2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid Review
The 2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid impresses reviewers with its performance and comfortable interior, but stumbles with a fuel-saving start/stop function that reviewers don’t like. “ The... idle stop feature requires more attention than it should,” says CNET. “However, there is no denying the extra power and fuel economy delivered by the system. Coupled with BMW's high-tech suspension and eight-speed transmission, this car's performance tech is tops.”
In addition to power, comfort and nimble handling, the 7-Series Hybrid also boasts better fuel economy than its non-hybrid V8-powered siblings. A twin-turbo V8 engine, similar to the one in the gas-only 750i, is mated to a small electric motor. It’s a mild-hybrid system, meaning that the car can’t propel itself on electric power alone, but compared to the 750i it does add up to about 2 extra miles per gallon in the city and on the highway.
Some reviewers don’t think that the money saved on fuel is worth the 7-Series Hybrid’s price. Starting at over $102,000, this hybrid is nearly $20,000 more than the 750i and almost $30,000 more than the base, six-cylinder 740i. Granted, the 7-Series Hybrid boasts more impressive power, but if fuel economy is your goal the 740i has this hybrid beat. The EPA estimates that the 7-Series Hybrid gets 17/24 city/highway fuel economy, while the 740i matches those figures in the city and gets one additional mpg on the highway.
Handling is just as impressive in the 7-Series Hybrid as it is in the conventional 7-Series, and most reviewers like BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control, which allows ride control and steering adjustments that range from “Comfort” to “Sport +”. However, the 7-Series Hybrid is a driver’s car with a firmer ride than its rivals. If you’re looking for a super luxury car with an ultra-smooth ride and a hybrid powertrain, rivals like the Lexus LS Hybrid and Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid might be a better fit.
Inside this hybrid, it’s mainly BMW 7-Series business as usual. The automotive press is pleased with the 7-Series Hybrid’s quality materials and standard cabin tech. While non-hybrid 7-Series skimp on some standard features, the Hybrid’s luxurious cabin ups the ante with better seats, a 16-speaker stereo, displays to monitor the hybrid system and parking sensors with backup camera. Still, the interior is not as opulent as other hybrid super luxury rivals. The 7-Series is as roomy as you’d expect: ample passenger space is available front and rear, and choosing an extended-wheelbase “Li” model makes the backseat of the 7-Series the most comfortable place to be.
Other Cars to Consider
At $91,000, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid undercuts the 7-Series Hybrid’s price by about $11,000 and delivers better, 19/25 mpg city/highway fuel economy. The S-Class Hybrid also has a more luxuriously-appointed interior that the 7-Series Hybrid can’t quite match. Another option, the Lexus LS Hybrid, starts at about $111,000, offers a nicer interior and comparable 19/23 city/highway fuel economy. However, if you want a driver’s car, neither the Lexus nor the Mercedes can match the 7-Series Hybrid’s nimble handling and spirited acceleration.
If none of these cars fit the bill, and you’re looking for a hybrid car with even better handling, the upcoming Porsche Panamera S Hybrid might be exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll give up a little seating capacity with the Panamera Hybrid, and it’s not quite as quick in a zero to 60 sprint, but if this hybrid Porsche is anything like its non-hybrid siblings it will out-handle the 7-Series Hybrid while offering an opulent, performance oriented cabin that’s bound to impress. At $95,000, the Panamera Hybrid will also have a lower base price, but fuel economy numbers are not yet available from the EPA. Still, shoppers who like to load their cars with options should be careful –Porsche options are usually expensive.
BMW 7-Series Hybrid: The Details
The 2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid comes in two wheelbase lengths. Regular “ActiveHybrid 7i” models start at about $102,000 and have a 120.9-inch wheelbase, while extended “ActiveHybrid 7Li” models are 5.5 inches longer and about $3,000 more expensive. Under the hood, a twin-turbo V8 engine is mated to a small electric motor. The hybrid powertrain puts power to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Both models come with push button start, heated and ventilated front seats that are 20-way power-adjustable, four-zone climate control, power trunk lid and soft-closing power-assisted doors, front and rear parking sensors with backup a backup camera, navigation, Bluetooth and a 16-speaker stereo with 12 gigs of music storage and HD radio. Opting for the longer, Li model also gets you a self-leveling air suspension, more rear seat space and the option to add a Luxury Rear Seating package which includes back seats that are heated, ventilated and feature massage.
- "Does it add up to a compelling automobile? By the numbers, perhaps not. If fuel economy is your number-one goal, there are better vehicles to buy than the 20-mpg combined ActiveHybrid 7. And if enhanced performance is a priority, the 7 Series' 760i variant or the Alpina B7 are likely better choices. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has its new S400 Hybrid, which undercuts the BMW's price by a fair margin and delivers better fuel economy to boot." -- Edmunds
- "In other respects this is a normal 7 Series. Which means a spectacular gadget count in a highly agreeable interior. It also means a slightly unresolved chassis: Too much low-speed ride shuffle, gluey steering, and a vast set of driver-configurable damper and anti-roll permutations, none of which feels like exactly the right one." -- Motor Trend
- "Think of this car as the motorized equivalent of an expensive charity ball, given by the swells of the community for the greater good of all. Only a few people can afford to attend the ball. But the few who arrive in an ActiveHybrid7 will do so in guilt-free, or at least propitious, luxury. It's a bauble. But, like it or not, the ActiveHybrid7 works wonderfully well." -- Cars.com
- "Of course, there’s also that 740i to think about. It offers nearly equivalent fuel economy (EPA ratings of 17/25 mpg, and 20 in our hands), is just a touch slower off the line (0-60 in 5.1 seconds), and starts about $32,000 less than the hybrid." -- Car and Driver
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