2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Credit: BMW

* Competes with: Infiniti M35h, Lexus GS 450h

* Looks like: The first practical hybrid car from BMW

* Drivetrain: 335-hp hybrid system with a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder; eight-speed automatic transmission

* Hits dealerships: March 2012

The just-announced 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 could be the first hybrid-powered car from BMW that garners mainstream appeal. Like the Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h, the ActiveHybrid 5 will blend power performance gains and fuel economy.

The ActiveHybrid 5 will be marketed as a midrange trim for 5 Series shoppers, a far cry from the pricey and now-defunct 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, which was eschewed toward performance gains only at a steep price. However, the only real luxury hybrid success stories have been the RX 450h and Lexus CT 200h, both of which will cost far less than this 5 Series.

The ActiveHybrid 5 will be powered by the same 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six-cylinder found in the BMW 535i, mated to the similarly designed eight-speed automatic transmission. On top of those conventional components will be a 55-horsepower electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. BMW says the system makes a combined 335 hp. Unlike the mild-hybrid system in the ActiveHybrid 7, this system is an evolved version of the dual-mode hybrid system found in the ActiveHybrid X6 but now equipped with a precisely controlled energy management system.

As a result, the system can travel on electric power for 2.5 miles at an average speed of 22 mph. The electric motor can power the sedan at speeds of up to 37 mph alone. Also, when the car is coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph, the gas engine will be fully decoupled, and the electric motor will assist instead.

BMW says the hybrid system will see double-digit increases in fuel economy compared with the BMW 535i, which is rated 20/30 mpg city/highway.

Like BMW’s other hybrid models, nothing screams “hybrid” about the look of the model, inside or out. The cabin features some unique decals and special interfaces to display powertrain output for the hybrid on the instrument cluster and the console display. The hybrid will be equipped with unique 18-inch wheels, a four-zone automatic climate control system and navigation, standard.

The model is expected to go on sale by March of next year.

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