BMW has launched a new version of its huge-selling 5 Series saloon (and Touring estate) with the emphasis very much on electric power. From now on all 5 Series models will come with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The system will allow the engine to be shut down more when idling around town, and it offers a temporary 11hp boost when accelerating hard. BMW claims that the mild-hybrid tech results in an average emissions reduction of 9g per kilometre of CO2 across the various models.
There’s also a new plug-in hybrid version, the 545e. This borrows the six-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor set-up from the larger 745e, for a combined 286hp, but with CO2 emissions of as little as 49g/km (based on the old NEDC2 emissions test). The claimed electric-only range of the 545e, on a fully charged battery, is 57km.
It will sit alongside the existing 530e plug-in hybrid models (which use a four-cylinder petrol engine), which itself gains an extra variant; a four-wheel drive 530e x-Drive model.
BMW is adamant that such plug-in hybrid models can make a valid contribution to reducing emissions from private cars. Critics claim that company user-choosers (the heartland of BMW 5 Series buyers) pick a plugin for its tax advantages, but then rarely plug it in and use its electric performance to its full potential, ending up with a heavy half-electric car that burns more fuel on average than a conventional petrol or diesel model.
"We currently have 13 electric vehicle models in a total of 74 markets around the world. That's more any other new or established premium manufacturer," said Pieter Nota, BMW's board member for customer services and sales. "plug-in hybrids, deliver a very real and positive contribution to lowering emissions. The plug-in hybrid version of the new BMW 5 Series brings together both electric mobility and digital mobility ... With new BMW e-drive zones, we are using intelligent technology to further improve quality of life in urban areas."
Those e-drive zones are specific areas of European cities, marked on the 5 Series’ satellite navigation system, which are designated as low or zero-emissions zones. If one of those zones forms part of your journey, the car’s on-board systems will work out how best to deploy the electric and petrol power of the plug-in hybrid to ensure you arrive at the zone with enough battery range to cross it. BMW says that the tech helps the 5 Series to meet Germany’s Electric Mobility Act for classification as an electric vehicle, meaning that it can benefit from such things as cheaper parking or discounted tolls in some markets.
That e-drive tech comes packaged with a new navigation system that relies on cloud computing for route planning, and it can now read traffic information for minor roads as well as major ones, enabling 5 Series drivers to (theoretically) skip around jams and hold-ups. There’s also an integrated suite of office functions, allowing you to (safely, if you follow the users’ manual) access such things as email on the go. The 5 Series’ electronic driver aids have also been upgraded, including a more intelligent automated parking system, and lane-keeping and steering control systems that function all the way up to 210km/h (for those long days on endless Autobahns, we guess). The car also gets a “connected parking” system that can guide you towards empty spaces near your destination.
On the outside, the updated 5 Series gets a new nose, with slimmer headlights that now incorporate the distinctive L-shaped LED signature first seen on the 3 Series. The double-kidney grille has grown in size, but thankfully it seems that the 5 Series’ plastic surgeon is rather more deft and decorous than that of its bigger brother, the 7 Series. There’ll be no controversy over the front-end styling of this model, which is critical as BMW claims it is “the most successful business sedan in the world”. Giving such a big-selling model a proboscis of 7 Series proportions would have just been too big a risk. Those new headlights are adaptive LED units, which can even use data from the satnav to help twist and turn the beam to best light up the road ahead. BMW LaserLight units are optional, and there are new (equally optional) 20in alloy wheels that are more aerodynamically efficient, thus reducing the impact that they would normally have on the car’s CO2 figure.
Finally, the 5 Series will now come with over-the-air software updates, via the infotainment system’s built-in sim card. “This technology allows us to keep our vehicles up to date at all times and offer new services to our customers directly over the air,” says Nota. “Our customers expect nothing less from any of our customers that 5 is their business partner when they are on the road, provides support as a personal mobile office, as well as offering a sphere of privacy.”
Irish prices will start at €51,850 for a basic 520i, with the still-popular 520d kicking off at €52,100 (these are still indicative prices). The cheapest 530e will set you back €62,320 but that's before grants, so will actually cost €54,820 on the road. The new 5 Series will go on sale in Ireland and across Europe in July, with the 545e plug-in hybrid arriving in November.