Test Drive

Test driving the first BMW 5 series plug-in hybrid on Niagara’s picturesque streets

We took the BMW 530e xDrive out for a spin around the picturesque vineyards and shores of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here’s how it went down.

Written by Ross Dias

When travelling to the Niagara-on-the-Lake region—host to a multitude of award-winning wineries—the joy, most typically, lies in the destination. The journey there is navigable in two hours and change from the Toronto core, and can easily feel like an inconvenient chore in comparison to the delight ahead navigating the best the region has to offer.

I’ve made the journey south on a couple different occasions since moving to Toronto, and each time, the time spent in vehicle hasn’t been long enough to fully settle into the in-car experience. This time was different. From connecting to my smartphone via bluetooth, to the gesture controlling the in-dash screen, the entire technological set-up process was seamless. Within minutes, I settled right in to pointing and rotating my fingers to interact with the navigation system.

Drive

Upon arrival in the Niagara region, I parked the car to get charged up at the station, conveniently located in the parking lot of our hotel, while we went to grab some nourishment at a nearby diner. When we got back, the car was charged up enough to test out electric driving. The 530e is best equipped to utilize electric driving for leisurely in-town driving versus speeding along highway. Truth is, if not glancing at the dash, it’s hard to distinguish the feel of electric driving from its counterpart.

Cruising alongside picture perfect rows of vines, along the shoreline road next to the vineyards, or the region’s quaint main street, the car sped along at a relaxed pace. We switched over to two wheels on a four-hour bike tour of the many wineries in the region including Inniskillin, Pellar Estates, Pondview, and Reif. On a mechanical bike, facing country roads and a slight drizzle, I found myself longing for the car’s intuitive design and customization capabilities.

Technology

The coolest features in the BMW are the most discreet, including Head Up display—which projects relevant information, current speeds, and speed limits onto the windshield—and is visible only to the person in the driver’s seat.

And, the car’s systems adjusts to the driver—literally. Once the car is in motion, the automatic seat belts self-tighten to better secure passengers. Drivers can set up a custom profile to record their preferred seat or steering wheel height, along with other comfort settings. More than just bells and whistles, the features make it easy to feel familiar with the vehicle early on, which made our quick jaunt around Lake Ontario a recommendable experience in itself.