2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 5. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
Sometimes green cred comes with a price.
Case in point is this BMW ActiveHybrid 5. With an as tested sticker of $78,190 (base $69,990) no one will be buying this rear-drive luxury mid-size sedan just to save money on fuel. And certainly not because it is a better drive than the non-hybrid 535i xDrive.
In this realm, hybrid power becomes more a desired luxury item than a practical consideration. And for some, worth the cost.
While its $5,090 premium over the 535i xDrive nets some extra kit (navigation with voice recognition, Gracenote database, 10.3-inch display, 12-speaker audio), you’re also gaining 60 kg and losing all-wheel drive, a folding rear seat and a fair whack of trunk space due to the 96-cell lithium-ion battery pack.
Although one thing you’re not losing is the ability of this 5 Series to get out of its own way in a hurry. The BMW AH 5 scoots with an authority that belies its fuel-sipping mandate. No eco-weenie, this.
Kinda’ like having your cake and eating it too, no? Except this cake has a couple of funny bits that suggest the chef was off his game that day.
But first the good stuff. This hybrid drivetrain (also found in the 3 Series and 7 Series) starts with BMW’s N55 TwinPower turbocharged 3.0L straight-six, which in normal application makes 300 hp, 300 lb-ft, and can be fairly described as one of the better engines fashioned by humankind.
In hybrid trim, an electric motor worth 54 hp and 155 lb-ft is wedged between the six-pot and a modified version of the 5 Series’ ZF eight-speed autobox. Combined output is 335 hp and 330 lb-ft.
Were Kermit to plant his fuzzy flipper on the happy pedal, he’d surely bellow, “It’s not wimpy being green!”
Ah, but you’re not going to be driving your new ActiveHybrid 5 like this, are you? You didn’t spend all that money for the sacred hybrid badge just to wantonly burn fuel willy-nilly.
No, you’ll be salving your eco-guilt by using every bit of this 5 Series’ cool technology, most of which comes into play when driving in EcoPro mode (don’t even think about Sport or Sport+) and visualizing a soft fluffy kitten lodged between your right hoof and the throttle.
I drove like this for most of my time with the AH 5 to see what I could coax out of it. Around my ‘hood, it would hum about in EV mode at speeds up to 60 km/h, and of course the all-important parking lot cruise was accomplished in electrical silence. The AH 5 also decouples and shuts down its engine when decelerating or coasting at speeds up to 160 km/h. The only thing weirder than flying along at 120 km/h with the tach showing zero rpm is the absolute seamlessness of this transition. Brush the throttle and the tach swings back into action – your only clue to this mechanical wizardry.
At the end of the week, I saw 9.2 L/100 km. Official figures for the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 are 8.3 L/100 km city and 6.4 L/100 km highway. The BMW 535i xDrive is rated 9.7 L/100 km city and 6.6 L/100 km highway.