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by Tim Beissmann

BMW will launch its first hybrid in Australia in October – the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 – and has confirmed two more petrol-electric models based on the 3 Series and 7 Series will follow within six months.

CarAdvice broke the story late last year that the ActiveHybrid 5 was headed our way, and BMW Australia has now confirmed the 5 Series-based sedan will be priced from $122,900 before on-road costs when it hits local showrooms in two months’ time.

Hot on its heels will be the ActiveHybrid 3 before the end of the year and the ActiveHybrid 7 in the first quarter of 2013, which will give BMW Australia one of the broadest hybrid line-ups on the market.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is $7300 more expensive than the 535i model on which it is based, but offers benefits in terms of performance and, more significantly, fuel efficiency.

Teaming the 535i’s 225kW/400Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a 40kW/250Nm electric motor, the ActiveHybrid 5 offers a combined output of 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Like the rest of the 5 Series range (with the exception of the M5), an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission sends drive to the rear wheels.

While it doesn’t improve upon the 535i’s 5.9-second 0-100km/h time, the ActiveHybrid 5 blitzes it in terms of economy.

It uses 6.4 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle, making it 24 per cent more efficient overall, and is in its element in urban conditions where it uses just 5.7L/100km – less than half the 535i’s official 11.9L/100km urban consumption rating.

A number of BMW’s intelligent EfficientDynamics technologies contribute to the impressive economy figures, including regenerative braking, auto stop-start, Eco Pro driving mode, air flap control, on-demand ancillary unit operation, and low rolling-resistance tyres.

The biggest disadvantage of the ActiveHybrid 5 is its compromised boot, which is 145 litres smaller than the 535i’s due to the placement of the hybrid system’s lithium-ion battery pack over the rear axle. At 375 litres, the ActiveHybrid 5’s boot is only 15 litres larger than that of the BMW 1 Series hatchback.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 can operate in fully electric, zero-emissions mode for around 4km at speeds up to 60km/h, and, when Eco Pro mode is engaged, can decouple the petrol engine and coast on the electric motor at speeds up to 160km/h.

Visually, the ActiveHybrid 5 is differentiated by its galvanised grille slats, matt chrome tailpipes, 18-inch Streamline alloy wheels and ‘ActiveHybrid 5’ lettering on the C-pillars. It is also available in an exclusive Liquid Blue metallic paint colour.

It is equipped almost identically to the 535i sedan with bi-xenon headlights, head-up display, internet connectivity and Professional Navigation, and also gains a four-zone climate control system with stationary air conditioning as part of its standard kit.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will go head-to-head with the all-new Lexus GS450h, which produces 215kW/352Nm from its hybrid powerplant, consumes 6.3L/100km on the combined cycle, and is priced from $99,900 to $121,900 depending on the variant.




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