BMW’s 7 Series hybrid: An expensive way to save the planet
Where other automakers have focused on small hybrids, Germany’s BMW has taken its most fuel inefficient cars and added a dash of electric power. Take the new-for-2011 ActiveHybrid 7L luxobarge. Along with the ActiveHybridX6 Sports Activity Coupe crossover/SUV/thingee, the sedan arrived at the 2008 Paris auto show as the first-ever hybrids to wear the German automaker’s spinning blue and black propeller logo. But does it work? Let’s go to the highlights…
First, the 7er hybrid can’t move on battery power alone. Instead, it uses the electric motor sandwiched between the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre gasoline vee-eight engine and the autobox as a supplementary power source. Unlike a “fuel-economy-at-all-expense” Prius, the big BMW has gobs of power. As in 455 hp and 515 lb-ft of torque—or more than three times that of a Prius.
The irony? The ActiveHybrid 7L is the most fuel efficient 7 Series you can buy. Transport Canada ratings of 12.2L/100 km in the city and 8.3L on the highway are 21 per cent and 17 per cent better than its V8 gas model counterpart.
However, that doesn’t make the BMW the most fuel efficient in its class. No sirree.
Rival luxury hybrids like the Lexus LS 600h L and Mercedes-Benz S 400 Hybrid sip less fuel in the city, and the electric ‘Benz scores a best-in-class 7.9L/100 km out on the highway. During the over 1,000 km I drove the BMW, mainly at highway speeds, the ActiveHybrid 7L’s trip computer registered an overall 10.4L.
Not bad. But the diesel geek in me dreams of the European 730Ld. It comes with a 3.0-litre diesel engine that makes a respectable 245 hp and a tree-pulling 540 lb-ft of torque. Better yet, it scores a 9.1L/100 km city and 5.6L highway ratings on the European test cycle.
But—and here’s where BMW’s schizophrenia kicks in—the automaker’s claimed 5.5 seconds zero to 100 km/h acceleration time for its ActiveHybrid 7L makes it the quickest hybrid sedan on the market—only 0.1 second slower than a gas-only 750Li xDrive.
Perhaps the biggest slight against the ActiveHybrid 7L as a luxury sedan is the less than refined nature of its stop/start system. When at rest, the BMW’s gas engine shuts down to save fuel. But when you decide to move forward and release the brake, the engine fires up abruptly and noisily. A couple of times, I had to jump back on the brakes as the car rolled forward in traffic. In a car that BMW engineers have painstakingly refined every other molecule, this off-putting behaviour is glaring.
No doubt, any potential customer of any luxury hybrid is not pinching pennies. But the ActiveHybrid 7L is a questionable value at best.
Starting at $132,300, the ActiveHybrid 7L starts at about $16,000 more than its gas-only counterpart. Ouch. And matters only get worse outside of a BMW showroom. There, one can find the $26,400 less expensive Mercedes-Benz S 400 Hybrid or the $10,550 cheaper Lexus 600h L.
Are you trying to find the rationale behind the BMW ActiveHybrid 7L? Me too…