BMW ActiveHybrid 5 (F10) Test Drive Review

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 (F10) Test Drive Review

by -

The last three years have seen a dramatic explosion in the popularity of hybrid vehicles, as models such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight all enjoyed stellar sales numbers. But let’s be frank about one thing, Malaysians didn’t flock to hybrid vehicles with fully noble motivations. A culture in which people do not hesitate to throw rubbish out of their windows is not going to be bothered about reducing its carbon footprint.

The only reason why Honda, Toyota, and recently Audi with the A6 Hybrid, have sold as many hybrid vehicles as they have is simply because these vehicles enjoy tax exemptions that make them a lot more affordable than they used to be. Any hybrid vehicle with its combustion engine displacing less than 2,000cc qualifies for the incentive. BMW Group Malaysia has been lobbying hard for the Government to expand its tax incentives to its line-up of diesel models whilst simultaneously pushing for the introduction of cleaner Euro IV fuel in Malaysia.

They do have the numbers to back their argument up; BMW’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine in the 320d and 520d is well-known for its hybrid-beating frugality, but the company’s pleas have thus far yet to bear fruit. For now, all it has to show for its ceaseless lobbying is a 50% tax reduction on the ActiveHybrid 3 and ActiveHybrid 5.


Prices & Variants

The special one-off 50% duty exemption that was granted to the ActiveHybrid 5 has allowed BMW to lower its asking price from RM648,800 announced during its launch to a more appealing RM498,800, on-the-road without insurance. This RM150k price reduction places the AH 5 mid-way between the four-cylinder 528i and the six-cylinder 535i, with an equipment manifest that matches the latter.

The bulk of 5 Series sales will still likely go to its four-cylinder models. The gap between the ActiveHybrid 5 and the 528i is still a not-insignificant sum of RM90k, but being a full RM100k cheaper than the 535i gives more consumers the option of enjoying the 5 Series with the charms of a six-cylinder engine.


Specifications

The ActiveHybrid 5’s powertrain pairs BMW’s award-winning 3.0-litre blown six with a synchronous electric motor housed in the casing of its 8-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels. We have discussed this powertrain setup extensively in our review of the ActiveHybrid 3 published in mid-April, but to recap, the system’s combined outputs are rated at a potent 340hp and 450Nm.

En route to a governed top speed of 250kph, BMW claims the ActiveHybrid 5 is capable of smashing the 0-100kph sprint in 5.9 seconds, a full two-tenths faster than the already-brutal 535i. We did not put the latter figure to the test, but on one particular run on our secret test track, we were able to coax a reading of 252kph on the heads-up display’s digital speedometer. As a side note, the HUD of our test car seemed a little out of calibration, its display showing double images.

Notice the hybrid power display in the split screen.


Exterior

The Metallic Bluewater paint job specified on our test car is a colour scheme that is exclusive to the ActiveHybrid 5 with the alternatives being the same set of colours available to regular variants of the 5 Series. Less conspicuously coloured units can be differentiated from the garden variety 5 Series by the Streamline Style 364 rims that are unique to the AH 5.

Look closer at the kidney grilles and you would also notice that the vertical louvres on the AH 5 are finished in matte grey whereas the 520i & co get silver-trimmed grilles. Like its 3 Series counterpart, the AH 5 is also stamped with a pair of ‘ActiveHybrid 5′ badges at the C-pillars to ensure clear yet subtle differentiation between it and regular members of the 5 Series hierarchy.

The AH 5’s grille louvres are finished in matte grey.


Interior

Stepping inside, we find ourselves in an environment that should prove intimately familiar to any 5 Series owner. Kit count is on par with the 535i, so those coming over from the four-cylinder models may notice a bit of additional equipment such as the sunroof, heads-up display, and black panel instruments. BMW was sensibly modest in not ruining the cabin with an overkill of ActiveHybrid badges.

The instrument cluster follows the instantly recognizable BMW layout dominated by the the speedometer and rev counter forming the two large primary dials. It is largely identical to what you would find in a 535i save for one minor detail – the ActiveHybrid gauge residing below its tachometer. The gauge provides a graphical illustration of the battery’s charge levels, with flanking arrows to indicate whether the electric motor is providing propulsion or charging the battery.

The battery pack itself is stuffed in the luggage compartment, but for some peculiar reason the packaging here turned out to be bizarrely less efficient than what we saw earlier in the ActiveHybrid 3. Available boot space is measured at 375 litres, which is equal with the Audi A6 Hybrid, but actually less than the 390 litres available in the AH 3.

Strangely, the AH 3 seemed to have better boot space than the AH 5 here.


Driving Experience

Dynamically speaking, the F10 5 Series is really at its best in its N20-powered four-cylinder guises. With less kilos sitting on their front axles, the four-pot 5ers feel better balanced and more agile than their six-cylinder counterparts. Our pick of the 5 Series range remains, without doubt, the 528i, but the ActiveHybrid 5’s ballistic straight line performance simply cannot be ignored.

On its own, the 3.0-litre N55 engine is already a seriously powerful engine; adding a 55hp electric motor to the equation is akin to giving a steroid injection to the Hulk. Clearly, this hybrid is about serious performance, its point is made abundantly clear the way it surges past the double ton on the speedometer with minimal provocation. Calling its 250kph electronic speed limiter into action proved surprisingly easy and effortless.

Further enhancing the driving experience is that familiar melody of a BMW straight six emanating from the engine room every time you pull the twin-scroll turbocharged mill to its red line. Although it is the exact same engine as found in the ActiveHybrid 3, the six-cylinder sounds crisper and throatier here in the ActiveHybrid 5, which you would expect to be a more matured vehicle. No complaints though.

8-speed automatic transmission. Drive Experience Control switch cycles through 5 driving modes.


To date, we have tested the F10 5 Series in six different variations ranging from the 520i all the way up to the M5, and on each occasion, we were bowled over by its exceptional body control. Ride comfort, however, is less impressive, with only the newer four-cylinder models, and strangely the M5, genuinely deserving of plaudits in this respect. The added powertrain weight of the ActiveHybrid 5 means it is not going to be the most agile member of the 5 Series family, but BMW was able to work enough magic that the resultant deficit is small enough to be a non-issue.

The suspension setup is noticeably less pliant than the four-cylinder models in soaking up poor surfaces, but corners are dispatched with impressive poise and composure. In instances when most other cars would have surrendered to understeer, the ActiveHybrid 5 clings to its line with stubborn tenacity, but only if the tarmac is clear; our test car’s Continental tyres gave up grip with surprising ease when the ground is sprinkled with sand.

Like the AH 3, the AH5 also gets its unique identifying rims.


Verdict

As we reach the conclusion of the review, it has just dawned upon me that I have neglected to touch upon the AH 5’s fuel consumption in the preceding paragraphs, not the kind of oversight any self-respecting journalist can defend when reviewing a hybrid car, but I suspect the folks at BMW’s PR team would have been happier if I had dropped the issue altogether. The specs sheet prints 6.4 l/100km on the combined cycle, but our manually-derived figure at the pumps returned 12.6 l/100km, which is verified by the trip computer.

Although we have long since learned to take printed fuel consumption figures with a pinch of salt, discrepancies between real world and printed figures are rarely at such high margins. The ActiveHybrid 5 is clearly not a vehicle that one buys for fuel economy, but if you can spend half a million on a 300hp+ BMW, you can afford to pay a bit more at the pumps than the rest of us.

Happily, BMW’s broken promises at the pumps are more than adequately compensated at the business end of things. The ActiveHybrid 5 offers the same superfluous driving characteristics that defines the entire F10 5 Series range, blending intoxicating levels of power with inspiring dynamics, and not forgetting the creamy smoothness of a BMW straight-six.


SIMILAR ARTICLES

1 COMMENT

Leave a Reply