Crikey, Abarth's made something new. Meet the Alfa 4C-esque Sport Prototipo...
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£50,065 when new
My, hasn’t BMW been busy with its ‘e’ range. Very much so. And don’t forget that, with the i3 and i8, it was one of the first to embrace electricity. The 5 Series is another one following a route down this path, although in this case it’s a plug-in hybrid with a 12kWh battery powering a 94bhp electric motor and working in tandem with a four-cylinder petrol engine. Yes, that’s right – even BMW isn’t above calling a four-cylinder a something-dash-30. Cleverly, BMW has fitted the electric motor upstream from the transmission – in real-world terms, that means you’ll feel gearchanges even in electric mode – so that there’s no need to fit a torque converter. Net result? They’ve saved weight, a critical element in these porky plug-in hybrids. What’s the electric only range like? About 30 miles, which is similar to most rivals. This is a fourth gen battery, so capacity has been upped from 9kWh to the current (sorry…) 12 and there’s an Electric mode on the drive select that means the car will stick in that for as long as the battery will last. Within that mode, you can also configure it so that you can eke out as much range as possible by turning luxuries like the heated seats into an eco setting. Think of it like your very own technological hair shirt for those frosty mornings.
There’s also a handy display that tells you how far you’ve come on electric-only mode, so hypermiling may start to become part of your daily routine. The neat thing is that the transition between electric and normal hybrid, when the petrol kicks in, is smooth and seamless. Honestly, it’s a job to tell what’s running sometimes because everything is so refined. But what about the ‘traditional’ BMW traits? With 249bhp and 310lb ft, it doesn’t feel short of shove and the electric motor fills in any torque gaps nicely, but it’s definitely geared more towards relaxation than any sort of bahnstorming sports saloon. The ride on the launch car’s adaptive suspension (£985 option) is supple and rarely gets ruffled, even on some appalling roads, but it’s composed rather than fun. If the latter is what you’re after, the 330e is a better bet within the BMW plug-in stable. However, what the 530e does do well is grip. It feels so neutral and planted that you’d think there was some element of four-wheel drive trickery going on. Is it an xDrive? No, although you can buy one that is – for an extra £1,667. But our test car was a standard sDrive, so both the petrol and electric motors send all their power to the rear wheels. Should I buy one? As with most cars like this, it depends what you’ll use it for. As a relaxing, jump-in-and-go hybrid solution to the commute, it’s an impressive package. The real beauty of this 5 Series is its lack of fuss. Stick it in Hybrid and it’s a simple car to operate that doesn’t bamboozle you with too many driving options. There are sub menus that let you fiddle if you want to, but for everyday use, it’s an effortless thing. So long as you’ve remembered to plug it in, it’ll get you to where you need to go effortlessly without having to crack open the instruction manual.
£34,725 – £52,125
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Everything you'd ever need from a posh saloon, except just a little flash of soul
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