BMW 5 Series hybrid review
“This pair of punchy PHEVs offer everything you’d expect from a 5 Series, plus excellent CO2 emissions"
- Decent pure-electric range
- Very low running costs
- Still a BMW 5 Series
- Pricey to buy
- Battery pack shrinks boot
- Some safety kit costs extra
The recently facelifted BMW 5 Series is our current class champion in the hard-fought executive sector, besting rivals such as the Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. Just like the smaller BMW 3 Series, there are plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options for eco-minded drivers – the four-cylinder 530e, plus the newer and more powerful 545e xDrive which has a six-cylinder petrol engine. The more expensive model has basically the same powertrain that’s fitted to the BMW X5 xDrive45e SUV.
As ever, it’s low C02 emissions that will push company-car drivers towards the PHEV models, as they qualify for the Benefit-in-Kind tax breaks. The four-cylinder 530e emits just 31-48g/km, while the punchier 545e records 38-54g/km, meaning both PHEV models are in a much lower tax bracket than the 520d diesel. If you’re looking for rivals, the Mercedes E-Class is available with petrol and diesel PHEV options - badged the E300e and E300de - both of which offer similar advantages and abilities to the 530e, if not the outright performance of the 545e.
While it might not be as sharp as some models in its long history, the latest 5 Series is a more driver-focused machine than the Mercedes, and that fact defines the way it feels. Where the Mercedes cossets, the BMW is more involving to drive, although it never feels uncomfortable.
PHEV models are fast, too. With power provided by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor producing a combined 249bhp, the 530e will get from 0-62mph in a brisk 5.9 seconds, while its top speed is 146mph. Power is channelled to the rear wheels by an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which incorporates the electric motor, and near-silent fully electric motoring is possible at up to 87mph.
The 3.0-litre six-cylinder 545e xDrive gets four-wheel drive as standard – xDrive is an option on the 530e – and steps things up to another level, with a combined output of 387bhp. The result is a claimed 4.6sec 0-62mph time and 155mph, via the same slick eight-speed auto gearbox.
Not only this, but the 530e can also travel for up to 37 miles on electric power when the battery is fully charged while the 545e has a maximum electric range of 33 miles, meaning you may be able to get to and from work without using any petrol at all. Both figures are a little better than the Mercedes E-Class E 300 e manages, but there’s not a lot in it.
The 530e’s official consumption figure varies between 157 and 202mpg but getting anywhere near these figures will depend entirely on keeping the car's battery charged up. The same goes for the 545e xDrive, which could be good for up to 166mpg according to BMW’s claims. Our testers managed almost 70mpg on a 40-odd mile route around Munich, including some motorway driving, so impressive figures are certainly achievable.
The PHEV models don’t seem to ride quite as smoothly as equivalent petrol and diesel models in the range, likely because of the car's extra weight, but they remain very smooth executive saloons. Practicality suffers because the extra hardware in the powertrain cuts into boot space, reducing it by 120 litres to 410 litres, but this is the same amount of space as you get in the Mercedes E 300 e hybrid.
The BMW 5 Series has been crash-tested by Euro NCAP and scored the full five stars, with impressive results across the board thanks to a strong bodyshell and comprehensive safety kit.
The 5 Series came a respectable 40th out of 75 cars in the 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, with owners particularly pleased by the engines and driving appeal of their cars. Whether you’re a company-car driver with an eye on tax savings, or a private buyer looking for comfortable, low-emissions urban transport, the 530e and 545e xDrive make a lot of sense. A fully electric 5 Series is already in development, and will join the line-up in 2023.
See how this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric