Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



First drive: BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.

First drive: BMW ActiveHybrid 7
BMW's electrified 7 adds hybrid power, but diesel is a better solution for UK buyers.

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> BMW reviews

| First Drive | Stoke Place, England | BMW ActiveHybrid 7 |

Overall rating: 3 3 3 3 3

ActiveHybrid 7 is an anomalous model in the revised BMW 7 Series range with no obvious advantages over its diesel relations. Infinitesimal sales are anticipated as a result in the UK, but it'll salve the environmental conscience of buyers in petrol-dominant markets.

Key Facts

Pricing: 69,140
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol and electric motor
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A8 4.2 TDI L quattro, Lexus LS 600h L, Porsche Panamera S Hybrid
CO2 emissions: 158g/km
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 354hp
Torque: 500Nm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Restyled and refreshed, the BMW 7 Series now presents a bolder face (with new headlamps and intakes) to oncoming traffic, and a rear that has benefitted from chrome accents and taillight revisions. The changes are subtle, but effective, the 7 retaining its relatively restrained looks, but with a sharper edge to it. Outwardly the ActiveHybrid 7 gains some additional badging, the rear pillars and boot lid all boasting about its battery boosted status.

Open the door and there's a reminder on the kick-plate too, the ActiveHybrid 7 not allowing you to forget it's packing some additional batteries. The interior is all regular BMW fodder, a large iDrive controlled central screen operating the massive info and entertainment arsenal and car set-up options. It's all very nicely finished and comfortable, whether you're up front driving, or barking orders at Jeeves from the rear seats.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

BMW claims it's possible to drive the ActiveHybrid 7 on electricity alone for between two to three miles, though without any over-riding EV mode button it's not that easy to do so. Drive like a saint and it'll pull away initially on battery power alone, but it's almost impossible to avoid getting the petrol six-cylinder unit to cut in. It does so quickly and quietly too, BMW's mating of electric motor to conventional internal combustion engine impressively executed. It's a shame then that there's not more opportunity to drive on battery power alone, the overriding impression of the ActiveHybrid 7's powertrain being that of mild battery assistance rather than any dominance in the make up under power.

The result is a car that to all intents feels conventionally powered, which could be considered a triumph for BMW's engineers, but it does rather make you wonder why you'd opt for it. That's especially true in the UK where its diesel relations offer significantly improved economy and lower emissions, without losing anything on the road in performance. The 740d manages 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and 149g/km of CO2 emissions, bettering the ActiveHybrid's 41.5mpg and 158g/km; and the diesel also out-guns it to 62mph by 0.4 of a second.

The revised suspension offers improved ride over its predecessor, but while it's supple enough it's not quite as effective at isolating bumps as its Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival. It's marginally sharper in the bends though, yet the steering is so oddly weighted and devoid of feel there's really no incentive to push the ActiveHybrid 7 any quicker than stately progress. The gearshift is seamless (which is handy when the automatic gearbox has eight ratios to choose from), but there's a fairly obvious regenerative effect when lifting off and coasting. The initial bite of the brakes feels odd too, as if the hybrid system is scavenging as much as possible when hitting the brakes.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

You buy a talking point; though it's clear the additional money it costs over the conventionally powered 740i or 740d is taken up with all the hybrid components the ActiveHybrid 7 brings with it. The specification is fairly generous though, as it should be in a car that's just short of 70,000. The equipment list includes four-zone climate control, satnav, park distance control, Bluetooth, leather upholstery and heated front seats along with more three-letter acronym titled driver aids than you'd achieve from a tin of alphabet-spaghetti.

Worth Noting

BMW itself admits that around 90% of the big luxury car marketplace is made up of diesel-powered models in this part of the world, which does rather put this hybrid in a difficult place. The company's own diesel-fuelled 7 Series models better it in every way, while a diesel-powered S-Class does so too and adds a three-year unlimited mileage warranty where BMW only offers 60,000 miles over the same period.

Summary

It's difficult to see where the customer base for the ActiveHybrid 7 is, with those wanting to use minimal fuel being offered far better turbodiesel choices, and those who don't care plentiful power in the petrol range. If it offered some driving quirks to add some interest - like genuine EV only mode for more than the claimed two to three miles - it might be worth considering, but as it stands it's nigh on impossible to see where its appeal lies.


Kyle Fortune. Photography by Max Earey. - 26 Nov 2012



  www.bmw.co.uk    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- ActiveHybrid 7 images

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.



2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Image by Max Earey.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©