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!
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.