As its name suggests, the ActiveHybrid 7 is a gas-electric version of BMW's 7-Series full-size luxury sedan. It's spacious and opulent, but a high price and unimpressive fuel economy make it tough to recommend.
Notably, the ActiveHybrid 7 is available in long-wheelbase form only, stretching 5.5 inches longer in wheelbase and overall length than the standard 7-Series.
The ActiveHybrid 7 benefits from a host of new standard equipment for the latest model year, including remote services, BMW Apps, real-time traffic information, BMW Assist eCall, BMW Online, BMW TeleServices and a dynamic instrument cluster. Additionally, the iDrive infotainment system now features a touchpad for "writing" numbers and letters for tasks like entering navigation destinations or saving phone numbers.
Last year, the ActiveHybrid 7 received freshened styling inside and out along with a thorough hybrid powertrain rethink that saw the replacement of the previous, V8-based setup with the current, more efficient six-cylinder arrangement.
The ActiveHybrid 7 is based on the 740Li, with both sedans featuring a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. The ActiveHybrid 7 goes a step further by adding an electric motor electric motor housed within the car's eight-speed automatic transmission that essentially takes the place of the torque converter. Total system output is rated at 349 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque.
Those figures that represent noticable gains over the 740Li's 315 ponies and 330 lb-ft, but the extra weight of the ActiveHybrid 7's electric motor and battery pack effectively negates any acceleration advantage. The ActiveHybrid 7 also offers little in the way of a fuel economy advantage, returning 22/30 mpg to the less expensive 740Li's 19/29 mpg.
Like most other hybrid vehicles, the ActiveHybrid 7's gas and electric engines are capable of operating independently or together. Given a light enough right foot, the car can be coaxed into covering 2.5 miles using only the electric motor. The top speed on electric power alone is 37 mph.
Green Tech Barrage: Driving Dynamics Control, Eco Pro and Coasting Modes
The ActiveHybrid 7 features a Driving Dynamics Control system that allows the driver to personalize a wide-range of the car's systems to suite his or her tastes, including accelerator response, engine response, power steering characteristics, stability control thresholds, transmission and damper settings and more.
Drivings Dynamics Control offers five pre-set settings, with Eco Pro being the most notable. Eco Pro optimizes a host of vehicle elements, such as the powertrain and programming of the heating and air conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heating, to operate with maximum efficiency. When used in conjunction with an efficient driving style (which the system actually offers tips for), Eco Pro can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, BMW says.
Eco Pro also features a coasting mode that decouples the engine when coasting at speeds between 30-100 mph. The ActiveHybrid 7 gets a unique coasting mode that shuts off the gas engine when coasting, letting the car glide along sans emissions.
Styling Revisions, Cabin Upgrades and Infotainment Tweaks
Powertrain aside, the ActiveHybrid 7 recently received the same comprehensive mid-cycle updates as the rest of the 7-Series range.
Outside, the styling changes were decidedly subtle. The twin kidney grilles, which each feature nine slats in place of the previous 12, are now encased in larger chrome surrounds. The headlight design was also tweaked, with adaptive LED units now on the options list. The full-width air intake in the lower front fascia was redesigned and incorporates new fog lamps and chrome strips along its outer sections.
Much of the cabin carries over, with changes including thinner and more comfortable front seats, new ambient lighting and extra sound deadening material. The navigation system was revised with crisper graphics and new 3D elements, but the big news is an enhanced voice recognition system that allows the driver to dictate and send emails and texts without removing his or her hands from the wheel.
Other nifty new electronic touches include remote services, which lets smartphone users remotely start their car, turn on the A/C or, in the event of a crowded parking lot, honk the horn or flash the lights to locate the vehicle. BMW Apps lets passengers users access Facebook, Twitter, web radio services and more through iDrive, while BMW Online provides access to Google local search, restaurant and hotels guides, telephone directories and more.
Otherwise, the interior remains a comfortable place with stretch-out space and plenty of top-shelf wood and leather.
The big sedan's ride and handling are improved by a new self-leveling rear suspension and an optional Dynamic Damper system, which BMW says is the first electronically controlled damping system with shock absorbers that are adjusted individually at each wheel based on the condition of the road surface and the driving style.
Standard and Optional Features
The ActiveHybrid 7 comes lavishly equipped, with highlights from the standard features list including leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, a navigation system with real-time traffic info, a 10-speaker, 205-watt sound system with HD radio, a rearview camera, front and rear parking assistance systems, heated front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, dynamic cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, LED foglights and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Numerous options are available, with some of the more notable being side and top view cameras, lane departure warning with collision mitigation, blind spot assist, massaging rear seats, a 600-watt, 16-speaker premium audio system, automatic closing doors, a head-up display and an M-Sport Package.
Every 7-Series model is equipped with dual front, side and side curtain airbags along with traction and stability control systems and a crash sensor that disconnects the alternator, fuel pump and starter from battery, automatically unlocks doors and turns on hazard and interior lights in the event of a collision.
For longer journeys, an Attention Assistant feature evaluates the driver's control inputs and issues an encouragement to rest if it detects signs of fatigue.
Even more safety features can be had with the driver assistance package, which brings an active blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning system with Collision Mitigation (which applies the brakes when an impending collision is detected). The package also includes side and top view camera, which provide extra side-view visibility, and Speed Limit Info, which displays the local speed limit at the top of the instrument panel.
Rivals to the ActiveHybrid 7 include the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the Mercedes-Benz S500 plug-in Hybrid and the Lexus LS 600h L.
Those who are more interested in saving fuel than having a hybrid badge on their sedan's decklid should check out the Audi A8 L TDI diesel, which bests all of the aforementioned models with an impressive 36 mpg highway rating.