BMW's luxury limousine gets an interesting petrol-electric hybrid variant. We go green with the BMW Active Hybrid 7.
What is it?
The introduction of the Active Hybrid 7 is BMW’s attempt at establishing a green image in the run up to the launch of the i8 hybrid sportscar in India later this year. Simply put, the hybrid car is a 7-series with a petrol-electric hybrid powerplant powering its rear wheels.
While that does set the car apart from the other 7s on sale, there’s little else to differentiate it. In fact, the ‘Active Hybrid 7’ badging on the C-pillar and tail are the only tell tale signs that this is not your average 7-series. Raise the boot lid though and you’ll also notice that luggage space is reduced – the batteries for the electric motor sit in an enclosed compartment here.
Just as you’d expect, the spacious cabin is very inviting. Flawless fit and finish and the generous use of the highest grade of leather and wood make it a very nice place to be. Massaging rear seats, rear seat entertainment systems and a 600 W Harman Kardon audio system make the experience better still. Pity the seats are on the firmer side.
What is it like to drive?
Coming to the engine, this version of the 7 marries the 320bhp, 3-litre straight-six petrol engine of the now discontinued 740Li to a 55bhp electric motor. Together the two produce a combined 354bhp (no mistake there) though both sources of propulsion only work in tandem under hard acceleration. The added boost of the electric motor helps the car 7 shave 0.2 seconds off the standard 740Li’s already impressive claimed 0-100kph time of 5.9 seconds. But to be honest, the benefit of that electric motor is best experienced in crawling traffic (most so in ECO PRO mode) where the requirements of a light throttle and slow speeds present the Active one of few opportunities to run in full-electric mode. With the primary engine off, tail pipe emissions drop to zero, as does engine noise. The silent progress can last for upto 4 kilometres at speeds upto 60kph. Thing is, you’ll need to be very measured in how much throttle you give to keep the Active running as an electric car. Even a gentle dab on the accelerator hands over the reins to the petrol engine.
Not that you’ll complain because the petrol engine is simply superb. It’s supremely punchy and a joy to rev to its 7100rpm limiter. Apart from transforming the luxo barge into a sportscar, driving with the engine on also helps recharge the lithium-ion batteries that power the electric motor. The batteries also supply power to keep the air-con system going at traffic halts - auto engine start/stop is standard on the car and it can’t be switched off.
On all other fronts, the Active Hybrid 7 is just like any other 7-series. That means it’s a limo with a sporty bent of mind but also one that doesn’t quite manage to tackle India’s potholes quite as well as rivals.
Should I buy one?
You’d be in a very small minority if you choose to buy one. That’s not because the Active 7 is a flawed product, far from it. It’s just that at its Rs 1.35 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) asking price is rather steep for a car with few real-world advantages over the cheaper and more frugal (as per the company’s own data) 730d. Sure, engine refinement and performance are better but if those are your reasons to go for the Active Hybrid, we’d suggest you invest Rs 5 lakh more and get yourself the faster 750Li with a 450bhp, V8. You can save the world some other day.