Shown in concept form last year at Geneva, the production version of the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Series will arrive in U.S. showrooms in March. This latest addition to the automaker's cadre of greener and even more efficient gas-electric vehicles introduces a number of innovative powertrain touches in addition to being the first vehicle to use BMW's ActiveHybrid technology in conjunction with an in-line-6 engine, coupled here with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The new ActiveHybrid 5 is based on the current BMW 535i sedan and pairs its 300-horsepower/3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine with a 55-horsepower electric motor that develops 155 lb-ft of torque. Integrated into the housing of the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that's also used in BMW's ActiveHybrid 7, this compact motor relies on the engine's cooling system to regulate its operating temperature and is energized by a 675wH high-performance lithium-ion battery pack located between the car's rear wheel wells. The combined system output is 330 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, sufficient to send the ActiveHybrid 5 from 0-60 mph in an estimated 5.7 seconds. BMW says it can reach speeds up to 37 mph on electric power alone and travel about 2.5 miles at 22 mph. No word yet on expected EPA numbers, but we're led to believe that the overall number should rise by a double-digit percentage over a standard 335i.

To help in its mileage-maxing efforts, the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is fitted with a dedicated Auto Start-Stop function that seamlessly restarts the vehicle when the brake is released using either the engine, the motor or both power sources, depending on the throttle input and state of battery charge. BMW is also introducing a new "coasting-mode" feature on the ActiveHybrid 5. As the name implies, it shuts down the engine and disconnects it from the driveshaft using a clutch mechanism whenever conditions warrant. Beyond permitting the car to operate as a pure EV around town, it's capable of transitioning into this fuel-saving mode when the ActiveHybrid 5 is moving at speeds of up to 100 mph.

The final bit of function-focused technology in the new BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is computer programming that coordinates the car's dedicated power electronics control system with the standard navigation package. By analyzing the anticipated route of travel, this intelligent setup can revise the operating algorithms of each powertrain element as well as the ancillaries like the electrically-powered climate control system to ensure optimum use and/or storage of energy for any given trip. 

Inside, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 keeps the driver advised of the system's operating status using a number of dedicated display screens accessed via the multifunction iDrive interface as well as by unique readouts in the main instrument cluster that show the real-time level of supplemental boost being supplied by the motor as graphic presentations of the energy flow and recuperation.

Official pricing for the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 5 won't be released until closer to its on-sale date. However, expect it to start in the high-$50K to low-$60K range.

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