The bold and the Beau­ti­ful

The so-new-it-isn’t-in-new-zealand-yet BMW Ac­tivehy­brid 5 is a whole lot of car, which doesn’t suck a whole lot of gas. Re­sult!

Element - - Transport - By James Rus­sell

Back in my univer­sity days, I was one of four co-own­ers of a 1970-some­thing Ford Fal­con 500 sta­tion wagon. We bought it for an ab­so­lute song, but soon af­ter re­alised the true cost of the car when we went to fill it with gas. Ner­vously we eyed each other as the num­bers ticked over on the pump, and other num­bers – bank ac­counts, stu­dent loans, beer money – ticked over in our brains.

These days, de­spite hav­ing a job, I’m feel­ing much the same. And the car I’m driv­ing is a gut­less 1.5l, with none of the thrilling, growl­ing thun­der of the old Fal­con.

Hav­ing long since given up on the thrill that a de­cent-sized engine pro­vides, opt­ing in­stead for the cheaper fuel bill (and, of course, lower emis­sions), driv­ing the BMW Ac­tiveHy­brid 5 was a pleas­ant sur­prise. For here is a car that, de­spite weigh­ing al­most two tonnes, can pos­i­tively fling you down the road with a squirt of the ac­cel­er­a­tor, all the while sip­ping in an ex­tremely miserly fash­ion on the juice.

At six cylin­ders, with a three-litre engine and 450Nm of torque, us­ing less than seven litres of petrol per 100km is a fine re­sult. The rea­son, of course, is the high- per­for­mance lithium-ion bat­tery, which pro­vides a us­able en­ergy ca­pac­ity of 675 Wh.

The dis­play on the dash tells the tale of the bat­tery’s life: to fully charge in less than five min­utes, then dis­charge within the next five. In Eco-Pro mode (which only a friv­o­lous fool wouldn’t use when driv­ing around town) the car makes full use of this bat­tery, switch­ing off the engine when sta­tion­ary and, with a feather-light touch on the ac­cel­er­a­tor, it’s pos­si­ble to drive up to four kilo­me­tres with­out the engine en­gag­ing at all. The best

At six cylin­ders, with a three­l­itre engine and 450Nm of torque, us­ing less than seven litres of petrol per 100km is a fine re­sult

ef­fi­ciency I could get util­is­ing my most con­ser­va­tive driv­ing style was around 6.4l per 100km (my first joy­ful hour in this car I was us­ing about 11l per 100km, to be hon­est).

At 149 – 163grams of CO2 emit­ted per kilo­me­tre, the car isn’t the best in school in this re­gard (con­sider the EU emis­sion tar­get of 135g/km cur­rently in place, and the pro­posed 95g/km pro­posed for 2020).

The car is cer­tainly a hand­some crea­ture, large yet sporty, and en­hanced by the proud ‘Ac­tive Hy­brid 5’ let­ter­ing in prom­i­nent places on the car.

Safety fea­tures are im­pres­sive, and some­times over­bear­ing. Seat­belts pull you back into the seat a minute or so af­ter you’ve plugged them in, and the car won’t move once you’ve opened the door (back­ing a boat might be tricky/ frus­trat­ing). There is prob­a­bly a way to over­ride this, but I didn’t find it. A full ‘around car’ sen­sor bleeps you when you’re close to any­thing which was, in com­bi­na­tion with a re­vers­ing cam­era, at first, dis­tract­ing, then, when I be­came used to it, highly use­ful. The cam­era couldn’t com­pete with a frosty morn­ing, how­ever, which fogged up and be­came use­less. That’s the prob­lem with this car: it’s so cut­ting edge that you start to ex­pect un­rea­son­able things from it.

BMW are still de­lib­er­at­ing whether to sell the Ac­tiveHy­brid 5 here in New Zealand. Cer­tainly at around $150,000 the mar­ket will be lim­ited, and it’s ob­vi­ously the eco-con­scious rather than the just plain frugal which will be at­tracted to it.

I had to fight the urge to set off for Welling­ton when the day fi­nally came to re­turn the car. That’s a big tick.

Pho­tos by Ted Baghurst

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