When BMW introduced their first hybrid, the Active Hybrid X6 utility, one thing was made very clear. That no BMW would compromise performance just for fuel economy. Well now their flagship sedan, the 7-series, has received its ActiveHybrid badge with the same assurances. But, this greener 7 does require buyers to be a bit more open minded about how they see themselves behind the wheel.

The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 doesn’t proclaim its hybrid honors with any pomp and circumstance. Indeed, since it is a mild hybrid, you won’t even see it gliding along on electric power alone. Catch one standing still, however, and its unique, lightweight 19-inch fan-blade wheels and badges on the C-pillars, fenders, and trunk lid do set this 7 apart.

Pop the hood, and the 4.4-liter direct-injected twin-turbo V8 doesn’t look out of place. It’s the same sweet eight found in the fossil-fuelled 750i with a stout 440 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Squeezed between the engine and transmission is a disc-shaped three-phase synchronous electric motor rated at 20 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. With the electric assistance, total powertrain output combines to a muscle car-worthy 455 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque.

But, since this is a hybrid, what’s the story on fuel economy? Government Fuel Economy Ratings stand at 17 city/26 highway. That’s a bump of 2 in the city and 4 on the highway over the 750i. It also betters its main rival, the Lexus LS 600h, on the highway. Our mileage test loop yielded a fine 23.1 mpg average on premium fuel. Still, the ActiveHybrid-7 is only a light shade of green, with an Energy Impact Score of 17.1 barrels of oil consumed a year, and an annual Carbon Footprint of 9.3 tons of CO2.

A revised eight-speed automatic transmission, specific to the ActiveHybrid 7, handles shifting. Like all hybrids the powertrain also includes automatic stop/start to eliminate wasteful idling.

But, even then, the A/C and in-dash electronics keep working, thanks to a 35-cell, 120-volt lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk area. It allowed BMW engineers to ditch the engine’s starter, alternator, and belt-driven A/C compressor. Since drag on the engine is dramatically reduced, acceleration is ferocious.

In fact, at the track, the ActiveHybrid 7 performed like no hybrid we’ve driven before. Zero to 60 in 4.9 seconds. That’s three tenths faster than the 750i. A fast quarter mile followed in 13.2 at 110 mph.

Throttle response is noticeably more immediate than the 750i too, with smooth, quiet power delivery right off the line. Stopping is equally impressive, with 60 to 0 averaging just 121 feet. There are plenty of sport sedans a thousand pounds lighter that don’t stop as well. The ActiveHybrid 7’s regenerative braking system even incorporates the electric motor, which reverses direction under braking, acting as a generator and an engine brake.

We noticed very little difference in handling from the non-hybrid 7-Series. Despite over 200 more pounds to toss around, BMW has maintained excellent chassis balance. Putting the hybrid battery in the rear almost completely offsets the extra hybrid parts up front. When BMW says no hybrid of theirs will suffer in performance, they mean it.

Inside, things also don’t change much from the 750i except for special hybrid readouts for instant fuel economy, battery charging, and system condition. Here’s a plus, since the ActiveHybrid 7’s air conditioning is all-electric, you can cool down without starting the engine.

And, the 7-Series Hybrid concedes only one cubic foot of trunk volume to the battery pack. Good, since you’ll also need a trunk full of money to buy one. Before tax credits, which a wealthy owner may not qualify for anyway, the ActiveHybrid 7 starts at $103,175. That’s over 19 grand more than a 750i. A hybrid long wheelbase model is available too.

We’ve said before that very expensive cars, that use hybrid technology to improve fuel economy a few miles per gallon, seem more like publicity stunts. But, we’ve also noted that BMW, Lexus, and other high end brands, need to please their elite clientele that are also energy conscience.  So, in that vein, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 makes sense. But the best part of this hybrid is, it’s still an uncompromising BMW.



  • Engine: 4.4-Liter Direct-injected Twin-turbo V8
  • Horsepower: 440
  • Torque: 480 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 4.9 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.2 Seconds @ 110 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 121 Feet
  • EPA: 17 MPG City/ 26 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 23.1 MPG
  • Energy Impact 17.1 Barrels Oil/Yr:
  • CO2 Emissions: 9.3 Tons/Yr