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2021 BMW 530e masters driving tasks

James Raia

The 2021 BMW 530e handles all driving situations with ease.

The Grapeville technically extends on Interstate 5 only from Fort Tejon five miles north to the bottom of a six percent and 1,600-foot ascent.

More realistically, the challenging driving stretch covers 40 miles from just north of Castaic over the Tehachapi Mountains from northern Los Angeles County to the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County. It’s an ideal location to test drive a car, notably a recent 850-mile trip in a 2021 BMW 530e.

The 2021 BMW 530e handles all driving situations with ease.
The 2021 BMW 530e handles all driving situations with ease.

The south-to-north Grapevine route seems more arduous than the north-to-south route. Eighteen-wheel trucks often form long, tightly packed convoys in the right two lanes.

Speed limit followers travel in the third lane from the right. Drivers for whom rules don’t apply often opt for the far left lane. The speed limit, consideration of surrounding drivers and other safe driving habits are irrelevant.

German automakers’ vehicles have reputations for thriving on the Autobahn, which translated means “federal motorway.” A recent study revealed major sections of the system have an average speed limit of 88 miles per hour. Some segments don’t have mandated speed limits.

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Interstate 5 often isn’t much different. Negotiating the Grapevine adds steep ascents and descents, few flat sections and long sweeping segments often at high speeds. The weather can change quickly and obstacle courses of scattered faulty truck retreads are common.

The 2021 BMW 530e is a plug-in hybrid luxury sedan.
The 2021 BMW 530e is a plug-in hybrid luxury sedan.

The summit of the Grapevine, named after the area’s former abundance of wild grapevines, has an elevation of 4,144 feet. It’s located not too far from the unincorporated community of Gorman.

While plug-in hybrids sometimes get stereotyped as sluggish, the BMW 530e arrived at the summit after a command performance. Its 0-60 miles per hour rating is 5.2 seconds. The steepest sections of the Grapevine didn’t present much of a challenge.

The BMW 530e maneuvered through traffic, avoided wayward tire chunks with confident, agile moves. The sedan accelerated past struggling vehicles and incompetent drivers without concern. It’s what BMW does best. It makes competent drivers better.

In its 2021 5-series lineup, BMW listed only a few minor changes to the previous year’s offerings. The rear-wheel-drive, four-door sedan is marketed with seating for five. The seventh-generation is available with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine and also a V8. All offerings have eight-speed automatic transmissions.

The 530e is the most fuel-efficient choice. It combines the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the system’s single electric motor, both slightly retuned for 288 horsepower, 40 more than in 2020. New also this year are a redesigned, larger (12.3-inch) and a tech updated infotainment system.

Fuel economy is 26 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. The combined gasoline-electric rating is 64 MPGe. The EV range (untested) is 21 miles.

Personal device users rejoice. The 530e has a USB-A and a 12-volt outlet in the front and a USB-C port nearly hidden in the center console. Two USB-Cs and a 12-volt outlet are handy for rear-seat passengers. Wireless charging is available as part of the $1,850 Premium Package. It also includes heated front seats, a head-up display and a Harman Kardon audio system.

The BMW 530e EV status further adds to the BMW’s solid reparation as a luxury sedan. It’s appointed well, with well-bolstered seating and quality materials throughout the interior. Its third attraction is the sedan’s sports car leaning. The optional M Sport package ($2500) and M Sport brakes ($650) add to the fun. No extra cost 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 ZP summer tires, sized 245/40R-19 in front and 275/35R-19 at the rear further advance the sporting performance.

With a starting price of $57,200, the BMW 530e is a few thousand dollars more than the non-hybrid 530i. But it also earns a $5,836 federal tax credit, a substantial incentive. The total price with the tested options was $70,485.

The German Autobahn, the Grapevine or any other driving circumstances, the 2021 BMW 530e welcomes all challenges.

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Article Last Updated: August 6, 2023.

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