Other than some fancy alloy wheels and a couple of discreet badges, the BMW Active Hybrid 5 looks just like any other BMW 5 Series. However, under that familiar styling lies some pretty unusual running gear.
While a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine is the primary power source, a 54bhp electric motor – which is located in the gearbox – helps deliver a combined total of 335bhp.
It's obvious, then, that this particular hybrid is as much about delivering thrilling performance as it is about reducing your tax bills and saving rainforests.
What's the BMW Active Hybrid 5 like to drive?
At speeds of up to 37mph, the ActiveHybrid 5 can run on electric power alone for almost 2.5 miles – as long as there are no inclines and you're very gentle with the throttle.
Increase the pressure on the accelerator even slightly and the electric motor and petrol engine start to become at odds with one other, resulting in some jerkiness as the system flicks between power sources.
Put your foot down hard and the electric motor puts its full support behind the petrol engine, delivering a smooth surge of power that helps towards a 0-62mph time of just 5.9 seconds.
Once up to a steady cruise on the motorway, easing off the accelerator causes the petrol engine to disengage, effectively allowing the car to freewheel to further increase efficiency.
For all its advanced technologies, the Hybrid's steering feels rather old school, especially on the motorway. This is because electrical assistance is only called upon when you turn the wheel. You need a pretty firm hand on the wheel to hold a steady course, because the front wheels are inclined to follow every rut in the road surface.
Despite the added weight of its batteries, the Active Hybrid 5 still strikes a fine balance between comfort and agility. That said, our car came fitted with BMW's optional Variable Damper Control system (£985). Experience has shown us that this is definitely a worthwhile investment, because cars with standard suspension are nowhere near as sharp to drive, nor as comfortable.
What's the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 like inside?
The Active Hybrid's cabin looks like any other 5 Series', but that's no bad thing, because it's thoughtfully designed and built from classy materials.
The dashboard is dominated by a centrally located screen, which displays the many functions of BMW’s iDrive system, along with readouts about how the hybrid system is working.
There's plenty of space for four people, but the ActiveHybrid isn't a great five-seater, because a hefty transmission tunnel runs through the spine of the car, making life uncomfortable for those sitting in the middle rear seat.
The only significant difference between the Active Hybrid and regular 5 Series models is in the boot, where the 520-litre capacity drops by 145 litres, due to the battery pack located behind the rear seats. The 375 litres that you're left with is less space than you get in a BMW 3 Series saloon.
Should I buy one?
The Active Hybrid 5 is a fine car, but there are much better versions of the 5 Series. A 535d, for example, costs about the same to buy, and it's faster, cleaner and more economical.
Granted, because the ActiveHybrid is predominantly powered by petrol, it doesn't attract the 3% surcharge in company car tax that diesels do. However, those fractionally lower tax bills pale into insignificance next to the diesel's superior economy and driving characteristics.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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