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BMW luxury hybrid BMW sixth hy

This big sedan, capable of driving up to 43km using only electric power, will join the smaller 330e sedan, X5 xDrive 40e SUV, 740e limo and i8 super-sports coupe in the Bavarian brand’s PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) line-up.

Arch rival Mercedes-Benz has four PHEVs, Porsche only a pair. Audi, Mitsubishi and Volvo also have PHEV models.

BMW, which also has the electric-only i3 city car in its catalogue, is pushing ahead with electric mobility more forcefully than anyone else — even though consumer interest remains low and government incentives for plug-in cars, common elsewhere in the world, are non-existent in Australia.

But the 530e doesn’t deserve to be ignored. This is a desirable and capable luxury car that just happens to be a PHEV.

BMW 530e: Desirable and capable luxury car ... with a battery.

BMW 530e: Desirable and capable luxury car ... with a battery.Source:Supplied

Conventional versions of BMW’s latest 5 Series with turbo petrol and diesel four and six-cylinder engines went on sale in Australia in March, and the 530e shares their strong points.

It’s a good-looking car with a luxuriously roomy interior, packed with the latest in safety, driver-aid and infotainment tech. Thanks to its graceful handling and smooth ride, it’s a pleasure to drive.

As with other iPerformance models, the electric motor of the 530e is housed in the front of its automatic transmission, where a torque converter would normally be found.

A clutch between the 2.0-litre turbo four and the electric motor connects or disconnects the two power sources.

Performance is brisk when both are working together. According to BMW, the 530e is as quick as the 530i (0-100km/h in 6.2 secs) but uses only one-third the fuel in the official consumption test.

Brisk performance: BMW 530e is as quick as the petrol 530i.

Brisk performance: BMW 530e is as quick as the petrol 530i.Source:Supplied

The electric motor adds a real kick to acceleration, especially noticeable when moving off from rest.

The 530e’s default driving mode is Auto eDrive, in which the drivetrain computer blends internal combustion and electric power and, as it seeks efficiency, frequently shuts down the engine. Floor the accelerator and the engine starts instantly.

In this mode the 530e can reach 90km/h on electric power alone. BMW’s engineers have done a great job of making this complex drivetrain work really smoothly.

Switching to eMax mode turns the 530e into a purely electric car for as long as there is charge in the lithium-ion battery pack beneath the rear seat. Performance, though reduced, is still lively enough for most situations and top speed in this mode is 140km/h.

BMW 530e: Drive modes will preserve battery charge or combine it with petrol power.

BMW 530e: Drive modes will preserve battery charge or combine it with petrol power.Source:Supplied

Some drivers will achieve BMW’s claimed electric-only range of 43km. Our enthusiastic driving in eMax on Bavarian backroads drained the battery just short of 30km.

A second test, in slower moving traffic, gave a better result. The 530e drove the last 30km back to BMW’s test centre outside Munich using electric power exclusively, with 17km of battery range remaining on arrival.

The final option, Battery Control mode, enables from 30 per cent to 100 per cent of the charge to be held until needed — for example, in city centres in Europe and elsewhere that ban internal combustion vehicles or impose fees for access.

The new 5 Series was designed from the start to accept plug-in tech. It shows. The car’s only serious shortcoming compared to regular versions is a reduction in boot space to a still spacious 410L.

BMW is yet to announce a firm price for the 530e but it’s likely to be only a few thousand more than the 530i. Increasing global demand for plug-in hybrids is making the tech less costly, say BMW engineers.

AT A GLANCE

BMW 530e

BMW 530e: Lithium battery is under rear seat.

BMW 530e: Lithium battery is under rear seat.Source:Supplied

PRICE $113,000 (est)

WARRANTY

3 years/unlimited km

SERVICE INTERVAL

Condition-based

SERVICING $1640 for

5 years/80,000km

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo,

synchronous electric motor,

total output 185kW/420Nm

TRANSMISSION

8-speed auto; RWD

THIRST 2.3L/100km

DIMENSIONS

4936mm (L), 1868mm (W),

1483mm (H), 2975mm (WB)

WEIGHT 1845kg

SPARE None; run-flats

SLICKER 4 SERIES IN STORE

Handling update is on the way: Series convertible and coupe.

Handling update is on the way: Series convertible and coupe.Source:Supplied

THERE’S another update on the way for BMW’s 4 Series family.

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