BMW ActiveHybrid 5 ConceptEnlarge Photo
Just ten years ago, cars like the 2002 Toyota Prius traded performance for unbelievably-high gas mileage, bringing the concept of eco-friendly gasoline electric hybrid cars to the masses.
Recently however, automakers like BMW have used full hybrid technology to give high performance luxury cars like the 5-Series a gas mileage boost without compromising on performance.
But with an expected gas mileage of around 31 mpg combined -- and some reports citing it as low as 26 mpg at best -- is the ActiveHybrid 5 really a green car, or is it time that we realized that Hybrid drivetrains aren’t necessarily always green?
Yes, It Really Is A Hybrid
While 36 mpg might sound low when compared to the gas mileage of cars like the 2012 Toyota Prius and 2012 Honda Insight, both the Prius and the Insight make some significant sacrifices in performance at the altar of fuel efficiency.
Take acceleration. Both the 2012 Toyota Prius and 2012 Honda Insight take around 10 seconds to hit 60 mph. The ActiveHybrid 5 does it in 5.7.
But while the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is both faster and less fuel efficient than either of the two kings of gas mileage, it is also a real hybrid.
2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5Enlarge Photo
Let us explain. Unlike previous generation 5-series hybrids -- whose mild-hybrid drivetrains could not provide electric only operation -- the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 can travel on electric only power at speeds of up to 37 mph. For city driving, BMW claims electric-only mode will carry you as far as 2.5 miles, provided you keep an average speed of 22mph.
A Different Market
On paper, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5’s gas mileage looks mediocre, especially when there are so many compact and sub-compact non-hybrid cars on the market that can get a gas mileage of more than 40 mpg.
But the ActiveHybrid 5 isn’t meant as a car for eco-minded consumers who want the greenest possible car available.
Instead, the ActiveHybrid 5 is BMW’s latest entry into the luxury hybrid market, currently dominated by cars like the 2012 Infiniti M35h and the 2012 Lexus GS 450h. At a stretch, BMW buyers might even look at the 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
Just like you wouldn't compare apples with oranges, you can't compare the BMW AcitveHybrid 5 to subcompact high gas mileage cars or eco-minded hybrids: instead, you have to compare it to similar cars.
Have Your Cake, Eat It Too?
2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5
2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5Enlarge Photo
From the perspective of a long-standing BMW driver, the ActiveHybrid 5 offers the best of both worlds -- a car that they know will give great performance and quality while simultaneously saving them money at the gas station.
More importantly, it helps introduce buyers who traditionally wouldn’t entertain buying a car like the 2012 Toyota Prius to the concept of owning a hybrid car.
While it may not get anywhere near the gas mileage of a car like the 2012 Toyota Prius, the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will help get luxury car buyers out of high-performance, low gas mileage cars into something that is familiar, but also greener.
There’s more. With the BMW i3 electric and BMW i8 plug-in hybrid due to launch in a few years’ time, the ActiveHybrid 5 could be the stepping stone for many luxury car buyers towards an even more environmentally-friendly car.
But Is It A Green Car?
On paper, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 doesn’t look all that green, but compare it to other similarly-sized, similarly-priced luxury cars, and it becomes apparent that it is a lot greener than some of its competitors.
Ultimately, an improvement in gas mileage of even a few miles per gallon is a good thing, especially when it introduces car drivers to a technology that could lead to even greener cars.
For that reason alone, we think it is fair to call the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 a green car when comparing it with other luxury segment cars. Beyond that however, it starts to lose its green credentials.
What do you think? Let us know in the Comments below.