BMW ActiveHybrid 5 ConceptEnlarge Photo
While Toyota's Prius dominates at the lower end of the hybrid market and is set to tighten its hold further with the Prius V and Prius C, Toyota subsidiary Lexus is set to field its GS 450h luxury hybrid sedan against the Infiniti M35h (a Green Car Reports best car to buy 2012 nominee) and BMW ActiveHybrid 5 in 2012.
So which sporting, luxurious hybrid sedan will come out on top? Let's take a look at the numbers.
MPG sells almost as much as MPH these days and buyers looking for their luxury hybrid want to know how far their fuel will get them.
The sleek 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid is the only car currently on sale of the trio, and as such it has some official EPA fuel figures to work with. It's quoted at 32 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city, with a combined figure of 29 mpg.
Toyota claims the 2013 Lexus GS 450h will manage a 30 percent improvement on the current model, which would result in 28.6 mpg city and 32.5 mpg highway - competitive with the Infiniti and likely enough for a 30 mpg combined rating. Figures for the BMW haven't yet been revealed but even a regular BMW 535i sedan manages 30mpg highway, so it could beat both of its Japanese rivals.
2012 Infiniti M35h sets Guinness record for quickest hybrid Performance
2012 Infiniti M35h sets Guinness record for quickest hybridEnlarge Photo
Infiniti looks like taking the performance battle. The company claims the 360-horsepower M35h is the fastest hybrid on the market, and at 5.5 seconds for the benchmark 0-60mph sprint its hard to disagree. The BMW is expected to do the same run in 5.7 seconds with a combined power figure of 335-hp.
The Lexus should be much the same. Between engine and the two electric motors it can generate peak power of 338-hp. If it doesn't beat six seconds in the sprint, we'd be surprised.
The 'luxury' element of a luxury, sports, hybrid sedan requires some special features to justify the price, so what does each offer?
The Lexus gives buyers LED headlamps and the Lexus Dynamic Handling System, a version of four-wheel steering to help cornering stability. Wood, leather and a large display screen adorn the interior.
2013 Lexus GS 450h live photosEnlarge Photo
The Infiniti too offers everything you'd expect in a luxury sedan, from leather to climate control and more. Nothing stands out as unusual, but you do get a warning sound to alert pedestrians when you're running around silently.
The Infiniti M Hybrid starts at $53,700. Details are thin on the ground for the Lexus and BMW at the moment, but the Infiniti definitely looks great value next to the current GS 450h, which has an MSRP of $58,950.
The BMW is harder to judge. The sole precedent so far has been set by the now defunct 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6, which at nearly $89,000 was more than $20K higher than the regular V8. We're sure the pricing chasm won't be as wide with the 5-Series, but with more power and better economy than the 30mpg highway, $52,250 BMW 535i sedan, we're expecting it to be closer to the Lexus.
So which will be the winner?
Well if value for money is your ultimate concern, the Infiniti will still be hard to beat - and not just when the lights turn green. Lexus and BMW have the badge advantage though and both have the potential to beat the Infiniti on fuel efficiency too.
At this end of the market though, the decision could be as simple as nailing your colors to a particular mast. In the market for luxury hybrid sedans, the buyer will be the real winner...