Used 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is a solid luxury car, but it's hard to make an argument for this gas-electric sedan from the standpoint of fuel economy, performance or outright cost.

What's new for 2016

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is a carryover from 2015. The only changes this year are upgraded Bluetooth and USB functionality, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and, in cabins with beige upholstery, black carpets and interior panels for improved longevity.

Vehicle overview

Hybrids add electric assist to a combustion engine with the dual purpose of reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency by reducing use of the engine. BMW decided that its hybrids, though, had to also offer performance.

The 2016 ActiveHybrid 5 is the Bavarian automaker's hybrid offering in its 5 Series lineup (reviewed separately), and while Bimmer's engineers got the performance part down, they weren't very successful on the fuel-efficiency front. Oh, there is improvement, but at an estimated 26 mpg combined, the ActiveHybrid 5 barely outshines the standard 5 Series models. What the hybrid BMW 5 Series sedan does do well is gallop to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds while offering all the luxury features BMW shoppers have come to expect.

Like most hybrids, though, the ActiveHybrid 5 takes a complicated and expensive path to achieve its blend of fuel efficiency and performance. If fuel economy is a chief priority, you'll find that there are quite a few more efficient and less expensive alternatives to the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5. First, there's BMW's own 535d, which serves up a combined 30 mpg rating (not to mention a colossal 38 mpg highway performance), upholds the brand's performance promise and costs several thousand dollars less than the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5. BMW's 528i, the four-cylinder-powered sibling of the ActiveHybrid 5, is just a half-second slower to 60 mph, but delivers slightly better fuel economy at 27 mpg combined and will save you enough to buy all the gasoline you'd need to keep motoring in it for several years.

Outside the BMW family there's the diesel-powered 2016 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec, which is oriented for maximum efficiency and thus not quite a match in outright performance. If you really want a hybrid, the Lexus GS 450h is certainly worth a look, given its 31 mpg combined rating. Infiniti's Q70 hybrid also competes in the midsize luxury segment and is both quicker and more fuel-efficient than the ActiveHybrid5. But we've not found its ride quality, handling or design to be particularly impressive.

The 2016 ActiveHybrid 5 is a fine luxury car that won't disappoint whether you are a first-time BMW shopper or have had several BMWs in the garage. But unless having both a BMW and a hybrid is a must, you'll doubtless find other luxury sedans that offer better overall value whether you are seeking fuel economy, performance or both.

Trim levels & features

The 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is a midsize luxury sedan available in a single trim level. BMW's other 5 Series models are reviewed separately.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires, automatic adaptive headlights, LED foglights, automatic wipers, a sunroof and power-folding and auto-dimming heated mirrors. Inside the cabin, there's a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustments and driver seat memory functions.

Standard technology features for the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5 include BMW's iDrive control interface, a navigation system, voice recognition for most audio, navigation and phone functions, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, BMW Assist emergency communications, smartphone app integration and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB input and HD radio.

The Luxury Line and the M Sport optional equipment groups incorporate upgraded leather upholstery, unique 18-inch wheel designs and other distinctive exterior and interior details such as specific wood trim. The M Sport package also includes several upgraded exterior components such as sport bumpers, a choice of performance or all-season tires and black "shadowline" exterior trim, while inside there is a special steering wheel, dark gray interior wood trim and a matching headliner. The Luxury and M Sport packages also offer access to other added-cost items, like special paint colors and other customization choices.

More traditional options groups for the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5 include the Cold Weather package, which incorporates heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Premium package adds a hands-free power trunk lid (opens or closes automatically when you pass your foot under the rear bumper with the key fob on your person), keyless ignition and entry and satellite radio. The Lighting package consists of LED adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam control.

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 the "Safety" section below).

There is no lack of other available premium features for the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5: Single optionsinclude the rearview camera, self-parking and night vision systems, wood steering wheel trim, self-closing doors, a power rear sunshade with manual rear side window shades, 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 individual trim items.

Performance & mpg

The 2016 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. With an extremely light foot, the ActiveHybrid 5 can travel up to 37 mph propelled only by the system's electric motor, powered from a lithium-ion battery located in the trunk. Stomp the accelerator, though, and the all-electric drive is gone. Total combined output of the gasoline engine and electric motor is 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque.

BMW estimates that the ActiveHybrid 5 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, essentially identical to times Edmunds has recorded testing both the regular 535i sedan (with an automatic transmission) and the diesel 535d.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5 weren't available as this review was written, but with no changes from the previous year, the 2016 model is expected to carry over the 2015 ActiveHybrid 5's rating of 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway).


Standard safety equipment for the 2016 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, a forward collision warning and mitigation system (with pedestrian detection), a lane departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring, driver drowsiness detection and side- and top-view cameras. Finally, the optional night vision system is capable of displaying possible hazards (including pedestrians) that might otherwise not be seen with the conventional headlights.

In government crash tests, the conventional 5 Series sedan has 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 has awarded the 5 Series its highest score of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests, but it earned only a "Marginal" rating in the Institute's small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. The 5 Series' seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" by the IIHS for whiplash protection in rear impacts.


As soon as you get underway, it is clear that BMW uses this car's electric motor mainly as a performance booster. Hit the gas pedal at low to moderate speeds and the ActiveHybrid 5 jumps to your command, the wonderful inline six-cylinder engine revving with exceptional smoothness.

Although this particular BMW six-cylinder has long been regarded as a peerlessly refined gasoline engine, we're not totally fond of how the ActiveHybrid 5 blends gasoline and electric power. Demand for moderate power at lower speeds can elicit jerky responses as the system struggles to decide how to most efficiently respond. And although the ActiveHybrid 5 theoretically can drive solely on electric power up to suburban speeds, the reality is that the gasoline engine fires to life at even the slightest provocation.

Most drivers will appreciate the quiet fashion in which the 2016 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 rides on almost all surfaces. The car comes standard with BMW's Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to fine-tune the engine, steering and automatic transmission sensitivity based on defined settings. Even dialed up to the sportiest settings, though, the heavy ActiveHybrid 5 still feels oriented more for cruising than we'd prefer, underscoring the fact that it is far from BMW's sharpest-handling model.


BMW sees little reason that a hybrid model should be any different inside than its conventionally powered counterparts, so the 2016 ActiveHybrid 5's interior gives little evidence about its alternative powertrain. The ActiveHybrid 5 uses BMW's standard and effective dual-dial gauges with traditional orange night lighting. All the hybrid information you could ask for, however, can be found in the iDrive system's menus. The iDrive system itself has been improved over the years, and we now consider it one of the more straightforward human-machine interfaces you'll find in a luxury vehicle.

And just as in every other 5 Series model, you're treated to outstanding materials and meticulous build quality. The front seats are roomy enough for large frames, and the standard adjustable seats can be made comfortable for anyone, while the optional "multicontour" seats bring new meaning to comfort and support.

Even fairly tall occupants will find the rear seats of the ActiveHybrid 5 to be spacious and supportive enough for an all-day drive. But don't plan too many multi-passenger, weeklong trips as this car's battery pack squeezes trunk capacity to a meager 10 cubic feet, markedly tighter than the trunk of any non-hybrid midsize luxury sedan and significantly smaller than even the Lexus GS 450h, which offers 13 cubic feet.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.