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First drive: 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.

First drive: 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
BMW pushes forward with hybridisation, the new ActiveHybrid 7 anything but mild...

 



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| First Drive | Munich, Germany | BMW ActiveHybrid 7 |

BMW is pushing its EfficientDynamics ideal into a new area with the introduction of a couple of hybrid models to its range. Buyers of the 7 Series and X6 can now order an electrically assisted V8 under the bonnet, salving their environmental conscience and bringing the bonus of even more power, too. Sounds like a win-win situation to us. Except they're not going to be offered in right-hand drive.

In the Metal

It's a 7 Series, in all its massive glory. The 7 is a bold-looking car with its flaring kidney grille and large proportions. If it weren't for the plentiful stickers along the test cars' flanks you'd be hard pushed to tell that this hybrid machine is any different from its pure petrol or diesel brethren as it thumps past you on the autobahn at speed. Catch it in traffic and you might spot the ActiveHybrid badges on the C-pillars and aerodynamically tweaked 19-inch alloy wheels - which themselves apparently reduce CO2 output by 2g/km.

What you get for your Money

As it's not officially on sale in the UK or Ireland price is a moot point. But for around 12,550 (14,000) more than its V8 alternative you get the hybrid powertrain that reduces fuel consumption, improves CO2 emissions and boosts power. BMW claims that specification adjusted you're looking at a circa 4,480 (5,000) premium; even so, it'll take you a long time to re-coup that on fuel savings.

Unlike its ActiveHybrid X6 relative, the 7 Series is a mild hybrid, so it's not possible to run on electricity alone, the electric motor and small lithium ion battery being used to boost the engine's power and as a starter motor for the stop-start system. Aside from the electric/petrol powertrain you get all the massive comfort, space and equipment you'd expect from a 7 Series, though you do lose about 40 litres of luggage space to the battery.

Driving it

The 7 Series might be called a 'mild' hybrid, but there's nothing mild about the way it performs. The standard 750i is already a rapid car and adding some spark to the drivetrain makes for even more impressive performance. Push the accelerator to the floor and the combined output of its twin-turbo V8 engine and electric motor shift the 7 to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds and onto an electronically limited 155mph. That's not far off V12 760Li pace, with fuel consumption even better than the six-cylinder 740i's. Officially the ActiveHybrid 7 will return 30mpg and emit just 219g/km of CO2, but with all the grunt it offers it's impossible to resist the temptation to enjoy its remarkable acceleration and forget about the environment.

Regardless of how you drive it, some fuel savings are clawed back at the lights by automatic shutting down of the V8 engine, the electric motor kicking the V8 back into life when you release the brake pedal. Scavenging electricity when braking or coasting there's little of the drivetrain drag that blights some hybrids, the system working without any obvious switching between its various modes. Seamlessly integrated, the only real indication of what the various elements are doing beneath you is via the large centre console screen and a simple gauge at the bottom of the instruments.

It's heavier by around 100kg though, BMW having to add some strengthening and weight to house the powertrain and ensure it retains its near perfect weight balance. The 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine features slightly boosted output to integrate with the electric motor more effectively. On it's own it develops 449bhp, the electric motor adding just 16bhp to offer a total 465bhp. It's the torque where the electric motor really helps though, adding around 150lb.ft to the 7's output to allow it to deliver a total of 516lb.ft at 2,000-4,500rpm.

Driving through an eight-speed transmission, the gearshifts are virtually unnoticeable and the performance relentless, the 7 feeling very rapid by any measure. Big too, and soft, the 7's set-up being more for comfort than poise, it lurching pretty alarmingly in bends if you arrive with a bit more speed than you intended.

Worth Noting

The ActiveHybrid 7 will only be built in left-hand drive, underlining that it's a model aimed largely at American buyers. The USA is anticipated to take over 40 percent of production, with Germans buying about half that. Japan should take a few despite being a right-hand drive market - the Japanese like their foreign cars with the steering wheel on the wrong side to emphasise that they've been imported. The Japanese market also likes hybrids. In Europe the existence of diesels does make it somewhat pointless to most, but the promise of V12-like performance with an economical V8 hybrid powertrain is rather seductive.

Summary

Huge presence, huge performance and a semblance of environmental credibility make the ActiveHybrid 7 a tempting proposition. It'll no-doubt become the 7 Series to be seen in, though it's a shame BMW didn't go further like it's doing with its X6 hybrid and add the ability to drive short distances on electricity alone. Only a stepping stone to the future then, but a mightily impressive one all the same.

Kyle Fortune - 30 Oct 2009









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2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 specifications:
Price: Not on sale in right-hand drive markets.
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Combined economy: 30.1mpg
Emissions: 219g/km
Kerb weight: 2045kg

Full technical specifications

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.



2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by BMW.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by BMW.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by BMW.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by BMW.
 






 

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