• A premium sedan combining performance and fuel economy
  • Output of 340 horsepower from a hybrid drivetrain
  • Clean, electric-only operation

Although automakers have increased efforts to produce vehicles that meet consumers' and regulators' efficiency demands, premium brands have continued to offer high performance options for drivers seeking an exciting experience behind the wheel. With the ActiveHybrid 5 making its world premier at the Tokyo Auto Show, BMW illustrates a keen ability to provide a luxury car with both sporty driving characteristics and efficient operation.

The new version of the 5 Series will be available in the US next year. It combines powerful gasoline and electric motors, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a host of efficiency-minded programs to deliver excellent performance, better fuel economy and fewer emissions.

Details like "ActiveHybrid 5" badging on the C-pillars differentiate the hybrid on the outside, but the real changes are under the hood. The 306-horsepower turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine runs on gasoline while a 55-horsepower electric motor is energized by a trunk-mounted lithium-ion battery. Combined output of 340 horsepower is transmitted to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox, motivating the hybrid 5-series to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds. Fuel economy equivalents (based on the European test cycle) range from about 34 mpg to 36 mpg, at least ten percent better than the conventional 535i.

The ActiveHybrid 5 depends on highly efficient energy management to maximize economy. This includes regenerative braking and overrun typical on hybrids, but also employs an ECO PRO mode that allows highway coasting at up to 100mph. A start-stop function is standard, as is the Professional navigation system that provides the vehicle's energy management electronics with a forecast of changing driving conditions and allows the system to prepare accordingly.

In urban driving, the ActiveHybrid 5 can operate in electric-only mode at up to 37mph. Electric-only operation is well-suited to urban environments, offering not only high efficiency but also zero tailpipe emissions.

BMW's formula of integrating hybrid technology into its athletic and luxurious 5-series makes the ActiveHybrid 5 one of a new breed of automobiles. Drivers no longer have to sacrifice power or luxury for efficient operation. But until hybrid technology becomes more widespread and less expensive, any efficiency advantage will continue to be offset by higher pricing at the dealership.

What it means to you: Thanks to innovative technology, the ActiveHybrid 5 claims significant efficiency gains over the conventional 535i without sacrificing on performance or luxury.

See more Tokyo Auto Show news.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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