The BMW 5 Series has driving dynamics that you could probably identify blindfolded. The current car’s weighty and responsive steering, muscular reserves of body control and poised cornering manners are shared by every derivative, including this ActiveHybrid5. They make the mid-sized BMW utterly distinctive and almost as enticing to drive as any saloon you could name.
Like every other Five, the ActiveHybrid5 gives you the impression that here is an athlete clothed in a business suit. Its dynamic character seems to crystallise when bigger tests are asked of it, while other cars simply run out of answers.
Grip and damping levels are considerable and the handling is balanced, precise and stable but nuanced. A 535d M Sport would probably hang on slightly harder at the limit, but that wouldn’t necessarily make it a better fast road car. By way of comparison, an Infiniti M35h offers little handling entertainment.
Our test car came fitted with BMW’s Variable Damper Control, an option that gave it a breadth of ability the standard car probably couldn’t match. Sport+ mode delivers sports saloon composure and steering response, while Comfort offers a compliant and comfortable everyday ride. However, a basic 520d is probably a slightly better-riding BMW than even a VDC-equipped ActiveHybrid 5; over bad surfaces and in the softer suspension modes, the considerable mass of the hybrid does generate some unchecked and unwanted body movements.
But that’s a minor criticism of an otherwise fine-handling car. This is just about the only hybrid we can think of that you’d take out of the garage simply for the sake of driving.