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We pedal SA-bound 'green' 5 Series

This is third hybrid model BMW has unveiled to world markets (following 7 Series and X6 derivatives) but, more importantly, it's the first taste of BMW hybrid power we'll be getting in South Africa.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5, which will land locally in May, is based on the current 5 Series sedan but under the bonnet marries a traditional combustion engine with an electric motor, in basically the same way as other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will be released in South Africa in May.

Luckily, though, the Germans have gone a little hardcore by making the petrol side of the equation a TwinPower Turbo three-litre six (as in conventional models such as 335i) pushing 225kW and 400Nm. Paired with the electric motor, combined outputs are 250kW and 450Nm.

CHARGING DURING COASTING

The ActiveHybrid 5 can be driven on electric power alone (provided the lithium-ion battery has enough charge) at speeds of up to 60km/h and over a maximum distance of four kilometres (at an average speed not exceeding 35km/h). It can also run on petrol power alone, or a combination of petrol and electricity.

Charging the battery is done mostly during coasting or braking, with the electric motor acting as a generator, while power from the drive systems is transferred to the rear wheels through an eight-speed auto gearbox.

BMW promises a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.9 seconds, average consumption of between 6.4 and seven litres per 100km, and carbon emissions between 149 and 163g/km.

For best efficiency and consumption the green Five has an Eco Pro mode (alongside the familiar Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes) that monitors energy conservation and includes a coasting function.

While coasting (at speeds of up to 160km/h) the combustion engine can be fully decoupled by the system for consumption and emission improvements.

STOP-START FUNCTION

The ActiveHybrid 5 also has a start-stop function that kicks in at robots should the engine be powering the car. In overseas markets a satnav system will also keep an eye on your route and prime the hybrid system accordingly.

Another nifty feature is stationary climate control, which runs off the battery and keeps the car cool during breaks in your journey or when coasting.

BMW claims that all the hybrid components, including the battery, are designed to last the lifetime of the car. The battery itself resides under the boot, and reduces luggage space by 145 litres to 375.

Besides the long badge on the boot-lid you can identify the newcomer by badging on the C pillars, the galvanised slats on the kidney grille, matt chromed tailpipes, and the optional bespoke 18” wheels.

Buyers can also choose a Bluewater metallic body colour exclusive to this hybrid model.

At the recent world launch of the ActiveHybrid 5 in Lisbon, I was presented with a 5 Series that matched its siblings in handling terms, switching and pairing powertrains quietly in the background.

PUNCHY COMBINATION

Hybrid-specific information is plentiful via the iDrive, with graphs showing you driving patterns and consumption, and illustrations indicating exactly where the power is coming from with your throttle inputs. I liked the little gauge next to the rev counter that showed the boost being provided by the electric motor under hard acceleration.

The 250kW/450Nm power combination is a punchy one. The ActiveHybrid 5 felt wide awake at any point and, unlike other hybrids which tend to get sluggish when the battery goes flat, this hybrid has a strong enough petrol engine to keep things nicely on the boil.

But try as hard as we could - and we did try hard over the 160-odd-kilometre test route that included all types of driving conditions - the best average consumption we achieved was 8.8 litres per 100km, which is far off the claim.

Emission levels aside, this argues a strong case for just buying a similarly-powered diesel derivative.

Perhaps a diesel hybrid then, BMW?

Pricing of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will be confirmed at the time of the local launch. - Star Motoring

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