Full 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 gets minor exterior styling tweaks, and the Luxury Line and Modern Line join the M Sport as available styling themes. Also, the latest version of iDrive debuts with a touchpad that can interpret freehand text entry.
If the rest of the 5 Series lineup didn't exist, we'd surely have nicer things to say about the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5. This midsize hybrid luxury sedan has a pretty impressive resumé, after all. Its gas-electric hybrid power plant pumps out a healthy 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, yielding an estimated 5.7-second dash to 60 mph. The EPA rates the ActiveHybrid 5 at 26 mpg combined, including 30 mpg on the highway. And like all BMW 5 Series sedans, the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 offers an appealing blend of technology, comfort and agility. What's not to like?
The main problem is that there's much more to like about the ActiveHybrid 5's talented siblings. The new diesel-fueled 535d makes for a particularly striking comparison, as it offers comparable acceleration and a whopping 30 mpg combined for about five grand less on the MSRP. The 535i, which shares the ActiveHybrid's turbocharged gasoline inline-6 engine, drops to 24 mpg combined, but it's even cheaper than the 535d and gets to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Heck, even the base 528i hits 60 in 6.1 seconds, according to BMW, and you get 27 mpg combined along with five-figure savings in your pocket. It's not like the ActiveHybrid 5 offers a bunch of exclusive features, either. Other than its hybrid-specific badges and readouts, it's pretty much like any other 5 Series.
Of course, if you're shopping for fuel-efficient sedans in this price bracket, there's more than just the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 (and the rest of the 5 Series line) to consider. The diesel Audi A6 TDI, for example, is rated at 29 mpg combined. Also a diesel, the Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec isn't particularly quick, but at 34 mpg combined, it's one of the most fuel-efficient luxury sedans on the market. In case your heart's set on a hybrid, we'll also mention the Lexus GS 450h, which boasts similar performance along with a healthy 31 mpg overall.
But even if your motto is BMW or bust, the ActiveHybrid 5 is far from the best choice. BMW doesn't swing and miss very often, but it's hard to see this 5 Series hybrid sedan as much more than a big whiff.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is a midsize luxury sedan available in a single trim level. The regular 5 Series is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, automatic adaptive headlights with LED halo running lights, automatic wipers, a sunroof and power-folding and auto-dimming heated mirrors. Inside the cabin there's dark wood trim, cruise control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with auxiliary controls, four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustments and memory functions.
Technology highlights include the iDrive interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, voice controls, BMW Assist emergency communications, smartphone app integration and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Three major optional equipment lines add LED foglights, optional upgraded leather upholstery, unique 18-inch wheel designs and other distinctive flourishes to the ActiveHybrid 5. The Luxury line features a sport steering wheel and dark gray wood accents, while the Modern line brings satin aluminum exterior trim and either dark pearl or light wood interior trim. Finally, the M Sport line boasts sport bumpers, shadowline exterior trim, an M steering wheel, optional performance tires and dark gray interior wood trim with a matching headliner (light wood trim is available). These equipment lines also offer numerous special paint colors and other customization options at extra cost.
Moving to conventional option packages, the Premium package adds a hands-free power trunk lid (opens or closes automatically when you pass your foot under the rear bumper while holding the remote), keyless ignition/entry and satellite radio. The Lighting package consists of adaptive full LED headlights with automatic high beam control. The Cold Weather package includes headlight washers, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Luxury Seating package adds 20-way power front seats with ventilation and massage functions. The Driver Assistance package adds a head-up display, a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors, while the Driver Assistance Plus package features numerous high-tech safety technologies (see "Safety," below).
Stand-alone optionsincludewood steering wheel trim, self-closing doors, a power rear sunshade with manual rear side window shades, ceramic-trimmed controls, a self-parking system, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, a rear-seat entertainment system and some of the individual items from the options packages above. There's also BMW's "Individual Composition" collection, which consists largely of à la carte trim items from the three main equipment lines.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 features a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine teamed with an electric motor, an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Driven with exceptional restraint, the ActiveHybrid 5 can theoretically hit 37 mph on electric power alone. Power for the electric motor comes from a lithium-ion battery located in the trunk. Total combined output is 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque.
BMW estimates that the ActiveHybrid 5 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, which is pretty much identical to the times we've recorded in both the regular 535i sedan (with an automatic transmission) and the diesel 535d.
This hybrid sedan has EPA ratings of 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway).
Standard safety equipment for the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 includes stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry in wet conditions and automatically snugging the brake pads to the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency response button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery.
A rearview camera and parking sensors are optional. The comprehensive Driver Assistance Plus package adds speed-limit information, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, driver drowsiness detection and side- and top-view cameras. Finally, the optional night-vision system is capable of displaying possible hazards that are otherwise out of regular headlight range.
In government crash tests, the conventional 5 Series sedan earned a top five-star rating overall, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 5 Series its highest score of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength crash tests. The 5 Series' seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" by the IIHS for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though the ActiveHybrid 5 has some issues, its interior certainly isn't one of them. In typical BMW fashion, the overall dashboard design is conservative, but materials quality is excellent for this class. Even in this high-tech hybrid model, the primary gauges are classic BMW -- just a white-on-black speedometer and tachometer separated by a configurable color display, with familiar orange illumination at night.
Despite the traditional look, seemingly every nook and cranny in the ActiveHybrid 5's interior is packed with cutting-edge technology. The big news this year is the updated iDrive system with its trick interpretive touchpad, which can translate your fingertip scribbles into characters and commands. Overall, iDrive is pretty easy to use thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared with some rival systems, it often requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.
The ActiveHybrid's standard-issue front seats are pretty comfortable in their own right, but the optional 20-way multicontour seats are astounding -- we heartily recommend upgrading if you can. In back, there's enough room for a pair of 6-foot adults to be comfortable, and the backseat is nicely contoured and padded. Because of its battery pack, the ActiveHybrid has a 10-cubic-foot trunk, which is smaller than average for a midsize luxury sedan.
Underwhelming fuel economy aside, the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is a rewarding car to drive. The hybrid powertrain provides quick acceleration at any speed. Unfortunately, the combination of gasoline and electric power isn't always seamless at low speeds, and that can make the car a sometimes clumsy partner in city traffic. Once up to speed, the ActiveHybrid 5 is a champ, boasting a quiet, substantial ride quality.
Like other 5 Series models, the ActiveHybrid 5 comes standard with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control feature, which alters the engine, steering and automatic transmission response based on driver-selected settings. The idea is to allow drivers to set up the car as they'd like, and although the adjustability is nice to have, the ActiveHybrid 5 never feels as sporty as we'd like in any of its settings. Compared with its Audi and Lexus rivals, the BMW feels bulkier and less precise around tight turns, and its steering transmits less feel.