2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid Performance
This performance review was written when the 2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid was new.
Like its gas-only 7-Series sibling, the 2011 BMW 7-Series Hybrid is nimble by super luxury car standards. But what’s more, the 7-Series Hybrid is also quicker and more fuel efficient than most 7-Series models that rely solely on fossil fuel. Reviewers like the improved power and fuel efficiency, but dislike the 7-Series Hybrid’s start/stop function, which shuts down the engine when the car comes to a stop. This is normally a plus for those looking to save fuel wasted when the engine idles, but in this hybrid it also shuts off the power steering, which can make low-speed stop-and-go maneuvers difficult. Luckily, driver’s can override this feature by putting the car into Sport mode. On the upside, the 7-Series Hybrid’s regenerative braking system is well liked by the automotive press. Often these systems are loathed for their lack of pedal feel, but reviewers say that the 7-Series Hybrid is one of the few that got it right.
Handling is also good in this hybrid, which receives the same Driving Dynamics Control system that BMW puts in other 7-Series models. This system allows the driver to adjust suspension and steering settings with Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport + modes. Most reviewers like the system, though one reviewer thought that none of the settings were quite right under his driving conditions. The 7-Series Hybrid does have a firmer ride than competitors like the Lexus LS Hybrid and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid. That’s not necessarily a disadvantage; it just means that the 7-Series Hybrid is more of a driver’s car.
- "The hybrid 7 is a nicer drive than the V-12. Its lighter front end improves agility and it comes to a halt in near-silence -- the engine stops, and the continuing whirr of cooling and A/C systems is almost drowned by surrounding traffic. The throttle response is sharp too. And who'd say no to the additional fuel range? " -- Motor Trend
- "This car is economical when you think of it as compared to the conventional BMW 750i. And an EPA highway rating of 26 mpg isn't just good, it's great -- especially for a car that will dust the V12-powered BMW 760i while leaving your pockets some $35,000 fuller." -- Edmunds
- "This idle stop system requires some getting used to, and is not preferable in some situations. It works great in places with particularly long traffic lights, as the car can sit there not burning gas or pumping out pollutants and carbon dioxide. But in traffic jams, with stop-and-go traffic, shutting down the engine for 5 seconds at a time is not as efficient, and is slightly annoying for the driver." -- CNET
Acceleration and Power
Hybrids don’t usually put an emphasis on performance, but the 7-Series Hybrid manages better fuel economy and acceleration than the non-hybrid 750i. A 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 coupled to a small electric motor lives under the hood of the 7-Series Hybrid. Combined, the combination is good for 455 horsepower and 515 pound-feet of torque – that’s 55 more horsepower and 65 more pound-feet of torque than there is in the V8-powered 7-Series. Reviewers like the power on tap, and the improved acceleration, but dislike the hybrid powertrain’s start/stop function, which allows the engine to shut down when the car is stopped to save fuel. Luckily, shifting the 7-Series Hybrid into Sport mode will shut this function off if you don’t like it.
In addition to hybrid technology, the 7-Series Hybrid also uses a different transmission to improve fuel economy. Reviewer’s like its eight-speed transmission, giving the Hybrid two additional gears over the gas-only 7-Series. According to the EPA, both regular and extended-wheelbase 7-Series Hybrid’s get 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. If you’re looking for improved fuel economy, the rival Mercedes S-Class Hybrid gets slightly better 19/25 mpg city/highway fuel economy, but can’t match the BMW in terms of performance.
- "Our larger complaint is that, although the engine fires up as soon as you lift your foot from the brake, if you snooze at a light or are inching through a left-turn lane waiting for a break in traffic, a quick leap from brake to gas beats the re-ignition process and results in a herky jerk forward. " -- Car and Driver
- "The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7's fuel economy gains are not insignificant, but this super-luxury sedan is most impressive when your foot's on the floor. Of course, the conventional 750 is already very quick, but the ActiveHybrid 7's additional power is noticeable, particularly when the electric motor comes online with an extra surge." -- Edmunds
- "In other words, hybrid BMW-style uses the efficiency advantage of hybridization to improve performance of its twin-turbo engine as much as to eke fuel economy. And boy it flies." -- Motor Trend
- "The ActiveHybrid 7's transmission plays a big part in the car's fuel economy. It has eight gears, two more than in other 7-series models. The tall gears help the car reach its 26 mpg highway rating, while the greater choice of gears lets the engine run more efficiently through its range of speeds." -- CNET
Handling and Braking
The BMW 7-Series Hybrid weighs a little more than the regular 7-Series, but reviewers say it handles just as well as its gas-only siblings. For a large, super luxury car, the 7-Series Hybrid is light on its feet despite its size. Another plus is this hybrid’s regenerative braking system. Reviewers dislike these systems in many hybrids, saying that they lack pedal feel. But the automotive press is pleased with the system in the 7-Series Hybrid, saying that it feels firm and linear. On the downside, not all of the automotive press is pleased with the steering system in this BMW. The 7-Series Hybrid has a start/stop function, which shuts the engine off when the car comes to a stop to save fuel. Unfortunately, this also turns off the power-assist on the steering wheel, making it difficult to change direction when the car is stopped.
A variety of suspension settings alter the car’s handling through BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control. A few reviewers say that even when in “Comfort” mode, the suspension is stiffer than rivals like the Lexus LS Hybrid. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it just means that the 7-Series puts more of an emphasis on being fun to drive.
- "Although the mere mention of regenerative braking usually erodes the feel of the stop pedal in question, the ActiveHybrid 7’s brakes remain firm and linear." -- Car and Driver
- "Compared to other luxury hybrid sedans like the LS 600h and S400 Hybrid, the ActiveHybrid 7 has a firmer ride quality, even in Comfort mode. However, this yields a more engaging driving experience, making the 7 Series a hybrid sedan that's actually fun to drive on a winding road, even in the absence of the M Sport package (only available on conventional 7 Series models)." -- Edmunds
- "The power steering still relies on the engine to pump its hydraulics, resulting in an immovable wheel when the engine is shut down. BMW really should have looked into an electric power steering unit for the ActiveHybrid 7." -- CNET