While I was out in the city of Angels for the 2009 LA Auto Show, I took a hot spin in BMW’s new ActiveHybrid 7-Series sedan. Before I go any further, though, I must tell you…I don’t like hybrid cars very much. I’ve never been a big fan of them because of the politics, big goose egg of a fun factor, and 0% intelligent design. And by intelligent design, I’m not talking about the engine. I’m more or less talking about the style, interior and sporting factors.
With that said, my first impression was, as is my general impression of the new F10/F11 7, that it’s gorgeous. A really beautiful body just enhanced with an engine that will please all of the Hollywood celebrities trying to save the world one luxury car at a time. While there is no doubt that this is a great appeal to most people who want a luxury car with all of the space and room that the 7-Series offers, but with the added comfort of a hybrid motor, without killing any of the BMW spirit.
I first drove the ActiveHybrid X6 -of which you’ll see a review shortly after this one- and knew I absolutely had to drive the ActiveHybrid 7. It’s the same, amazing, 4.4L twin-turbo V8 with the addition of a hybrid electric motor. The 8-speed ZF automatic also remains.
With the electric motor, the V8 is punched up to 465hp and 516lb-ft of torque. That’s up from 400hp and 450lb-ft of torque. I will say one thing, it’s rather evident when you mash the tall, skinny one on the right. The electric motor is a 120-volt lithium-ion battery unit, which helps to propel the car at startup and then shuts off until the car comes to a complete stop. And each time you leave the car in sport mode, the battery recharges itself and takes about 15-20 minutes for nearly a full charge. You can even watch it charge up on the lower portion of the tachometer. You can see it in the above photo where it says READY in light blue with the blue line underneath showing the charge level of the battery.
So, let’s get down to the best points about this car, IT’S FANTASTIC! It has lost no bit of BMW flavor. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s a BMW 7-Series. It’ll get you great gas mileage, but more so, it’s going to be fun as hell doing it. So for those of us who were afraid of BMW going green, I’m officially less scared than I was.
I’ll never forget it, I drove it out of the gate at the convention center, and as I was pulling away, I just felt a nice waft of driving pleasure. I was in no hurry, and neither was the car. But, a few traffic lights down, I put into sport mode and out comes the V8’s beautiful rumble. You see, whenever you push the brake pedal and the car comes to a stop, the car automatically turns off the engine and runs the electric motor. You feel nothing, and I’m 100% serious. The whole time I had no idea until I put it into sport mode and heard that old friend come alive again. I punched it off the line, and when BMW says this car will get you to 60 in under 5 seconds, holy hell they mean it. This is no slouch. But wait a second… I thought hybrids weren’t supposed to be fun?!
Well, just when we came up with our own stereotypes about those smug mobiles, BMW comes along and puts us all on our heads.
Still, though, driving around the city, the car was very comfortable and easy to deal with. There was really no instance that made me think I was driving a green car. Or at least a car that’s supposed to be a hybrid car. It was pretty cool.
Sure, it may not be everyone’s flavor. And while I wouldn’t necessarily go out and spend 103,000 dollars on one for myself, I surely won’t be laughing whenever I see Brad Pitt roll up to an award show in one, because I’ll know, with first hand knowledge that this is no save the world machine. It’s the Ultimate Driving Machine with an extra motor to be more environmentally friendly. And there’s nothing wrong with more power and a new outlook on how cars can help out around the world.
If hybrids were more like this, maybe I’d have bought one by now…