BMW gave its entire 7-Series full-size luxury sedan lineup a mid-cycle refresh for the latest model year, but the biggest changes were reserved for the gas-electric ActiveHybrid 7. Whereas the outgoing car placed a premium on performance, the new model focuses on efficiency while continuing to provide the coddling interior and capable handling for which the 7-Series has become known.
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 now uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six allied with a 55 hp synchronous electric motor and a hybrid-spec 8-speed automatic. Electric power is sourced from a lithium-ion battery pack. While not quite as powerful as the previous quick-but-thirsty twin-turbo V8/electric powertrain, the new setup returns significantly better fuel economy while still producing 349 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque.
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 latest 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.
It wouldn't be a new full-size German luxury sedan without a world first, and the BMW says this requisite distinction is provided by a new Dynamic Damper System. Standard throughout the lineup, the system is reportedly 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.
Styling Revisions, Cabin Upgrades and Infotainment Tweaks
Powertrain aside, the ActiveHybrid 7 received the same comprehensive mid-cycle updates as the rest of the 7-Series range.
Outside, the styling changes are 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 has also been tweaked, with adaptive LED units now on the options list. The full-width air intake in the lower front fascia has also been 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.
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.
All ActiveHybrid 7 models are fitted with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Besides the ActiveHybrid 7, buyers looking for a hybridized full-size luxury sedan hybrids can choose from the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid and the Lexus LS 600h L. Those looking for better gas mileage and a lower purchase price than any of those machines should strongly consider the Mercedes-Benz S350 4Matic BlueTEC, which offers a coddling interior, the four-season traction of all-wheel-drive along with an impressive 31-mpg highway rating from its torquey diesel motor.