New car road test: BMW ActiveHybrid5
BMW has taken the plunge into the hybrid sector with this, the ActiveHybrid5, a petrol/electric 5 Series saloon that at first glance, looks a very tempting executive segment choice. Using the turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six from the 535i, it adds an electric motor to up the power to 325ps and offers driving dynamics of a kind no other brand has yet managed with a hybrid.
Sounds great on paper then, but hefty pricing and strong internal competition from BMW's excellent diesel 5 Series models mean that the ActiveHybrid5 will be restricted to the tiniest of niches.
For the most part, this 5 Series feels anything but the typical hybrid. Fire it up as you would something more conventional then prod the throttle and it'll just feel reassuringly.... normal. But with an absolute bucketload of pulling power. In other words, if you didn't know it was a hybrid, you might not even guess.
BMW claim that this car should be able to run in electric-only mode for up to 2.4 miles and to a top speed of 37mph. The associated petrol powerplant is much the same turbocharged 3.0-litre engine that's found in the 535i.
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Even without any electrical help, this is an engine that will send a 5 Series to 60mph in 5.9 seconds and run it to an electronically-limited 155mph maximum. It has excellent steering and you have a car that feels at home on British roads.
BMW's Active Hybrid5 is a great technical achievement. A car that treads lightly in its application of hybrid technology, yet appears to yield real results. Drive one and there's the potential to enjoy yourself hugely. Enough even to almost make you want to forget the major caveat – namely that the alternative diesel 5 Series model is cheaper and more frugal. And the fact that you'd have to do a pretty high mileage before even financially justifying this car over its conventional petrol counterpart.