BMW made a pretty big deal about its plans to introduce plug-in hybrid versions of most of its lineup in the next year, including a potential 670 horsepower Power eDrive system. Meanwhile in China, the BMW 530LE plug-in hybrid was quietly unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show. Why is BMW keeping hush on its latest hybrid?
To be sure, this seems like the kind of car you would want to talk up. The extended-wheelbase BMW 530LE PHEV adds a 30 horsepower electric motor in the place of the torque converter in the ZF 8-speed transmission. This is paired to the 242 horsepower four-cylinder engine for a healthy total of 272 ponies and augmented by an electric driving range of 58 km, or about 36 miles. BMW says that fully charged, the BMW 530LE delivers 112 MPGe, another figure you’d figure they’d want to trumpet.
Unfortunately all that efficiency comes at the cost of top speed, at a paltry 120 KPH, or just 75 MPH. 0 to 60 MPH figures aren’t listed, but they’re likely to be just as embarrassingly bad. That might fly in China, but it won’t fly just about anywhere else. No wonder BMW didn’t make a big deal about it.
So what’s going on here? Well technically this vehicle is built by the BMW-Brilliance joint manufacturing partnership, which China law dictates is necessary to avoid paying a whole slew of import taxes and fees. The 530LE is built in China, for China, and with a new wave of incentives for plug-in cars, BMW seems to have moved quickly to try and capitalize.
While it might sip fuel and go pretty far on electric power only, I’d hardly call the 530LE plug-in hybrid the Ultimate Driving Machine. However, with all the cool plug-in cars BMW has already given us, like Top Gear’s Car of the Year, I figure we can overlook this one.