Used 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
- Brawny hybrid power plant, better fuel economy and more standard features than a regular 750, technology galore, sublime seats, no practical compromise despite hybrid technology.
- Costs considerably more than a regular 750, ride on the firm side for a super-luxury sedan.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient than its 750 sibling, but it's also considerably pricier.
We know what some people are thinking about the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 -- it's another hybrid with costs that seem to outweigh its benefits. To an extent, these critics have a point. The ActiveHybrid 7 starts at more than $102,000 in short-wheelbase form (a long-wheelbase L model is also available), making it 25 percent more expensive than the regular 750 upon which it's based. And all you get in return is 13 percent more power, 15-17 percent better fuel economy and some extra standard features to sweeten the deal.
But BMW isn't claiming that this hybrid 7 Series is going to save the planet, or even that it makes for an enticing value proposition. No, the ActiveHybrid 7 is simply a logical reaction to the marketplace. BMW figures that there are plenty of people who've previously bought a Toyota Prius even though they could clearly afford something nicer. As BMW well knows, these drivers were led to Toyota dealerships by their environmental consciences, not their wallets.
Enter the ActiveHybrid 7, which will relieve both your conscience (of guilt) and your wallet (of an enormous pile of money). In addition to the 7 Series' inherent exclusivity, you can thank sophisticated hybrid technology for the latter. The gasoline engine -- a special version of BMW's twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 -- can't shut off at low speeds like that of a Prius, but it derives useful boosts in both power and fuel economy from a battery-powered 20-horsepower electric motor. Additional fuel-saving tricks include an auto-off feature for the V8 at rest, regenerative braking and the employment of the electric motor as a starter.
Does it add up to a compelling automobile? By the numbers, perhaps not. If fuel economy is your number-one goal, there are better vehicles to buy than the 20-mpg combined ActiveHybrid 7. And if enhanced performance is a priority, the 7 Series' 760i variant or the 2011 Alpina B7 are likely better choices. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has its new S400 Hybrid (a variant of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class), which undercuts the BMW's price by a fair margin and delivers better fuel economy to boot. But if you're somehow looking for a luxury sedan that combines hybrid street cred with sub-5-second 0-60-mph sprints and dynamic handling, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is the only game in town.
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 configurations
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is a large luxury sedan available in 750i and extended-wheelbase 750Li trims. The base 750i comes with a wealth of standard features, including 19-inch alloy wheels, exclusive hybrid badging, a power-closing trunk, soft-close doors, automatic adaptive xenon headlights, an adaptive adjustable suspension, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming heated mirrors and keyless entry/ignition.
On the inside, you'll find four-zone automatic climate control, 14-way-adjustable heated front seats with memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, wood trim, leather upholstery and a leather-trimmed dashboard and center console. Standard technology features include Bluetooth, the iDrive electronics controller, hybrid information displays in the instrument cluster and iDrive display, a back-up camera, a voice-activated hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates, and a 16-speaker CD/DVD surround-sound audio system with HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and digital music storage.
Some 750i options are grouped into packages. The Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, plus a ski bag for the trunk pass-through. The Driver Assistance package adds a blind-spot warning system, a lane-departure warning system and automatic high beams. Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels with performance tires, dark exterior trim, a surround-view parking camera, rear sunshades, various interior wood accents, satellite radio, a six-DVD changer, an iPod/USB jack, a NightVision infrared display with pedestrian detection and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The 750Li adds a self-leveling air suspension and a longer wheelbase for more rear seat space. In addition to the options listed above, the 750Li is eligible for a Luxury Rear Seating package, which includes power rear seats with cooling and massaging functions.
Performance & mpg
The hybrid 7 Series features a gasoline/electric hybrid power plant. The 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 is familiar from other BMW products but is extensively tweaked in this application -- there's no starter or alternator, for example. Its output is rated at 440 hp and 475 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor (powered by a trunk-mounted lithium-ion battery) adds 20 hp and 155 lb-ft to the mix. Thanks to the quirks of hybrid power measurement, total output is rated at 455 hp and 515 lb-ft; for reference, the non-hybrid 750 makes 400 hp and 450 lb-ft. Power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Efficiency is aided by an auto stop/start function that uses the electric motor to turn the car off at a standstill, and on again once the brake pedal is released with the transmission in Drive. There is also a regenerative braking system that recharges the lithium-ion battery during deceleration. BMW estimates about 20 mpg in combined driving (versus 17 mpg for the regular 750) and a sizzling 4.7-second sprint to 60 mph (versus 5.2). Like all 7 Series models, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 also features the Driving Dynamics Control system, which has four driver-selectable settings for shift response, throttle response, shock absorber firmness, power-steering assist and stability control.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Optional safety features include rear- and sideview cameras, a lane departure warning system, a blind-spot warning system and infrared night vision with pedestrian detection that displays the images either in the main dash display or in a head-up display (if so equipped).
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7's fuel economy gains are not insignificant, but this super-luxury sedan is most impressive when your foot's on the floor. Of course, the conventional 750 is already very quick, but the ActiveHybrid 7's additional power is noticeable, particularly when the electric motor comes online with an extra surge. Compared to other luxury hybrid sedans like the LS 600h and S400 Hybrid, the ActiveHybrid 7 has a firmer ride quality, even in Comfort mode. However, this yields a more engaging driving experience, making the 7 Series a hybrid sedan that's actually fun to drive on a winding road, even in the absence of the M Sport package (only available on conventional 7 Series models).
As BMW's flagship, the 7 Series represents the company's pinnacle of luxury, comfort and cutting-edge technology. Supple leather and rich wood accents adorn almost every surface, and the highly adjustable front seats ensure comfort for virtually any body type. The iDrive system has evolved to become one of the best of its breed, employing a controller knob along with several physical buttons to simplify commonly used functions. Notably, the ActiveHybrid 7 includes some standard features that are options on the regular 750, including the premium 16-speaker sound system and keyless ignition/entry.
The rear seats are similarly accommodating for taller adults, and the extended-wheelbase versions offer even more legroom (by about 6 inches) and slightly increased headroom. Available rear seat heating and even a massage feature should satisfy the most demanding of passengers. Impressively, the trunk-mounted lithium-ion battery subtracts just 1 cubic foot from the standard 7's 14-cubic-foot cargo capacity.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
It's really a shame that the word "hybrid" has such a miserly connotation. It's as though everything stamped with the word has to be either economical, eco-friendly or worse: both! How are giant luxury cars with twin-turbocharged V8s supposed to fit in a category like that?
"Wait!" you might blurt between mouthfuls of organic Kelpa-Cola and Tofurkey-flavored birdseed, "That's the whole point!"
Well, you aren't exactly right. Fact of the matter is, if your car has both an electric motor and something running on fossil fuel, you've got yourself a hybrid. And that's where the 455-horsepower 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i comes in. It's the quickest hybrid in the world.
BMW isn't the first company to adapt a somewhat-liberal take on the mission statement of a "hybrid," so we're not going to bash the Germans about the ActiveHybrid 750i. This car is economical when you think of it as compared to the conventional BMW 750i. And an EPA highway rating of 26 mpg isn't just good, it's great — especially for a car that will dust the V12-powered BMW 760i while leaving your pockets some $35,000 fuller. Heck, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i will even give the sinister Alpina B7 an honest run for its money.
Separated at Birth
As far as we can tell, this car must have been swapped at birth with some prototype of a 7 Series with an M badge. This is funny, because the hybrid badge this car wears automatically leads us to expect a BMW 740i — a sedan not known for heart-stopping power — that's forced to lug around a bunch of batteries. Yep, we cringe at the mere thought of a couple hundred pounds of nickel-metal hydride batteries compromising a flawless suspension setup and wreaking havoc on braking ability.
Instead, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i is kind of the ultimate version of the 7 Series. While it is true that the electrified 7 is still the big-boned kid in the 7 Series family, it carries its weight well.
The car packs 231 pounds extra compared to a 750i, but it's also got 20 hp extra from the electric motor, not to mention an extra 155 pound-feet of torque in all the right places. On top of that, the twin-turbocharged V8 is another 40-hp healthier in hybrid trim. No matter how hard we push this behemoth down the road, we just can't feel those extra pounds that come with the hybrid badges. There is, at times, just the faintest bob in the rear end over undulations, but then again, that might have simply been our stomachs trying to keep up with 4,795 pounds of Bavarian engineering.
The recipe we're talking about here isn't exactly as complicated as 11 herbs and spices. Unlike the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, with its two electric motors and complicated transmission, the ActiveHybrid 750i is a mild hybrid — a straightforward powertrain that simply stops and starts when the car comes to a rest. And there's none of that silent running across the intersection on battery power (which is the thing that Prius owners love so much). The technology at work is no more mysterious than what General Motors has been doing with the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid and Saturn Vue hybrid.
Though, as you may expect, BMW's execution on the 7 Series is different. And by that we mean, if this were a bake-off, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i would be German chocolate cake made from scratch, while the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid comes out looking more like Betty Crocker from the box.
As is typical in the buzzword-abusing subsegment of hybridity, BMW has essentially sandwiched a small electric motor between the engine and the automatic transmission, only we just happen to be discussing a twin-turbocharged, triple-intercooled direct-injected V8 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. And that big trunk full of nickel-metal explosives that you were picturing is actually a high-performance lithium-ion battery pack that takes up a mere 1 cubic foot of trunk space and weighs a little less than 60 pounds (most Americans could stand to lose that much off their midsections).
Despite the power pack's svelte size, it can crank out 400 kW/h of power. Yeah, we were curious, too, so we looked it up and apparently this much power turns out to be more than a static shock; it's run-your-clothes-dryer-for-an-hour power.
For the Love of a V8 Hybrid
The genius of this design is that in situations where a big, thirsty forced-induction V8 sucks at life, the torquey, little electric motor can merrily take the initial load off. Piddle around in a parking lot or mill through traffic and the eight-cylinder will take smaller sips still, courtesy of an auto-start stop function. And since the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i features an all-electric air-conditioning system, you're guaranteed that the cabin will stay cool regardless of whether the engine is running. Our guess is that most drivers would have no idea they were driving a hybrid.
Should you suddenly wake up and realize that minimizing your eco-footprint around town is about as entertaining as ironing socks, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 combines with the electric motor to fire the entire technological smorgasbord to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Trust us when we say it's everything you would never expect to happen when you put your foot in it. With a combined 455 hp and a 515 lb-ft of torque, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i feels capable of melting faces and small planetary bodies alike.
We Could Get Used to This Hybrid Deal
So it turns out that we can really get behind this hybrid, though we kind of feel bad that this car might be the ultimate green pretender since it costs $103,175. But if you're in the market for a gigantic sedan, why even bother with anything else? Maybe the freshly minted Alpina B7? Well, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i feels just as fast and returns much better gas mileage, at 17 city/26 highway mpg compared to the B7's 15 city/21 highway mpg.
BMW is betting that most American buyers will feel the same way. The company says that it expects somewhere around 45 percent of total sales of the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i sales to be right here, in the land of apple pie. Given how well the car adheres to the BMW mantra of driving dynamics above all else and that Uncle Sam will have no problem handing you a tax incentive when you sign the dotted line, we're inclined to agree.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Used 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Overview
The Used 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is offered in the following submodels: ActiveHybrid 7 Sedan. Available styles include 750Li 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo gas/electric hybrid 8A), and 750i 4dr Sedan (4.4L 8cyl Turbo gas/electric hybrid 8A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.