total output is reduced, but driving at up to 140 km/h is possible.

When the electric range is used up, the gas engine kicks in uneventfully, and hundreds of additional kilometres of driving are possible, running as a gas-electric hybrid.

I’d say, given the conditions and locale of my test drive, the 530e used gas at about the same rate as a very small car. Also, it does 0–100 only about three seconds slower than an M5, but uses a fraction of the fuel.

Value: 8/10

For the premium-vehicle shopper after a compelling driving experience and all of the toys, my tester’s roughly $80,000 price tag felt largely supported. In fact, the 530e may well be the best 5 Series driving experience at the moment. That is, unless you’re an M5 fan – but I doubt we’ll see any of them this far down the page.

Still – and thankfully so – considerably more affordable alternatives are available to shoppers interested in making the switch to PHEV technology.


Electrification-curious shoppers and loyal 5 Series drivers alike will likely find the new 530e to be amongst one of the best luxury sport sedans on the road today – and especially if reduced fuel use and a creamy-smooth driveline are of higher importance than all-out firepower.

Engine Displacement 2.0L engine, 83 kW motor
Engine Cylinders I4
Peak Horsepower 248 hp @ 4,000–6,500
Peak Torque 310 lb-ft @ 1,450–3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 3.5 Le/100 km combined (electric only); 8.8/7.7/8.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (hybrid)
Cargo Space 411 L
Model Tested 2019 BMW 530e M Performance Edition
Base Price $68,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,245
Price as Tested $83,645
Optional Equipment
$12,500 – M Performance Edition $12,500