It took me awhile to finally get behind the wheel of the latest BMW 5 Series, and the G30 was worth the wait. Some cars make you wonder if it’s all the car you need, but the 530i M Sport had this writer wondering if it’s the best car in the world.

Some background. Each of us has our list of priorities when it comes to cars, and for the majority, the order changes with time and/or circumstance. There are of course exceptions – our Anthony Lim liked fast hatchbacks 30 years ago and his hatches have only got hotter since – but by and large, as drivers, we evolve.

Call it ageing if you like, but of late, I’ve come to appreciate comfort and refinement as much as thrill behind the wheel – perhaps more so than some of my colleagues, as you may have noticed in our 2017 Top Five Cars list.

It was from this viewpoint that I rated the B9 Audi A4, which like the BMW here, rocks a sharp but restrained business suit very well. But the G30 5 Series is the ultimate business athlete – supremely effective and effortless as a tool, yet always game for a B-road hustle whenever you are. Possibly a flare-up of the luxury express itch, but I don’t remember a car ticking so many of my (current) boxes, down to VQ 772’s colour and trim. Even the seatbelt smelled of flowers!

The G30 possesses an amazingly balanced set of qualities in a world of compromises, and I could think of no area where improvement was really needed. But an extra dose of efficiency never hurts, especially when no quarter is given in exchange. Fortunately, such a car exists for those with matching pay brackets. It’s the BMW 530e iPerformance, and it will be launching this month in Malaysia.

The 530e iPerformance is the 5 Series equivalent of the 330e iPerformance that has been selling well for BMW in Malaysia. In the F30’s case, the plug-in hybrid effectively replaced the 330i in the local line-up, but it remains to be seen if the 530e will replace or complement the 530i. Launched here in March 2017 as a CBU import before being replaced by a CKD locally-assembled version in September, the 530i M Sport is currently the sole G30 on sale here.

The 530e’s powertrain recipe is similar to the 330e’s, but improvements to the eDrive technology have been made. The main heart of the car is a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo engine with 184 hp and 320 Nm of torque.

Its silent partner in crime is a 113 hp/250 Nm electric motor living within the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Positioning the electric motor upstream from the transmission allows the gearbox ratios to be used in full electric mode and negates the need for a torque converter. The latter partially cancels out the extra weight of the additional drive unit.

Total system output is 252 hp and 420 Nm, which is identical in power with the ICE-only 530i and 70 Nm up. The 530e does the benchmark 0-100 km/h sprint in a hot hatch rivalling 6.2 seconds (matching the 530i) and a top speed of 235 km/h. It’s fully deserving of the ’30’ badge in performance terms, then.

The ‘e’ in the name brings big gains in efficiency, though. The 530e’s official New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) fuel consumption figure is 1.9 litres of petrol per 100 km, which translates to 52.6 km/l. That’s both amazing and unachievable, but the 530i on the same cycle does 5.5 litres per 100 km (18.2 km/l). The PHEV is much less polluting too, at 44 g/km CO2 emissions compared to 126 g/km.

There’s a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with integrated low-temperature circuit and refrigerant cooling under the rear seats. Fully juiced, it’s capable of powering the 530e in electric mode at speeds of up to 140 km/h, and claimed pure EV range is 50 km. The combined real-world range in hybrid mode can be up to 650 km, Munich says.

The vital stats are superior to the 330e, but only on the electric and efficiency fronts, as the smaller iPerformance sedan has a similar combined system output of 252 hp and 420 Nm. The 330e’s battery is a less powerful 5.7 kWh unit, which gives it claimed fuel consumption of 2.1 litres per 100 km (47.6 km/l), CO2 emissions of 49 g/km and a theoretical all-electric range of 35 km. Max EV speed is 120 km/h.

Of course, the 530e isn’t the first PHEV in its class. Launched in October 2017, the Mercedes-Benz E350e is powered by a 2.0 litre turbo engine with 208 hp/350 Nm, paired to an e-motor with 87 hp/440 Nm. Total system output is 281 hp/550 Nm – sounds mighty, but so does the C350e’s 600 Nm, which from experience is rather difficult to detect.

The RM393k Merc (RM396k for AMG Line) also does the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.2 seconds. Its 6.2 kWh battery is good for a pure EV range of 33 km and maximum EV speed of 130 km/h. The NEDC FC figure is 2.1 litres per 100 km (47.6 km/l) and CO2 emissions is at 57 g/km.

The W213’s eye-catching total system output aside, the 530e is ahead in all PHEV and efficiency parameters – battery capacity, EV range, max EV speed, combined FC and CO2 emissions. Both big RWD saloons are tied in the century sprint.

There’s also the Volvo S90 T8 Twin Engine, which is available from RM369k. The PHEV S90’s 320 hp/400 Nm 2.0 litre twincharged engine sends drive to the front axle via an eight-speed auto. At the back, an 87 hp/240 Nm e-motor draws juice from a 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery to power the rear wheels. Total system output is 407 hp and 640 Nm, good for 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. The big Swede’s pure EV range is rated at 50 km, claimed FC is 2.0 litres per 100 km (50 km/l) and C02 emissions is 46 g/km.

More than ever, the big Volvo looks good in the metal and on paper, and it’s good value too. Volvo has sold a good number of PHEV XC90s in Malaysia, but pushing a big sedan against the 5 Series and E-Class is a tougher ask.

The 530e can be fully charged in under five hours from a standard domestic power socket and in under three hours if it is hooked up to a BMW i Wallbox (3.7 kW charging capacity).

Available later this year, BMW Wireless Charging will be an interesting option. The system consists of a base pad with integrated primary coil and a secondary coil on the floor of the car. An alternating magnetic field is generated between the two coils, through which electricity is transmitted without cables or contacts at a charge rate of up to 3.2 kW. Three-and-a-half hours for a full charge, hands free.

If there’s one compromise, it’s boot space – the 530e accepts 410 litres of cargo, less than the 530i’s 530 litres but slightly ahead of the E350e’s 400. And unlike the stepped load bay of the Mercedes, the boot floor can be made flat or recessed here – the latter position allowed us to fit in one large suitcase and a medium sized case, with room left for a duffel bag.

The 530e will be just another G30 to most, but those in the know will be able to spot the blue kidney grille slats, blue wheel hub covers, eDrive emblems on the C pillars, and of course – the charging socket flap located just behind the driver’s side front wheel on our left-hand-drive tester. The flap’s location is unchanged on RHD cars, which means you’ll refuel on the driver’s side and recharge on the passenger side.

Things are similarly subtle inside. The door sill panels have illuminated eDrive logos, while an eDrive button resides on the centre console, next to the gear lever. Pressing that will bring out unique pages on the central screen and custom displays for the digital instrument cluster.

From the eDrive button, the driver can select Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Battery Control modes. Auto is the default mode, where the car behaves like a typical hybrid. Here, the system uses pure electric power whenever possible, and drive from the e-motor is used to boost acceleration. The all-electric top speed in this mode is 90 km/h.

Max eDrive is the “EV Mode” of the 530e. Selecting it forces the car to move on electric power alone. Max speed is 140 km/h, but high speed EV cruising depletes the battery fast. Stand on the accelerator and the engine will kick in to help acceleration.

Lastly, Battery Control mode allows the driver to set the charge level for the battery manually. The electric motor acts as a generator during journeys (on the highway for instance) and the target value can be adjusted to between 30% and 100%, allowing the chosen proportion of the battery’s capacity to be reserved for all-electric driving at a later point. There’s greater flexibility here than in the 330e’s Save Battery mode, which caps charging at 50%.

We recently sampled the 530e on a jaunt from Munich to Salzburg, just across the Germany-Austria border. The straightforward route would be a high speed run on the A8, but we opted to head east without using the motorway. The scenic route gave us the chance to drive the 530e on (not quite free) flowing B roads that connect the sleepy villages dotting the Bavarian countryside. The return leg was a high speed, pure motorway drive.

With no access to overnight charging in both cities, we used the 530e as we would a “530i Hybrid”, relying purely on energy regeneration to replenish the eDrive battery. No forcing the issue with Max eDrive or handing extra charging duties to the engine via Battery Control.

Despite going all organic and not utilising the PHEV’s full potential, it was surprising to learn that 100 km of our 428 km round trip was powered by electric, with 143 km on the distance to empty column. Average fuel consumption was 8.1 litres per 100 km (12.3 km/l) on the trip computer.

While this is miles off the NEDC figure, we think it’s a decent return for a big saloon hauling two humans and their luggage, without the benefit of plug-in charging. Instead of trying to achieve a good score, we were trying to catch a flight, so these are figures that owners will be able to top, comfortably.

We managed to squeeze 25 km of pure electric driving from the 330e’s less powerful battery before (NEDC EV range 35 km), so up to 30 km of emissions-free driving every morning in the 530e should be achievable. That would boost average FC considerably.

Despite the complexity of an extra power source and the juggling between engine and motor, the 530e feels very normal to drive. You will in no time get used to the BMW almost always starting off in electric mode, in relative silence save for the unmistakable sound of an electric motor coming to life. If you’ve never driven a hybrid or EV before, it’s the same “uuuuUUUU” sound made by golf karts.

Compared to simpler hybrids such as the Honda Jazz Hybrid and Hyundai Ioniq, it’s easier to keep the 530e rolling in electric – while the engine won’t kick in at the slightest hint of acceleration, you’ll want to be light-footed to maximise pure EV driving, and ultimately, FC. I always get sucked into this healthiest of challenges in hybrid cars, but we had no time to spare and a destination to reach.

You’ll definitely hear the engine when it finally comes to life, but it’s a more subtle entrance here than in the 330e, or the C350e’s uncouth barging in. The neutralising agent is the G30’s limo-like isolation, which works together with top notch rolling and drivetrain refinement for a “Comfort Pack” that’s standard across the range.

The available Steering and Lane Control Assistant uses the car’s radar and stereo camera to help keep it in the centre of its lane, and we found the system’s invisible hands to be good help in monotonous highway driving. Like how flying business class keeps an exec fresh for the work ahead, today’s 5 Series is a fantastic way to accumulate Autobahn miles in.

The e-motor’s low-end contribution to acceleration is palpable, and it ensures that you’ll get back to your rhythm in the least effort possible. As usual, the ZF eight-speeder shines by being so inconspicuous – you hardly notice it because it never puts a foot wrong, much like N’Golo Kanté in Leicester’s title winning machine. Mercedes may be on-form, but Munich’s perpetual lead in the powertrain department continues.

The 530e drives much like the 530i, which means it’s more agile than its build suggests, although it feels every inch its size on European country roads. The steering is light and easy, if not rich on sensation. Ride comfort is a strong point that dovetails perfectly with the above-mentioned refinement.

Much like the G30’s exterior, the cabin is trademark BMW, but updated with modern technology and displays. I like the fact that they’ve kept with the driver focused tradition and its classical cues such as the angled centre stack and twin dials, even though the panel is fully digital now.

BMW’s pioneering iDrive is still the best and most intuitive centralised control system in town, now displayed on a 10.25-inch touchscreen and supported by voice and gesture controls. There are still plenty of physical buttons around the driver though; this may not do much for looks (Audi’s specialty) but it’s user friendly. The cabin’s materials and ambience are steps up from the previous F10 generation.

What’s not to like? Nothing, really – the 530e is an improvement on the best car in its class. What’s unknown at this point is the Malaysian spec and pricing, but we’re expecting the 530e to be as well-equipped and value for money as the 330e, which also undercuts the equivalent Mercedes PHEV by a good margin. A stellar performance.