2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2011 BMW 7 Series

With BMW’s ActiveHybrid 7 L, you get everything you’d expect from a 7 Series BMW, and a little less.

A little less fuel consumption, that is. Rated at 12.0/8.1 L/100 km, city/highway, this full-size luxury sedan betters its non-hybrid 750Li sibling by about 15 per cent in fuel economy; the 750Li returning an estimated 14.8/9.3 L/100 km, city/highway.

Motive power is a 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 gasoline engine supplemented by an electric motor which together produces 465 hp and 516 lb.-ft. torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, this rear-wheel drive vehicle is available in Canada only in the long wheelbase version (identified by the “L” in ActiveHybrid 7 L). An all-wheel drive ActiveHybrid 7 L is not offered.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Click image to enlarge

But is fuel economy the only reason to buy an ActiveHybrid 7 L over a non-hybrid 7 Series? Not at all: the ActiveHybrid 7 L has more power than the 750Li, for example, generating an extra 25 horsepower and 36 more pound-feet of torque compared with the standard V8. Acceleration time from 0-100 km/h is reduced by a half-second at 5.1 seconds, according to BMW Canada. So you get a bump in performance as well.

True, you could go for the $186,000 V12 760 Li if you want top 7 Series performance, but then you’d lose the enviro-cachet of driving a hybrid, and you’d be paying at least $50,000 more than the $132,300 ActiveHybrid 7 L (our Technology Package-equipped version included Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection, and listed at $135,600).

For that still heady amount you get the sophisticated drive-train, make an (mild) eco-statement, and enjoy a very long list of standard amenities.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Click image to enlarge

An abbreviated list of this vehicle’s amenities includes four-zone automatic climate control, adaptive LED brake lights, adaptive automatic bi-xenon headlamps with washers and cornering lights, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, electromechanical parking brake with hold function, front and rear Park Distance Control, front knee airbags, active front head restraints, auto-dimming exterior and rear-view mirrors, ambiance lighting, dynamic cruise control, power sunroof, heated multifunction three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt and telescopic column, heated steering wheel, soft-close trunk lid and doors, garage door opener, heated 16-way Nappa leather seats with driver’s side memory, heated outboard rear seats, DVD/MP3 16-speaker, 600-watt audio with hard disc storage, USB port, iPod interface, Bluetooth connectivity, and voice-controlled hard disc-based navigation system.

Additional features include a Head Up Display, lane departure warning, rear-view camera, Surround View, twin chromed trapezoid tailpipes, and special 19-inch alloy wheels fitted with low rolling-resistance tires.

Although you may think the above list is somewhat excessive in its detail, it is truly a fraction of the ActiveHybrid 7 L’s standard equipment.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. Click image to enlarge

Let’s get to the design, execution and driving experience.

This BMW is a massive vehicle, and it is by no means restrained in appearance. At 5,214 millimetres in length, with a 3,210 mm wheelbase, the ActiveHybrid 7 L needs room, and its aggressive lines and formidable grille aren’t designed to soften the visual impact.

In other words, people notice this car, and are inclined to offer it the right of way at uncontrolled intersections.

Fit and finish throughout is impeccable. The paint is lustrous, the wheels sculptural, the upholstery and interior trim seem more like fine furniture than automotive components. The only flaw was the stitching along the leading edge of the instrument panel and dashboard, which was slightly irregular in places. Perhaps hand sewn?

Seating for rear seat passengers is unequalled by almost any other car. Legroom is sufficient for even tall people to stretch out, and the seats are heated and ventilated, both front and rear. The doors open wide for easy entry and exit, and they close by themselves when nearly pulled shut – your mobile valet.

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