2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 – Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 13 July 2013
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BMW introduced its first hybrids, the ActiveHybrid X6 and ActiveHybrid 7, back in 2009. IMG_8451 Since then, the luxury segment has seen the introduction of hybrids from a variety of automakers, including Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

What the ActiveHybrid 5 has in common with its ActiveHybrid predecessors is BMW’s ActiveHybrid branding.   Other than that, the ActiveHybrid 5 has far more sophisticated technology in place.

The 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is powered by a turbo-charged 3.0-liter inline six plus an electric motor. The hybrid setup places the electric motor between the engine and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. The motor adds 55 hp and 155 pound-feet of torque and is powered by a 96-cell lithium-ion battery pack that is mounted between the rear wheels.  The battery stores enough energy to allow the car to go up to four kilometers (2.5 miles) in all-electric mode at an average speed of 35 km/h (22 mph).

The combined powerDSC_3047 output is 335 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque and pushes the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 from a standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 5.7 seconds. Fuel consumption is 30 mpg (7.84 l/100 km) on the highway, and 23 (10.23) in town. The car’s city fuel economy figures are identical to the less powerful BMW 528i (which admittedly gets better fuel economy on the highway, 34 mpg or 6.92 l/100 km). The 17.7 gallon (67 liter) fuel tank gives the car a range of 530 miles (853 kilometers).

An Azurite Black ActiveHybrid 5 is the newest member of The Diesel Driver’s long-term test fleet.  We took delivery of it in May at the BMW Welt in Munich and it arrived in the U.S. at the end of June.


Just as with most other hybrids, in the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, the internal-combustion engineDSC_3062 is augmented by the electric motor.  When the driver wants full throttle, the electric motor engages and the additional 55 hp and 155 pound-feet of torque is immediately apparent, both on the speedometer and in the Freude am Fahren (Joy of Driving) meter (more on this in a moment).

The ActiveHybrid 5 marks the first time that BMW has mated its vaunted inline-six to a hybrid assembly.  It’s also the first BMW hybrid to get an eight-speed automatic and (could it get any better?) there’s an optional “sport” version that offers faster shifts.  Unlike the ActiveHybrid 7, the 5er can operate as a pure electric vehicle for up to 2.5 miles (4 kilometers), at speeds of up to 37 mph (60 km/h).  The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack located in the trunk (which in turn reduces room back there from 14 cubic feet (396 liters) to 8.5 (241).  While the battery pack also powers the air conditioner’s compressor, everything else, think turn signals, brake lights, and so on, is run by the car’s conventional 14-volt systems.

As most other hybrids, the motor serves as a generator during deceleration. DSC_3176 The difference here is that, when the driver decides to coast (i.e. foot off accelerator), the system completely disengages and shuts down the engine.  This in turn eliminates pumping loses and the mechanical drag associated with the drivetrain, thereby improving fuel efficiency.

My favorite feature is one I hadn’t read about until I started driving the 5er: the navi will automatically optimize the route based on certain criteria including route topography and goes beyond systems (including BMW’s) that plot the most economical routes based on traffic and speed limits.  The ActiveHybrid 5 uses this data as well as elevation (i.e. are there big hills involved in the drive) and other real-time data to determine the best time to both use and recharge its battery.

The best example of this is a hill (or small mountain) en route to your destination.  The car knows this is there and plans to recharge the battery during descent.

The car’s Eco Pro mode further optimizes the operation of the hybrid system to improve fuel economy.

Click here to continue to Page 2Real-Time Data Analysis, Driving the ActiveHybrid 5, Specifications and Equipment

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