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2012 BMW 5-Series Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 BMW 5-Series Hybrid was new.


Performance: 8.0

In general, reviewers praise the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 for its powerful gas engine and electric motor, which are mated to a smooth, responsive transmission. The ActiveHybrid 5 also excels with regenerative brakes that feel natural and progressive. Additionally, its refined drivetrain impresses critics, who comment on its seamless transitions between gas and electric power.

BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control offers four selectable drive modes, which include Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro. Most test drivers agree that the ActiveHybrid 5 drives like a regular 5-Series in all but Eco Pro mode, which maximizes its full fuel-saving potential.

  • "There is no whirring from the electric motor and no shudder when the gasoline engine fires up or cuts out. Unless you're gazing at the powertrain schematic on the standard split-screen LCD, you're likely only to be aware of what the engine is doing or not doing if you happen to notice the tach needle drop to zero or bounce back up again." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The default setting for the Driving Dynamics Control is Comfort, in which mode the hybrid is almost indistinguishable from the mainstream models. If you want to experience the full benefits of gas-electric propulsion, you need to activate Eco Pro mode. Only now will you feel like you're driving a hybrid." -- Edmunds 
  • "With the exception of the M5, the F10 5 Series as a whole has adopted a more mild road manner, with benefits of increased commuter comfort. It's a chassis that will still hold up nicely on a back road, but is nothing to flaunt around a race track--and that's okay." -- Road and Track 
  • "Both CO2 emissions and range are said to improve by roughly 16 percent in a car that performs up to par with a 535i, so it's a likeable proposition." -- Autoblog 

Acceleration and Power

Just like the Infiniti M35h and Lexus GS 450h, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is engineered to provide better fuel economy than the gas-only model, even though it adds 35 horsepower. A 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine is under the hood, just like the one in the 2012 BMW 535i. However, the ActiveHybrid 5 adds an electric motor that allows it to travel up to 37 mph on electric power alone.

The combination delivers 335 horsepower to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. While that’s slightly less power than the CVT-equipped Lexus GS 450h, some reviewers comment that the ActiveHybrid 5’s transmission makes it more enjoyable to drive. Additionally, the automotive press loves the ActiveHybrid 5’s refinement. They say transitions between the electric motor and gas engine are seamless, while the instant torque response from the electric motor makes the 5-Series Hybrid just as fast from zero to 60 mph as a 535i.

The EPA says the ActiveHybrid 5 will get 23/30 mpg city/highway.

  • "The ActiveHybrid 5 drives exactly like a 535i. The added oomph from the electric drive system -- which bolsters total power output from 300 to 335 hp, and torque from 300 pound feet to 332 -- negates the roughly 300-pound weight penalty of the hybrid." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The eight-speed ZF gearbox also has little trouble marrying the power sources. Whether in full auto or when using the sequential paddle shifters, it's unerringly smooth. Indeed, the downchanges are some of the best we've experienced from any type of 'box. The reengagement of the engine is similarly impressive. The starts and stops are almost imperceptible from the cabin." -- Edmunds 
  • "The electric motor's instant response gives the combination a viciously sharp edge." -- Motor Trend 
  • "A romp on the throttle will have most convinced that not all hybrids are for hypermiling sissy-foots." -- Road and Track 
  • "Not once all day did transitions between eDrive and other modes feel brusque, and there were several opportunities on our drive for clumsy switches." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

Unlike many hybrids, reviewers agree that the ActiveHybrid 5’s regenerative brakes have a progressive, natural feel. However, not all agree on the hybrid’s electronically assisted power steering. While some like the ActiveHybrid 5’s steering, others comment that they’d like more road feel.

  • "Additionally, brake pedal feel is totally normal and the electrically assisted power steering (which is in traditional 5-series as well) is very nicely weighted." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The steering is the biggest culprit. Not even BMW has come close to developing an electrically assisted system that matches the feel and sensitivity of the old hydraulic setup." -- Edmunds 
  • "The brake pedal shows no sign whatsoever of regenerative braking's infamous mushiness." -- Motor Trend 
  • "Though the electronic power steering and run-flat tires leave something to be desired, this has less to do with the hybridization of the 5 as much as it does the 5 Series of this generation." -- Road and Track 

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