2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Test drive and new car review

21 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Test drive and new car review отключены
BMW ActiveE Electric Cars

BMW’s half-hearted hybrid

The BMW 5-series is one of my favorite big luxury sedans, second only to the Audi A6 — so I’m at a loss to understand how the hybrid version could go so terribly wrong. My best guess is that the engineers who designed the other 5-series models were out celebrating their excellent work when management suddenly realized they needed a hybrid, so they simply gathered up the homeless folks who live behind the factory and asked them to come up with something.

Why do I find the ActiveHybrid 5 so annoying? Get comfy, because this may take a while to explain.

A troubling lack of persistence

It begins the moment the car is started. Like other BMWs with the Dynamic Damping Control option, the ActiveHybrid 5 has five drive modes: Eco Pro, Comfort +, Comfort, Sport and Sport +. Eco Pro is the max fuel-saving mode; it alters the throttle response, transmission shift points, hybrid system behavior, and climate control to save fuel.

Now, this being a hybrid, you’d expect it to default to Eco Pro, right? Wrong. It defaults to Comfort. But if you change it to Eco Pro, you’d at least expect it to remember your setting, right? Wrong again!

Every time you start the car . it defaults back to Comfort.

Actually, none of the settings in the ActiveHybrid 5 are persistent — not even the automatic rain-sensing wipers. Note to BMW: If you have to turn the automatic wipers on when it rains, they are not automatic .

And so it was that every start of the BMW turned into a torrent of button-pushing: Press the start button, press the auto hold button (which lets you take your foot off the brake at stoplights), press the drive-mode button twice, press the automatic high-beam button if it’s night time and the automatic wiper button if it’s raining. I had to leave the house ten seconds early just to allow time for all those buttons to be pressed.

You wanna save? You gotta suffer

Interior is standard BMW fare. What, no bamboo?

As soon as I drove off, I discovered why the ActiveHybrid 5 does not default to EcoPro mode: Because it’s terrible . Unless you really boot the gas — which defeats the purpose of driving a hybrid — the car bucks and jerks like an ill-tempered donkey as the electric motor cuts in and out and the transmission shifts at absurdly low RPMs. Another note to BMW: Saving fuel does not have to be this unpleasant. Ask Toyota.

All of these foibles might conceivably be worth it if the ActiveHybrid 5 returned decent fuel economy. but it doesn’t — it really doesn’t. EPA fuel economy estimates are 23 MPG city and 30 MPG highway — worse than the four-cylinder 528i (24 city/34 highway, and one of my favorite fuel efficient cars ) and not that much better than the 535i (20 city/30 highway). Despite my best efforts (an abbreviated run up the About.com Top Secret Curvy Test Road notwithstanding), I averaged just 24.6 MPG — rather sad considering I saw 26.3 during my 2012 BMW 528i test drive .

The culprit is under the hood (link goes to photo): Instead of using the slick two-liter turbo four from the 528i, BMW borrowed the three-liter turbocharged inline six from the 535i. And that, I imagine, was a function of weight: The ActiveHybrid 5 tips the scales at 4,400 lbs, 330 lbs heavier than the 535i and nearly 600 lbs more than the 528i. (For comparison, Infiniti’s M Hybrid is only 280 lbs heavier than the M37 on which it is based.) With all that bulk, it really does need that extra pair of cylinders.

Granted, and counter-intuitive as it may seem, not all hybrids are designed for fuel economy; some are set up for power. The Lexus LS 600h is a great example — its hybrid powertrain does a passable impression of a big German V12. But power, apparently, isn’t what BMW was going for either: Combined output for the gas engine and electric motor is 335 horsepower, and while the ActiveHybrid 5 certainly isn’t slow, it isn’t any quicker than the regular 535i — the extra power of the electric motor is offset by the extra weight of the batteries.


Ready for the punch line? BMW charges $62,295 for the ActiveHybrid 5. Except they won’t charge you $62,295, because finding an option-free BMW on a dealer’s lot is like finding a Heffalump at Home Depot. My tester was optioned up to $74,420 — almost ten grand more than a 528i with the same equipment.

And did I mention that the 528i gets better fuel economy? Yes, I believe I did. A couple of times, in fact.

BMW ActiveE Electric Cars

It’s not all bad. just mostly bad

To be fair to BMW, the ActiveHybrid 5 still has a lot of the attributes that make the 5-series one of my favorite cars. It’s big and roomy, but not terribly difficult to park. The back seat is lovely, and while the hybrid’s trunk shrinks to accommodate the battery pack — ten cubic feet, compared to 14 in other 5s — it’s sensibly shaped and therefore quite useful.

Once you realize the Eco Pro mode is useless and give up on all that fuel-saving nonsense, the ActiveHybrid 5 is actually rather nice to drive. It’s comfortable and serene in Comfort + mode and a proper curve-devouring BMW in Sport + mode, and as an added bonus, you can use the torque of the electric motor to throw the rear end around on curves. As far as hybrid powertrains go, this one is not completely without merit; unlike other BMWs, the engine start/stop mode is virtually seamless, and it does a great job of cutting out the engine when you lift off the gas.

Like other hybrids, it will glide along in electric-only mode at low-to-moderate speeds — just not far enough to have a noticeable affect on fuel economy.

If you really want a big hybrid luxury sedan, I’d suggest the Infiniti M Hybrid or the Lexus GS 450h. And while you’re at the Lexus dealership, test drive the Lexus ES 300h — it’s not as prestigious or as rear-wheel-drive-y as the GS or the Bimmer, but it returns much better real-world fuel economy and is more interesting to drive than you might think.

If you have your heart set on an eco-friendly Bimmer, there’s a much simpler solution: Buy a smaller one. The 328i gets better gas mileage, and I’m sure you’re sick of me repeating that the same can be said of the 528i. (BMW has just introduced a 3-series hybrid; it uses the same powertrain as this car, so I’m not terribly optimistic.)

Bottom line: As far as I can tell, the best way to operate the ActiveHybrid 5 in an environmentally friendly manner would be to drain all the fluids and sink it in the ocean as an artificial reef. Maybe if we ignore the ActiveHybrid 5 loudly enough, BMW will scrap it and design a proper hybrid. Someone should check to see if the engineers who did the other 5-series cars have returned to the office yet. — Aaron Gold

What I liked about the ActiveHybrid 5:

ActiveHybrid 5 uses a thirsty turbo six instead of a fuel-efficient turbo four

BMW ActiveE Electric Cars
BMW ActiveE Electric Cars
BMW ActiveE Electric Cars
BMW ActiveE Electric Cars
BMW ActiveE Electric Cars

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