BMW 530e Sedan Review – Circuit City

Several years ago, you’d be hard pushed to go to any major American city and not stumble upon a Circuit City. Founded in 1949 by Samuel Wurtzal, Circuit City went on to become an incredibly popular electronic superstore of the 1970’s and beyond. It was THE place to go for virtually anything you wanted electronically, from finished goods to components, from iconic old brands to the new and conceptual – electronics were in and Circuit City was leading the charge.

Unfortunately, due to a myriad of reasons, 2009 saw the superstore giant close its doors, but the story doesn’t end there, it would appear that plans are afoot to relaunch the brand and reclaim its place in the market – and after all, everyone loves a comeback story.

To a lesser degree, it’s safe to say that the automotive love affair with Sedans is going through a cooler period. A vehicle style that used to flood our roads, has made way for bigger, more (often underutilised) lifestyle vehicles. However, European prestige car marque BMW continue to see light at the premium end of the sedan market tunnel.

The 5 series has always commanded a lot of respect from executives and managers and the new ‘breed’ launched recently has underlined their commitment. By merging new styling, with increased technology and advanced manufacturing materials, BMW are producing arguably their best 5 series models yet. The 530e takes all their recent learnings and adds in BMW’s continually expanding social conscience.

From the outside, it’s difficult to spot that the 530e is a hybrid (and a plug in one to boot). Discreet badging, blue veins in the kidney grille and a colour coded flap on the front wing – the result is hardly a futuristic standout like the i8/3. But, to me, this makes it more of a selling point. It’s like quietly donating to your favourite charity but not making a big song and dance about it.

On the subject of tunes, there is a small issue of sound with the 530e, I do need to bring up engine note – let’s just say that even under high revs the Twin Turbo 4 Cylinder petrol engine with electro-synchronous motor, hardly has a tuneful chorus. Don’t get me wrong, it still produces 185kW/420Nm but it’s the ‘voice’ that does not befit the style. That being said, when connected to the 8 speed Auto Gearbox, the 530e has a reported fuel economy of 2L/100km combined and emits CO2 at a rate of 46g/km – so I guess; that’s worth singing about.

For once, and I’m not saying this is either good or bad, the press car was essentially standard spec. Only the wheels had been upgraded to 19”, the glass had been darkened a little and the Dakota leather interior was night blue with contrast stitching. The rest of the car including the Sportline package (sports seats), Gesture Control, Adaptive Cruise, Harman/Kardon sounds, Park assistant with 360-degree camera, adaptive LED headlamps, real time traffic and weather, multi-functional instrument display… were all fresh out of the box, and that in itself was impressive.

Something of particular note was the head up display. In keeping with the latest versions of the 5 Series, it cleverly reads speed signs and projects them up on the screen, but on top of that, when you load a destination into the the navigation system, the information delivered via the head up is huge – hard to explain but it’s well worth seeing.

The blue leather seats took a bit a of getting used to for me, but by the end of the week’s review period I became a fan. They are a breakaway from the standard black and seemed to match the exterior paint well. The seats themselves were BMW comfortable.

I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, but until I change the infrastructure of my home, plugging in a car at night will always cause me a certain amount of pain. As if to underline my feelings, the weather gods were unkind that week, so that just added fuel to my excuse fire. Fully charged the ‘electric tank’ will give you 30ks of ‘electric only’ power which for many is adequate. But I also learned that (even if you know where you’re going), you should use the navigation system. It let’s the car know the route you are taking and it will best distribute the power – ie spare the batteries on the motorway – which I found pretty smart.

The 530e is a sedan that effectively fits into your lifestyle (rather than the other way around). It gives you priority parking at the mall (via the charge station parks) but its styling definitely doesn’t scream ‘tree hugger’. It’s smart and safe, handles well and rides smoothly. Its ‘silent start’ you get used to quite quickly but you may miss (like me) that big engine power sound (I’m told I have to get over it). The 530e may be great on the open road, but its clever tech really completes the motoring circuit in the city.

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