OK, it's finally time. You have the wherewithal to buy the full-size European luxury sedan of your dreams, but you also have a green-tinged conscience. In other words, you're looking for authoritative performance and responsible fuel economy in the same package. The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 was designed with drivers just like you in mind.
But does it deliver? Not as much as you might think. Even though the latest ActiveHybrid 7 employs a six-cylinder gasoline engine that gets better fuel economy than the previous V8, it's only marginally more efficient than the cheaper, non-hybrid 740 models. And while it gets a power boost courtesy of its electric motor, the hybrid system's extra weight largely negates this advantage. The earlier V8-powered ActiveHybrid 7 obviously provided more punch, yet its fuel economy is matched by today's non-hybrid 750 models. We like the concept here, but until the ActiveHybrid 7 starts trouncing conventional models at the gas pump, it'll be a tough sell compared to its more affordable siblings.
Current BMW ActiveHybrid 7
The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is a full-size gas-electric hybrid luxury sedan now offered only in long-wheelbase 740Li trim. BMW's familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 teams up with an electric motor powered by a trunk-mounted lithium battery. This system sends 350 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW claims the large luxury sedan can sprint to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, a tenth quicker than the non-hybrid 740iL.
The ActiveHybrid 7's combined EPA fuel economy rating of 25 mpg is a respectable 3 mpg better than the regular 740iL's, but the difference lies mostly in city driving (22 mpg vs. 19), as highway performance is nearly identical (30 mpg vs. 29).
As you might expect, the ActiveHybrid 7 is loaded with premium amenities, including keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a rearview camera, a navigation system and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio and USB/iPod integration. Thanks to the mandatory long-wheelbase layout with more than 5 inches of additional rear legroom, limolike accommodations come standard as well. There are countless other features available at extra cost.
In reviews, we've had mixed feelings about the latest ActiveHybrid 7. To its credit, the car gives up little if anything to conventional sedans in terms of handling, with a firm yet supple ride and engaging responsiveness that's custom-tailored via the driver-selectable settings of its Driving Dynamics Control system. But it's tough to make a practical argument for the ActiveHybrid 7 given that it costs thousands more than the non-hybrid 740iL, yet provides roughly the same performance and only slightly better fuel economy. Unless you can find a great deal on one, we advise taking a pass on BMW's biggest hybrid.
Used BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Models
The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 debuted for 2011 and was powered for its first two years by a twin-turbocharged V8 engine instead of the current inline-6. Unlike the six-cylinder version, it was offered in both standard-wheelbase (750i) and extended-wheelbase (750Li) trims. Output was an impressive 455 hp and 515 lb-ft of torque, enabling sprints to 60 mph in a blistering 4.7 seconds -- half a second quicker than the non-hybrid 750 models at that time. Both its city and highway fuel economy ratings were also appreciably higher. However, the regular 750 closed the fuel-economy gap for 2013 with its new eight-speed automatic.
Other than the switch from V8 to long-wheelbase-only inline-6, changes have been minor during the ActiveHybrid 7's run. Most notably, the 2011 model had a bit more standard equipment than its successors, while the 2013 model received modest styling tweaks and an updated iDrive electronics interface.