Crankandpiston’s latest jaunt to Portugal for the Mini Coupe Roadster launch didn’t go entirely without problems. In one afternoon I managed to misplace my camera, turn up at a different hotel to my luggage, and lock myself out of my room. Clearly some drive time was required to wash away these woes, so I got on the phone to my BMW hosts and within 30 minutes was holding the keys to the company’s latest ActiveHybrid 5-Series.
I know what you’re thinking: “A hybrid? Come now, that’s hardly crankandpiston fodder!” Let’s be fair, we took a tentative spin in the Tesla Roadster recently and that turned out to be a hoot. Why not BMW’s flagship executive saloon?
Though equipped to provide the luxury and exuberance of previous 5-series models, the ActiveHybrid definitely has low fuel consumption in its sights. Intrigued, I get myself seated, nod studiously as I’m shown the ins and outs, and fire the Beemer into life: “are you sure it’s on?”
Grabbing the bull by its corked horns, we begin the drive in full Eco Pro mode, where everything runs on the lithium-ion battery. Alarming as the rev counter plummeting to zero is, watching the blue battery and red engine mapping alternate on the powertrain display is strangely entertaining. Our traffic-related 10kph average speed means that it’s only at the city limits when the exhaust notes make themselves heard, which is a little unnerving. Though we can feel the power subside when stop-start kicks in at standstill, it is not quite as obvious on start-up, which erodes confidence significantly when entering a busy junction.
So far, so frugal. Finally onto the auto-estrada, we flick the mode button up once to activate Comfort Plus. The change between modes is extraordinary. The lethargic throttle response in Eco Pro has all but vanished, and though this new-found acceleration is hardly cricking our necks, still we can’t help marveling at this new found ‘performance’. Blue slips to red immediately, but once up to speed, we are still saving enough energy to re-charge what battery power we’ve used negotiating city traffic.