BMW plans to follow up its hybrid models with a full-electric i3 in 2014 and an i8 plug-in hybrid.
With the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, green doesn't necessarily mean boring.
The ActiveHybrid 5 -- BMW's first hybrid car -- arrives with more power than a 535i (petrol), similar fuel economy to the 535d (diesel) and much lower greenhouse gas emissions.
BMW Group Australia spokesman Piers Scott says customers for this car are those who want to make a statement. "Sustainability without compromise - those who embrace cutting-edge ideas and technology who believe you can have your cake and eat it, too,'' he says.
It arrives in October at $122,900 which is only $2000 more than the 535d and $7300 more than the 535i with similar specification levels such as Bi-Xenon headlights, Bluetooth preparation, head-up display, internet function and "Professional Navigation'', but adds four-zone airconditioning.
It will be followed late this year by the ActiveHybrid 3 and the ActiveHybrid 7 Series in the first quarter of 2013. Price estimates are mid-$90,000 for the 3 and about $210,000 for the 7.
The first people to drive the new hybrid BMW will be members of the Gold Coast public who attend this weekend's GreenZone Drive - a free public test drive of selected low-emission, high economy vehicles from Audi, BMW, Honda, Renault, Toyota and Volvo.
Carsguide will be among the first to test drive the vehicle with our road test appearing on the carsguide.com.au site. Scott says they expect orders to begin now that pricing has been announced. "It's uncharted territory so no volume forecasts but there's strong interest in the car,'' he said.
Both ActiveHybrid cars will be powered by the three-litre straight-six turbo from the 535i with a 40kW electric motor between the petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.
Together, the power output is a considerable 250kW which is 25kW more than the potent 335i. It's capable of sprinting to highway speed in just under six seconds, the same as the 535i and 0.4s slower than the 535d.
BMW quotes the combined fuel economy figure as 6.4-7 litres per 100km depending on which wheel is fitted. The standard wheel is an aerodynamic model that achieves the lower figure. Interestingly, economy is not quite as good as the 535d which scores 5.6L/100km.
However, greenies can reconcile themselves with the fact that the CO2 emissions are down from 211g/km in the 535d to 149-163g/km, again depending on wheels.
The electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery under the cargo floor and you can drive the car purely on electric power at low speeds or, if ECO PRO mode is selected, at speeds up to 160km/h. Under heavy acceleration the electric motor also adds a burst of power.
The sub-7L/100km economy figure means the Luxury Car Tax threshold jumps from $59,133 to $75,375 so you pay less to the government. That's music to the ears of BMW Group Australia boss Phil Horton who describes the LCT as "double punishment'' for owners of fuel-efficient cars.
He has called for the LCT to be axed and for the government to introduce incentives to encourage motorists to buy electric and hybrid cars. "We're actually penalised at the moment under LCT. It's a double punishment,'' he said.
BMW plans to follow up its hybrid models with a full-electric i3 in 2014 and an i8 plug-in hybrid. The German manufacturer also has plans for a range-extender option like Holden's coming Volt and a range of electric maxi-scooters.
The ActiveHybrid 5 will be differentiated from other 5 Series models by lettering on the C pillars and door sills, galvanised slats in the kidney grille, matte chrome exhaust tailpipes, name plate on the centre console, and 18-inch Streamline light-alloy wheels. It is also the only 5 Series available in "liquid blue'' metallic paint.
BMW ActiveHybrid 5
Engine: 3.0l, 6-cylinder, 225kW/400Nm
Motor: 40kW electric (250kW/450Nm total)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.4-7L/100km, 149-163g/km (CO2), depending on wheel and tyre combination