Test Drive – 2014 BMW 5 Series Hybrid, ActiveHybrid5 image

Inautonews tested the new 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5.

Everything started in 2005 when BMW joined with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler to develop a set of hybrid vehicle technologies. This way the X6 Hybrid was born … BMW’s first hybrid vehicle. But no one was really interested to buy one as there was no real advantage in terms of fuel consumption; it was very heavy and let’s not forget about its $89,775 starting price in the U.S. In other words, a complete failure.

But you know…when someone throws you away, you have to look at the windows to see how to get back inside. That’s what BMW engineers did and after 3 years in 2012 they unveiled the 5-Series Hybrid – a vehicle with a more defined mission and a more legitimate hybrid powertrain.
The company likes to call it ActiveHybrid … “it’s because the vehicle supply the full dynamics of a BMW and at the same time is economical”.
Well … it remains to be seen how economic the new ActiveHybrid5 really is… but one thing is clear: the name is complicate … “I drove a BMW ActiveHybrid 5… ??? Say what ???

Engine, hybrid powertrain, fuel consumption
The 5 hybrid (as we like to call it) is essentially a 535i that weighs 175kg more compared to 535i (for a total of 1850kg), accelerates to 100 in just 5.9 seconds and burns only 6.4 liters of fuel for every 100km (according to BMW). But there’s much more.

The 40 kW/55hp electric motor will help the hybrid to travel up to 60 km/h in electric mode only, while the kinetic energy released, for example, during braking, is converted directly into electrical energy and fed to the high-performance battery integrated into the luggage area. On the same time, under acceleration the electric motor takes on a boost function – so it will help the big sedan to accelerate as fast as possible. But that’s nothing new for a hybrid. Oh .. yes of course it has start-stop function if you’re asking.

What’s interesting is that the hybrid powertrain is linked to the navigation system and will analyze the driving situation such as ascents and descents, enabling the drive components to be primed to deliver maximum efficiency. For example, if there’s a speed limit around the next corner, the system recommends you slow down before the bend so as to adapt speed as efficiently as possible. BMW calls this tech “Proactive Driving Assistant”. Also, compared to other hybrids, when the vehicle is going on a long downhill with relaxed throttle, it will disengage the petrol engine – effectively allowing the vehicle to freewheel to further increase efficiency.

How does it feel? – pop in push the start button and … silence. The petrol will start only if the batteries are completely depleted or if is very cold outside, but when it does you will feel some vibrations (yes it shakes a little bit too much in my opinion sometimes). This is a heavy car but on the same time it is fast. The petrol engine will ignite almost instantly if the gas pedal is pressed hard.

There are three driving modes: Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. In Sport mode you get all the power from the petrol and the electric (335 hp), Start-stop is deactivated, and the result is 11 to 12 l/100km fuel economy (~ 20 mpg – combined); so forget all about that “economizing” story. But boy this feels quick.
Comfort mode is the default one, and every time you start the car it will move to comfort; you just can’t change this. In comfort you will feel just a little bit of delay on the throttle pedal, but overall the car is agile enough.
Eco Pro is a little bit useless as it softens the gas pedal too much and declutches the petrol every time when it’s possible. Anyway… just for testing proposes, it will achieve 6.8 – 7 l /100km combined fuel economy according to BMW. However, anyone making that complaint probably doesn’t want to buy a hybrid anyway.

Overall the entire architecture is simple – the batteries are on the back, and the automatic 8-speed gearbox is between the engine and the electric motor, which, by the way, is located where usually is the torque-converter.

We’ve tested the 5 Active Hybrid for about 3 weeks, and I’ve made more than 2,000 km. I was expecting better fuel economy from this Bimmer. It’s so-so… it will eat about 5.5 – 5.7 liters of fuel for every 100 km of highway if you’re traveling at 90 km/h with the AC off. Hold on; that’s the good news. During city operations, fuel consumption goes up to at least 10.2% or even 12.5%. Again not bad at all for a 3.0-liter inline-six petrol, but we’re talking about a hybrid here, and usually the electric engine should help during city operations. The electric unit is just too small for this big sedan and the petrol will fire-up almost every time when you’re leaving a red-light for example. Only in Eco Pro the car will really move in electric only… but honestly is almost impossible to stay in this mode during peak hours in the city.

Handling, safety
Does it feel like a proper Bimmer? I’ll say yes, the only problem is that is heavy, and you will feel that weight almost everywhere. It will go sideways like you want without any problem, the electric steering is very sharp as expected, but those 175kg+ compared to a standard 535i makes the hybrid have a noticeable body-roll effect.
Anyway, in general hybrid buyers will not enter corners with 200km/h, so this aspect is not very relevant (by the way you can get the Variable Damper Control optional in case you want more control over the body roll aspect).

Overall, the Munich based automaker succeeded to find a good balance between comfort and agility.

All 5 Series BMWs were tested by Euro NCAP and received 5 stars. Standard it comes equipped with a lot of safety features including full-length curtain, front side airbags, active front headrests, belt tensioners, post-collision braking and brake lights that pulsate during emergency stops. In addition, you have a lot of optionals like the Active Blind Spot Detection system, a Lane Departure Warning system and a new second-generation night-vision system with pedestrian detection.

Interior and gadgets

LED headlights are incredible – put them in auto and prepare to be impressed

Inside the cabin, there’s almost no difference between this one and a normal Bimmer. Only the dash and some badges make you remember that you’re driving a hybrid. Everything feels luxurious – and everything is luxurious. There are no cheap materials in this car, and the attention to details is impressive.
There’s a lot of space for four passengers (yes I know this is a five people car – but the transmission tunnel that’s on the back will make life uncomfortable for those sitting in the middle rear seat) and the cup holders are bigger than ever.

Seats are great, and is almost impossible to not find your position as you can “move” them in 18 directions. Even the headrests are electrically adjustable.
For 2014, a rear-seat entertainment system is also available for the first time. In addition the new iDrive (version 4.2 now) comes with a new interface and a touchpad that work flawlessly.
The Head-up display is color, something that only at BMW’s can be seen – and the projection resolution is phenomenal.

Likes/Dislikes
First class everywhere. This is a serious sedan, no doubt about it.
The luxury level that you find in these cars make you forget about any problem many times; and many times it’s just as inviting as the 7-Series’ interior. There’s almost no noise inside the cabin even at high speeds of over 150km/h. Talking about speed, cruising at over 150km/h in this Bimmer is just like a walk in the park as the car gives you a lot of confidence.
The new iDrive interface is better – easier to use compared to some old variants, and the touch-pad device that recognizes individual works flawlessly. On the same time, the new ConnectedDrive is now capable to read and! even offers dictation functions for replying to emails.
Steering is sharp and precise as expected.

But the vehicle is too heavy for the 55hp electric motor. By contrast, Toyota’s Prius electric engine is rated at 67 hp, and the Prius is 1,325 kg only! Therefore, it will not help very much when it comes to fuel consumption because … as soon as you touch the gas pedal the petrol will ignite almost instantly, resulting in some vibrations (sometimes) as the system flicks between power sources.
Also, it costs 10,000 euro more compared to the 535i. That’s a lot of extra green (please read $ :-) ) for this green model.

Competition
Lexus GS450h (tested here), Infiniti M35h (tested here), Mercedes E400 Hybrid
Tested vehicle
2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 – starting at 64,900 € – tested vehicle ~ 90,200 €
Specifications:
Length/width/height: 4899 / 1860 / 1464 mm
Wheelbase: 2968 mm
Turning circle: 11.95 m
Tank capacity: 67liters
Weight: 1850 kg
Engine: TwinPower Turbo N55 2979 cmc inline 6
Output: 306 hp and 400 Nm of torque @ 1200-5000 rpm
Output electric motor : 55 hp and 210 Nm of torque
Total output: 340 hp and 450 Nm of torque
Battery High-voltage : 1350 Wh
Perfoamance 0–100 km/h: 5.9 seconds
Perfoamance 80–120km/h (4th gear) : –
Official fuel consumption: Urban: 6.1l / Extra-urban: 7.3l / Combined 6.8l
CO2: 160 g/km

Rating:

3.5 / 5

December 4th, 2013

inautonews