First Look: BMW ActiveHybrid 5

By Christian Stampfer on 23 December 2011
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Finally, a BMW Hybrid for the Masses

Last month, the all-new BMW AcitveHybrid 5 celebrated its world debut at the Tokyo Motor Show. BMW already offers the ActiveHybrid 7, a mild hybrid, and the ActiveHybrid X6, a full-hybrid , but the sales figures of both vehicles are below BMW´s original expectations.

With the introduction of the intelligent hybrid drive for the 5 series, BMW is now offering its hybrid technology to a wider customer base.  It’s also offering a hybrid that will meet buyer expectations for fuel economy with  consumption of 5.7 l/100 km (41.25 mpg) on the highway and 6.7 l/100 km (35 mpg) in town.

These numbers compare favorably with the ActiveHybrid 7, rated at 13.86 l/100 km (17 mpg) in the city and 9.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) on the highway, and the ActiveHybrid X6, rated 13.86/12.4 (17/19).  Indeed, Jonathan Spira noted that the X6 hybrid “makes a great case in favor of the X5 xDrive35d.”

The ActiveHybrid 5 will be the automaker’s second full-hybrid that can attain 60 km/h (37 mph) with no CO2 emissions while driving in an all-electric mode, but it’s the company’s first effort at adding electric power to the highly-refined turbo-charged 3.0-liter inline six.

The hybrid setup places the electric motor in between the TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder petrol engine and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The electric motor adds 55 hp (40 kW) and 155 pound-feet (210 Nm)of torque and is powered by a 96-cell, 0.68-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted between the rear wheels.

The combined power output is 340 hp (250 kW) and 332 pound-feet (450 Nm) of torque.  This pushes the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 from 0 -100 km/h (0 – 62 mph) in 5.9 seconds. Fuel consumption is between 6.4 to 7.0 l/100 km (36.7 to 33.6 mpg).

Standard (and not unexpected) energy saving features include brake-energy regeneration and engine start-stop that shuts the gasoline engine down when coasting and stopped.  Other EfficientDynamics features that are standard on this 5er are air flap control, electric power steering, and tires with reduced rolling resistance.  Navigation is standard. 18” Streamline-design alloy wheels (optional) further improve aerodynamics, and the ActiveHybrid 5 badges on the C-pillars do their part as well.

The new ActiveHybrid 5 features Eco Pro, a unique drive mode, which was developed specifically for the vehicle. While BMW’s standard Driving Dynamics Control system allows the driver to choose from Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings, which change throttle, transmission, stability control, and suspension appropriately, the ActiveHybrid 5 has a fourth choice, namely, Eco Pro.  What Eco Pro does (think of it as the opposite of Sport or Sport+) is to optimize settings for maximum fuel efficiency while making the electric motor do as much of the work as possible. Indeed, in this mode, the engine can shut down while coasting at speeds of up to 160 km/h (100 mph).

To provide the best fuel economy possible, the ActiveHybrid 5’s powertrain uses external information to deliver what BMW calls “intelligent energy management.”  This means that information about road conditions and altitude impacts how the car will optimize its use of battery power.

When the ActiveHybrid 5 gets to the U.S. (prices have not yet been released), it will probably not command the $25,000 price premium that the other ActiveHybrids have sought since it will compete with the new Infiniti M Hybrid and the 2013 Lexus GS450h (which has improved fuel-sipping technology over the current GS Hybrid) and Audi’s new A6 Hybrid, all likely to be in the $55-60,000 range.  Perhaps this price range isn’t quite for the masses but it’s 40% less than the 7er Hybrid and has newer and better hybrid technology to boot.