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Used test: BMW 530e vs Mercedes E300e

You can save almost £20,000 on either of these luxurious hybrids if you buy them at two years old, but which should you choose?...

BMW 530e vs Mercedes E300e fronts

The contenders

BMW 5 Series 530e M Sport Pro Pack

List price when new £54,820
Price today £35,000*
Available from 2017-present

Competent and classy, the BMW 5 Series only gets better in hybrid form

Mercedes E-Class E300e AMG Line Premium

List price £52,540
Price today £35,000*
Available from 2016-present

This frugal Mercedes E-Class variant has the credentials to bring the fight to its old foe 

*Price today is based on a 2021 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

There's an elephant in the room, and it relates to the BMW 5 Series 530e. As you might be aware, this is our Used Car of the Year 2023 so (spoiler alert) we believe it's pretty great. There you go, test over. 

Actually, not quite, because the 530e's crown isn't permanent. If anything, it needs challenging more so than anything else, and a rival used luxury car, the Mercedes E-Class E300e, is now more affordable than ever.

BMW 530e 2021 rear

Like the 530e, it's a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and the two models have similar electric ranges and CO2 outputs. For 2021, the E-Class was updated with fresh looks, an updated infotainment system and new safety equipment. Funnily enough, the 5 Series saw similar improvements the year before. 

So, in many ways, these two are like competitive siblings always trying to outdo each other. Who's got the upper hand this time? We're about to find out.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Both cars follow a near-identical recipe, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine coupled to an automatic gearbox and a sizeable electric motor sandwiched between the two. However, the E300e has the upper hand on paper, with a combined power output of 316bhp to the 530e’s 288bhp.

Mercedes E300e 2021 rear

That extra power helps the E300e sprint from 0-60mph marginally quicker, with a time of 5.3sec to the 530e’s 5.4sec. It’s unlikely you’ll be trying to tear the tread from your tyres on a regular basis, though.

A more useful barometer of real-world pace is the 30-70mph sprint that’s representative of a B-road overtake or getting up to motorway speed on a slip road. And here, there’s nothing to separate them in terms of times. You’ll need to plan a little further ahead in the E300e, though: its gearbox is more hesitant to respond, and if you’re running on battery power at the time, the petrol engine takes a moment longer to fire up.

Their swift acceleration may be welcome, but one of their biggest draw is these cars’ ability to run on electricity. On a crisp winter’s day, neither could match its official range, but the 530e did better, covering 22.5 miles before the battery was depleted. The E300e was not far behind, on 21.3 miles.

BMW 530e 2021 front pan

When it comes to ride comfort, our test cars couldn’t be much more disparate. Unlike the majority of AMG-Line E-Classes, the E300e doesn’t get lower, stiffer adaptive suspension that you can firm up or soften off at will. Instead, you get non-adaptive suspension that brings to mind a 1970s Cadillac.

Seriously soft springs make the E300e feel suitably wafty on the motorway, but even on relatively small (18in) wheels it gets easily upset by craggy road surfaces and expansion joints, causing the car to bobble around.

Things get worse when you turn on to an undulating country road. Loose body control means the car wallows and pitches in a way that might make your passengers quite queasy. It doesn’t even deal with sharp-edged potholes particularly well – thumps and thuds are both heard and felt.

Mercedes E300e 2021 front pan

Although the 530e is much firmer, partly because of its standard 20in wheels (you could get 19s at no extra cost when new), you’ll find it a much less irritating companion, thanks in part to the adaptive suspension that comes with the M Sport Pro Pack. It follows the road more closely, transferring more bumps to your posterior, but there’s far more control and consistency. On balance, the 530e is more pleasant to be in, especially as a passenger.

That firmer set-up also means the 530e handles far more sharply. True, it's not quite as agile as conventionally powered versions of the 5 Series, but you’d have to be pushing pretty hard to feel the additional weight of the battery. Most of the time you’ll just appreciate the precise and natural-feeling steering, and abundance of grip, which make it the more appealing car to drive along a winding road. In comparison, the E300e’s inconsistent steering, ship-like body lean and lower grip levels really put you off hustling it along your favourite road.

The E300e is slightly quieter at 70mph according to our decibel meter, although we found the wind whistle from around its standard panoramic roof to be more annoying than the 530e’s tyre roar. The E300e’s engine is a little coarser when you rev it hard, too.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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