In the world of fleet, the accepted mantra for drivers looking to reduce their tax bills is “diesel good, petrol bad”.
However, BMW’s new EfficientDynamics package, which boosts fuel economy and lowers emissions through a host of mechanical changes such as capturing energy usually lost on engine over-run and braking to recharge the battery, is challenging this accepted wisdom.
Take the 530i, a previously overlooked model in the 5 Series line-up because of its close relative, the 530d. Thanks to EfficientDynamics the 530i now offers drivers lower tax bills and fuel economy which is closer to the diesel than ever before.
In the raft of changes made to the 5 Series range last month, the 530i gains more power (up 14bhp to 272), cuts 0.2 seconds from the 0-62mph time to 6.3 seconds and boosts fuel economy to 37.7mpg (a 24% improvement).
A 530i SE auto saloon will cost a 40% taxpayer £260 a month in benefit-in-kind tax, compared with £299 a month for a 530d SE auto. The petrol model is cheaper at the front-end and also avoids the 3% supplement on its diesel sibling. BMW claims the 530i will return 37.7mpg which closes the gap to the 530d’s combined average of 42.8mpg.
While the entry-level 520d will still account for the majority of sales (it helped the 5 Series reach a UK sales record of 19,606 units in 2006, of which fleet accounted for 61%), the 530i offers another option for drivers slightly higher up the corporate ladder.
And it will also help BMW spread the model mix, reducing its reliance on diesel which should mean stronger residuals across the range.
Behind the wheel
Torque is what the diesel 530d majors on, offering a tide of power from low down in the rev range to make progress effortless.
However, the 530i petrol offers a completely different driving experience. With peak power arriving at 6,700rpm, this is an engine that needs to worked harder to get the best from it. And thanks to its straight-six configuration, it makes a lovely silky howl as the revs build.
Both models handle beautifully, with a lovely weighty feel from the steering wheel, a balanced chassis and rear-wheel drive.
Inside, all models benefit from better quality materials and a slightly revised look to the centre console, while outside are some very subtle design tweaks.
The EfficientDynamics package has made a huge difference to the 530i – a car that offers near-diesel-like economy but with the extra refinement that comes from a petrol engine. The interior improvements are welcome and cement the model’s position as the executive car of choice.
Max power (bhp/rpm): 272/6,700
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 236/2,750
Max speed (mph): 155 (limited)
0-62mph (secs): 6.5
Fuel consumption (mpg): 37.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 178
On sale: Now
Price (OTR): £34,265