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Spied! BMW 5 Series Hybrid Testing in California

An eagle-eyed reader caught this BMW 5 Series hybrid testing in plain view in California. Although it wears mostly the same garb as a standard 535i badge, a sticker on the trunklid has the word “HYBRID” followed by some German and was painted in BMW’s hybrid-exclusive blue water metallic paint. Moreover, our source tells us the car wore a different front grille and fascia to standard 5 Series models.

A 5 Series hybrid concept debuted at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, with a bespoke drivetrain based on the EfficientDynamics hybrid systems used by other BMWs. The drivetrain used BMW’s N55 engine, a single-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six producing 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It was coupled to a 40-kW electric motor/generator and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

While BMW declined to reveal any specifics about the hybrid concept’s economy numbers, the company did say that the car would use 10-percent less fuel than an equivalent 535i. The 2011 BMW 535i is EPA-rated at 20/30 mpg (city/highway) with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Two months after the concept debut in Geneva, we spotted a 5 Series hybrid mule running around the streets of Munich, Germany. Then at the May 2010 shareholder’s meeting, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said, “As early as next year, the new 5 Series will also be available as a full hybrid.” That means we can expect to see car in a few months’ time.

When it does debut, the 5 Series hybrid will join the 7 Series ActiveHybrid and X6 ActiveHybrid in BMW’s hybrid lineup. We’ll keep you posted when we learn an official on-sale date and full details.

Thanks to friend of the magazine Ronan O’Mahony for the photos.

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