Driven: 2013 BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid.

In the age of Eco cars such as Priuses and CR-Z's when each manufacturer is trying to prove their tree hugging dedication and commitment, performance manufacturers like BMW are stuck with a dilemma: how to deliver Eco and fun in one efficient package.
  
In 2007 BMW has broken their silence and unveiled their version of what is known as "Mild Hybrid". Installed on monstrous X6 it failed to impress the pure ECO-diehards, but motor enthusiasts received the ActiveHybrid with a glimpse of hope, hope that hybrid can be fun.  After all, additional 55 horse power and 210NM of torque cannot be be bad.



Thus I was obviously excited when I was presented with opportunity to spend some time with BMW's flagship 5 series with Active Hybrid badge.

F10 BMW is one of the most beautiful Sedan's in the world today.  Regardless of the trim level, all the lines, curves, and beautiful proportions along with aggressive stance just scream "Sports Sedan"

 
It just asks to be driven and when it is, it becomes clear that BMW is following their roots with this car.  Hybrid or not, this is one car that BMW can be proud of.

 
As most other manufacturers, BMW is taking the down-sizing approach utilizing forced induction through its twin scroll turbo to produce more low-end torque making it less necessary to reach higher RPM in search of power, which leads to better fuel economy.

The same turbo however contributes to significant power boost when you want to burn some rubber, as this turbo system installed on BMW's legendary inline six 3.0 liter engine makes it capable of producing 306 horse power  and 400NM of torque. This configuration has proven itself so successful that it is now used across their entire model range: from 1 series, to 6 and all the way to 7. 

But BMW went even further and mated this beautiful engine with an electric motor, and while this motor itself along with relatively small battery is not much to write home about, when we are talking of combined 340 horse power and 450NM of torque, this car is undoubtedly top performer,

When you drive it around town you start to understand the significance of this unique approach as power delivery is nothing like I have ever seen on a turbocharged engine.  Electric motor eliminates the lag providing perfectly linear torque across entire RPM range, making you feel like you are driving a V8, and a muffled rumble of the Inline 6 is just beautiful.

It is beautiful, but it is not perfect.  The car feels heavier, especially during braking, and transmission has its work cut out for it as it has to link effectively 2 drivetrains, which causes a bit of a lag in gear shifts.  For those who know how zippy the 8 speed ZF transmission in BMW vehicles is, it could be a point of concern.

But don't get me wrong, this is absolutely a blast to drive and it is definitely great car to own.

Stock BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid is pretty well equipped, coming with leather seats, HID lights, various drive modes, satellite navigation options and so on,
  
This particular car is equipped with comfort package giving it larger 19 inch wheels wrapped in Michelin PS2 tires, 

and interior trim which I think is the best in its class


Hard Dakota leather resembling vinyl in New York taxi cabs is replaced by soft and gentle Merino leather with heated and cooled front seats, optional stereo with truly amazing sound,

In general the car is full of nice touches, and it's those little things that make you want to buy this car and spend a lot of time in it. 

 Whether it's the nice aluminum kickplate with ActiveHybrid logo,
 
 Or the gorgeous ambient lighting in the cabin
 
But none of these nice touches would matter if BMW hasn't delivered in one of their strongest departments: The Ergonomics

Every switch, every handle is positioned perfectly.  Paddle shifters are not too large, but still clearly visible and can be reached by drivers effortlessly.  Seating position is excellent and visibility is unrivaled, while the steering wheel itself is gorgeous and is very nice to hold.

Every bit on the inside in out is functional and beautifully designed making it a true driver's machine.

This car is a typical German engineering masterpiece, precise, calculating well oiled machine, yet at the same time it's full of passion and is just plain fun.
 
As I type this, F10 generation of 5 series sedans has been face-lifted, and while the model in this review represents the previous generation, New Active Hybrid 5 Series is available from BMW Japan starting at 9050000 Yen


Cost of Ownership:
5/5

If you can afford the car itself, it will save you quite a lot due to Eco car intensives in Japan, above average fuel economy and very good reliability.

Practicality
3.5/5

The car is roomy with functional interior, which features lots of storage.  Unfortunately the trunk space is compromised by the battery, which is right behind the rear seat, meaning there is no trunk- through option either.


Cabin Comfort
5/5

While the stock 5 Series Active Hybrid is nice and comfortable, this comfort package adds options that make this car a very pleasant place to be in.  Quiet and smooth ride contribute to desire to just get in and drive as far as you want without worrying about fatigue.

Appeal
3.5/5

While I have no issues with the design per say, there are just too many of 5 Series on the streets and aesthetically there is not a lot separating this model from base 523i, or even the M5, moreover with BMW committing to similar design patterns across their range this car looks a lot like the 3 series, which is not a good way to present luxury.  I am not saying that 5 series a bad looking car, it's absolutely fantastic, but it just doesn't stand out.


Fun Factor
4/5

The brilliant turbocharged inline six with extra power from the hybrid, combined with BMW's handling dynamics is a truly exuberating experience.  However, I found the car to be a bit quiet and unexciting, while occasional delay in gear shifts was down right annoying.




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