BMW’s first hybrid to go on sale in the UK is essentially a 535i to which a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor have been fitted.
It raises power from 302 to 335bhp, but also increases weight by 150kg to leave an almost unchanged power-to-weight ratio and unchanged performance claims.
However, fuel consumption is dramatically improved from 35.9mpg to 44.1mpg with a commensurate reduction in CO2 emissions and therefore your tax burden. BMW hopes that this, plus the novelty factor of a BMW that will move (albeit slowly) on electric power alone, and some extra equipment will persuade at least some customers to pay an extra £6385 for the privilege. You need to remember, however, that those batteries need to go somewhere and in this case reduce the size of the boot to little more than what you get from a 1 Series.
Its significantly larger problem is the existence of the diesel 535d. Faster and lighter, it does 52.3mpg, emits far less CO2 and is better in every way you can measure and most you cannot. It’s also more than £2500 cheaper.
But the diesel-phobic are still out there and if what you seek is a genuinely quick, comfortable and reasonably frugal executive saloon but cannot for some reason face filling at the black pump, this is a genuinely fine car.
It’ll go a surprising distance in town on electric power alone and at a reasonable speed so long as you’re smooth with the throttle. And then because BMW multi-cylinder motors are so smooth, you may actually fail to spot the moment when the engine sparks into life.
Beyond the city limits I can’t say you’re aware of the electrics at all unless you count what feels like unusually strong low-end torque for a petrol motor. And, small boot aside, the rest of the car is as good as any other 5 Series, which is pretty damn good. I couldn’t even detect any real adverse effect the extra weight has on its handling.
Even so, you cannot escape the knowledge that this car was not built for our roads: you’d have the 535d every day of the week, month and year. But in markets where diesel remains a dirty word, such as the US, the hybrid 5 suddenly starts to make a great deal of sense. This is not a poor car, but a good one that’s landed in the wrong place.
Engine: 3.0 litres, six cylinders, petrol/electric
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
Power: 335bhp at 5800rpm