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2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7: Putting Performance Into Perspective

The 2011 BMW 750Li ActiveHybrid is an intriguing vehicle and I’m about to make a claim that may surprise just about anyone.  The ActiveHybrid 7  is the best bang for your buck 7 Series.  Slotted above this hybrid is the ALPINA B7 and the 760Li V12.  On paper, both of these vehicles look like they would eat anything with a hybrid badge for lunch.  Hit the jump to see what I mean.

On day one with the ActiveHybrid 7, my eyes grew glazed over as I glanced at the almost $110,000 MSRP.  Is it really possible that someone who has that kind of money to spend would really want a hybrid?  Looks can be deceiving.  The ActiveHybrid 7 has a 4.4L V8 with twin turbos and a lithium-ion battery hooked up to an electric motor that is sandwiched between the engine and the torque converter.  The electric motor helps yield an extra 20 HP and 155 LB-FT of torque twist.  The final math comes in at 455 HP and 515 LB-FT of torque.  Talk about a sleeper!  Many people equate hybrids with turtle-like acceleration.  Not so with the 7 Series.  OK, so it doesn’t get 52 MPG, but it is still a hybrid.  It uses that lithium-ion battery pack to deliver a power boost worthy of being called a battery-powered supercharger.

Torque is what is needed to move this massive amount of steel and leather so let’s look at the 515 LB-FT number for just a second.  This is an impressive number.  That is more torque than a 2012 Mustang Shelby GT500 and 1LB-FT less than the 2012 E63 AMG wagon.  So this BMW might be labeled a hybrid but it is anything but Prius-like.  So we’ve established the fact that the ActiveHybrid7 has mucho power on tap but there are two 7s slotted above the ActiveHybrid.  The V12 powered 760Li has 550 LB-Ft of torque but adds some significant pounds and starts at a lofty $137,000.  OK, so a bit more torque but significantly more cheddar.  The Alpina B7 comes in at 516 Lb-FT of torque and starts at almost $123,000.  The Alpina B7 only has a six-speed automatic while the ActiveHybrid 7 has eight cogs.  Some automotive publications have achieved 0-60 MPH in 4.5 seconds for the ActiveHybrid 7.  Simply outstanding for a car weighing over 5,000 lbs with a driver in it.  All three 7 Series models have been found to hustle to 60 MPH within a few tenths of a second of each other.  The Audi A8 doesn’t have any power remotely close to this, yet.  Yeah, the decision is getting easier, isn’t it?

Ahh, so yes, we’re still paying less and getting more than the other more powerful 7 Series models.  If you’re shelling out six figures, don’t you want more for your money?  Of course you do.  And you want exclusivity, too.  The ActiveHybrid 7 is the newest 7 Series model, so chances of seeing one of these on the road is slim to none.  The long wheelbase helps give the 7 Series some clout on the road.  The familiar BMW face can make it difficult for non-automotive literate people to distinguish the 3, 5, or 7 Series apart.  The extra wheelbase lets people know this is something special and the hybrid badges almost always get people talking.

A Few Quick Likes: The audio system isn’t branded but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound good, because it does.  The rain sensing wipers have the best algorithm of any rain sensing wiper system I have tried – less driver intervention than others.  The double-paned glass is an outstanding feature that BMW doesn’t seem to talk about but others, like Audi, charge more for.  The start/stop system was making my brain tell me that I had to come to full stops at stop signs.  I knew I had fully stopped when the engine shut off.  The suspension did an admirable job given that it was riding on 20-inch run flat tires.  I was bracing for the worst but the ActiveHybrid 7 was comfortable and composed.  It also possesses my favorite rear seat of any of the flagship vehicles I have driven.  It appears to be the roomiest and has great headroom for those of us not vertically challenged.  I actually grew to like iDrive.  It’s nice to have all of the control in one hand and not have to reach for it.  The split screen has some quirks but it’s a breeze to pick songs on an iPod or listen to Sirius XM.  It’s not graphic intensive like Audi’s MMI but it moves fast and it is easy to modulate what you want relatively quickly.

A few things puzzled me with the 7 Series.  An iPod/USB adapter should really be standard and not a $400 option.  That was passable five years ago but not now.  Also, the adjustable suspension offers a few different settings but I had a difficult time distinguishing the difference between them.  The daytime running lights look dated against the LED lights on the X3 and 5 Series.  I also don’t understand why there are three degrees of fan speed for auto mode.  Isn’t the point of automatic climate control so you can set and forget?  OK, so I had a few beefs but nothing horrible.

I felt like the ActiveHybrid 7 was the big secret of the 7 Series lineup after a week.  It’s quiet, powerful, and had über nice Nappa leather against your back and bum.  It gives you that instant green street cred because no one knows it’s the “other” kind of hybrid.  It keeps your spouse happy because they think you’re getting a Prius-like turtle when you’re really getting a 5,000 lb rocket.  It also saves a lot of dough if you’re planning to spring for the Alpina B7 or V12 but not lose the performance.  Not a bad deal, if you’re looking for one of Germany’s luxoliners and have $100,000 or more to spend on a flagship BMW.

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