Lexus paved the way for premium hybrid sedans two years ago with its flagship LS600hL model, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid followed suit last year, and now BMW is jumping on the fuel-sipping bandwagon with the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Based on the current 7 Series, the ActiveHybrid luxury sedan combines the power of a big V-8 engine, the smooth shifts of an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission, and the fuel-saving efficiency of a lithium-ion-battery-powered electric motor. But just because the car is BMW’s first mild hybrid offering does not mean it is sluggish. With a combined output (from the twin-turbo V-8 and three-phase electric motor) of 465 hp and 516 ft-lbs of torque, the ActiveHybrid 7 reaches 60 mph from a standstill in 4.7 seconds—that’s half a second quicker than the 750Li.
On the other side of the ActiveHybrid equation, this particular luxury sedan returns nearly 30 mpg on the highway and is BMW’s first car to feature an Auto Start Stop function to avoid losing fuel at idle on congested freeways and incessant red lights. Additionally, the car comes equipped with a special readout on the dash display, informing the occupants of the degree of efficiency and the current operating status of the hybrid components. The ActiveHybrid 7 ($102,300) is also offered as a long wheelbase version ($106,200), and both variants are available with the same options as the standard BMW 7 Series.
For those looking for something a bit smaller, the BMW’s ActiveHybrid variant will be available on the forthcoming 5 Series as a 2011 model. (www.bmwusa.com)