What's New for 2013
Besides a very minor styling update inside and out for 2013, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is now offered only in long-wheelbase form and the primary power source is a turbocharged inline-6 engine that replaces the outgoing V8. Also debuting is an EcoPro drive setting to aid fuel economy, the latest iDrive electronics interface and new features like LED headlights and a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system.
There's no doubt that the BMW 7 Series is a top pick among successful business professionals for its luxury, performance and overall presence. But as any business-type would tell you, the ratio of cost to benefit is critical in any decision. And this may turn away potential 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 buyers and point them toward the conventionally powered 7 Series.
When new, the 2013 BMW 740Li Hybrid will set you back an additional $6,700 over the gasoline-only 740Li. With an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in combined driving, the Hybrid bests the regular 7 Series by 3 mpg. As such, it would take a Hybrid 7 owner more than 20 years to recoup the cost (at 15,000 miles annually with gas at $4 per gallon). To its credit, the ActiveHybrid 7 does benefit from 35 additional horsepower, but we expect acceleration to 60 mph to only be a few tenths of a second better at best.
At least these figures are an improvement over last year's ActiveHybrid 7, which achieved only a combined 20 mpg rating from the EPA. This is thanks in large part to the smaller inline-6 engine that replaces the previous model's V8. Besides the powertrain, the 2013 version also benefits from subtle styling changes and the latest update to the iDrive infotainment interface, along with a few other optional features, all of which are available in the standard 7 Series.
Compared to other luxury flagship hybrid sedans like the 2013 Lexus LS 600h L, 2013 Mercedes S400 Hybrid and 2013 Porsche Panamera Hybrid, the BMW does fare pretty well. It's quicker and more efficient than the Mercedes and less expensive than the Lexus and Porsche. Yet if saving the planet in luxurious style is really your thing, we'd recommend checking out the all-electric Tesla Model S. From a cost-to-benefit standpoint, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 simply doesn't earn a "buy" rating.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Classified as a large luxury sedan, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is available in a single trim: the 740Li Hybrid.
Standard features are generous and include 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, LED foglights, power-folding and heated mirrors, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated power front seats with driver memory functions, a rearview camera, wood interior trim, BMW's iDrive interface, a navigation system, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, a USB/auxiliary audio port and iPod integration.
On top of this, buyers can choose among several options packages. The Cold Weather package adds heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Executive package includes a power trunk lid, power soft-closing doors, a head-up display, 14-way power "Multicontour" front seats, ventilated front seats, smartphone app integration and a 16-speaker premium sound system.
Also available is the Lighting package with LED headlights with automatic high beams. The M Sport package features aerodynamic body enhancements, a higher top speed and a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters. The Driver Assistance package adds a lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring, side and top view cameras and a speed limit display. For rear-seat passengers, there's the Luxury Rear Seating package (power-adjustable and ventilated rear seats with massaging functions) and the Rear Entertainment package (two rear monitors, a rear iDrive controller and six-DVD changer).
Stand-alone options include 19-inch wheels, an automatic parallel parking system, adaptive cruise control, night vision and a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system. Numerous optional interior treatments include a steering wheel with wood inlays, power rear sunshades, front seat massage functions, black ceramic control buttons, additional leather surfaces, an Alcantara headliner and a variety of leather and trim choices.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that combines with a supplemental electric motor fed by a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, the gas and electric motors produce 350 hp and 360 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and sends power to the rear wheels.
BMW estimates the 740Li Hybrid will accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Meanwhile, the EPA estimates fuel economy at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety features for the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, active front head restraints and a rearview camera. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency response button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle recovery. Additional parking cameras, a blind-spot warning system and a night-vision pedestrian detection system are also available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Based on the long-wheelbase version of the venerable BMW 7 Series, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 features much of the same design and luxury items. As such, the 740Li may not feel as opulent or special as the cabins found in competing Audi, Jaguar or Mercedes models, but supple leather, rich wood accents and other high-quality materials nevertheless assure a suitably premium feel.
A abundance of front-seat adjustments ensure a comfortable fit for nearly any body type, while standard and available features like heated and ventilated seats, massage functions and enhanced adjustability further enhance comfort for all passengers. With the added hybrid powertrain components, however, these passengers may have to pack lighter, as trunk capacity drops to only 10 cubic feet -- 4 fewer cubes than a standard 7 series.
The cockpit is user-friendly and should be an amenable fit even for technophobic drivers. The iDrive controller provides a large amount of customization of the car's features, though we think Mercedes' COMAND system is still a little easier to use overall.
We have yet to drive the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 ourselves, but we don't expect it to behave that differently from the standard BMW 7 Series. Unlike the gasoline-only 7 Series, though, the 740Li Hybrid can glide silently on electric power only. The caveat, however, is that it takes a very light throttle application and range is limited to a maximum of 2.5 miles at a top speed of 37 mph. Selecting the EcoPro mode helps in this regard by dialing back performance and responsiveness in favor of fuel economy.
Odds are, the ActiveHybrid 7 will not disappoint those seeking a confident, comfortable long-distance cruiser. The ride is comfortable yet composed, and the different drive settings allow each driver to set the car to reflect individual preferences.