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Tom Crosby: 2018 BMW 530e highlights tech improvements

Tom Crosby

BMW has always enjoyed respect with its emphasis on technology and driving dynamics. With the 2018 seventh generation 5 series, progress continues with new technology advances and environmental emphasis to reduce carbon pollution.

Our test drive was the BMW 530e (for electric) xDrive (for four wheel grip) iPerformance (for plug-in hybrid) sport sedan. It’s similar to the first iPerformance, the popular 330e sedan, and now the fourth iPerformance – a feature helping the German manufacturer get discounts for U.S. buyers and meet CAFE standards.

The 530e travels only a short distance (15 miles) without using its turbo-charged gasoline consumption engine but is the only sedan in its category offering a plug-in hybrid-drive, green-oriented performance vehicle.

Performance remains impressive with seamless transition between the electric and gasoline motors and decent acceleration despite more than a 2-ton heft. The sport-oriented suspension system operates with 50-50 front/rear balance providing world-class handling. The 18-inch tires are run-flat; there is no spare.

The ride is comfortable whether in Sport, Comfort or Eco Pro driving mode. Each can hook up with electric power via settings for Max eDrive, Auto eDrive and Battery Control, which allows charging while driving. The plug-in charges in two hours with 240V and in roughly seven hours with 120V.

Our 530e was pricey, outfitted with 14 options totaling $14,065, the base cost of some compact cars if all you want is to get from point A to point B. But options add luxury, performance, lighting, audio, comfort and safety.

Outside, the exterior includes plenty of eDrive badging, BMW’s iconic dual kidney grille and few discernible additional changes.

The interior is classy and plush, with few knick-knack spaces and a reduced cargo area due to the lithium battery pack.

Impressive technology includes a new gesture control to operate some audio/phone functions. A heads-up display shows the posted speed limit and your speed in red when above the legal limit. Parking aids include locating and reserving garage parking spaces, calculating the chances of finding one and providing on-screen surround view when parking. An evasive function operates when the vehicle in front brakes aggressively suddenly, helping steer to unobstructed space around your vehicle. BMW Connected Onboard shows navigation details, plus weather at your destination. Top crash ratings safety ratings are anticipated. The 368-page manual is available on-screen.

LIKES: Handling, ride, luxurious interior, driving modes, technology, quiet.

DISLIKES: Reduced cargo space, non-extendable visors, low electric-only range.

BOTTOM LINE: Plenty of unique pluses for the price.

2018 BMW 530e xDrive iPerformance sedan

Base price plus destination fee: $55,695 ($68,760 as tested).

Vehicle weight: 4,442 lbs.

Wheelbase: 117.1 inches.

Length: 194.6 inches.

Width: 73.5 inches.

Engine: 2.0-liter, I-4, DOHC plus rear electric motor.

Horsepower: 180-hp gas only 248-hp gas/electric combined.

Torque: 215-ft.lb gas only 310-ft-lb gas/electric combined.

Transmission: 8-speed Steptronic w/manual paddles.

EPA rating averages: 28 mpg gas only; 67 mpg electric and gas; 15 miles electric only.

Range: 2.1 gallons, premium.

Performanc: 0-60 in just over 6 seconds.

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