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Luxury motoring for the tree-hugger

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 09, 2014 Published on October 09, 2014

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Is it the same reason why car makers and buyers would want to go green? Should you consider the 7 Series Active Hybrid?



People want to go green today. The urge to leave behind a smaller carbon footprint is growing amongst the urban elite. We say that because going green doesn’t come cheap, especially in the world of cars.

One of the most famous first buyers in the US of the Toyota Prius was Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz. She was obviously making more of an eco-friendly statement with her choice of commuter, and she couldn’t have possibly expected to save big from the car’s lower fuel consumption.

Hybrids haven’t been very successful in India due to other reasons; not because there aren’t enough tree-huggers. Basically, hybrids, with their proprietary technology, are typically imported and that immediately makes them much more expensive. Worse if a conventional powertrain is available in the same model, the choice then becomes even more obvious for us value-conscious buyers. A case in point was the Honda Civic and Civic Hybrid. The Toyota Camry and its Hybrid is another example. Even buyers higher up in the scale of price categories are notoriously sensitive about getting the most bang for their buck. So, is the new BMW ActiveHybrid 7 going to be a tough sell?

What is it?

The BMW ActiveHybrid 7, as the name suggests, is the hybrid powertrain version of BMW’s flagship 7 Series saloon. BMW upgraded the entire 7 Series fleet to a 8-speed gearbox and has also gotten a hybrid in the line-up to boost the model’s eco-credentials.

The ActiveHybrid 7 is basically the same model in all other respects compared to the other variants of the 7 Series saloon. The difference lies in the hybrid powertrain that combines the 3-litre petrol engine from the 740i with an electric motor in its attempt at boosting efficiencies.

The 2,979cc engine is a trademark BMW straight-six, which replaces the earlier 8-cylinder unit in the 7 Series. This engine also features BMW’s latest TwinPower Turbo tech generating a peak 320 HP of power. Joining the party is the synchronous electric motor with its own 55 Horses. The motor is powered by a high performance lithium-ion battery pack that takes up a lot of space in the boot.

Performance

The combined system output is 354 HP of peak power and 500 Nm of torque giving the ActiveHybrid 7 quite a healthy chart. The 0 to 100 kmph sprint takes 5.7 seconds, impressive for a heavy-weight. But, in India, with most owners likely to be seated in the rear bench and paying the fuel bills, the more important feature would be the improved fuel efficiency. The Hybrid is said to be capable of delivering a 14 per cent improvement in mileage compared to the 740i; or an average of 13.85 kmpl.

On the road, the ActiveHybrid 7 is technically capable of being driven in all electric mode, that is if you had a sensitive right foot. But more often than not, the electric motor is acting like a supplementary source of power. Given the extremely slow moving traffic that we encounter in cities these days, it might actually be possible to experience a bit of electric motive power alone. But the battery range in electric mode is only about 4 kilometres and top speed in this mode is 60 kmph.

The top of the line 760i has a 6-litre, 544 HP engine and is obviously quicker off the block. But the smaller engine in the ActiveHybrid 7 still packs it thanks to the electric boost function. Depending on driver demand for quick acceleration, the electric motor can lend a hand to the engine with an extra 210 Nm of torque The 8-speed gearbox is a perfect combo with the engine, and the transition from electric to petrol, and the quality of gearshifts is remarkably smooth and seamless. There are other features like the Hybrid Start-Stop function, the ECO PRO mode with its coasting function and of course brake energy regeneration for charging the batteries, which are all at work to improve the powertrain’s efficiencies.

Bottomline

The ActiveHybrid 7’s ride quality and drive feel is very similar to the other 7 Series models. The BMW flagship’s rear bench is not the absolute benchmark in the segment in terms of comfort; we think that position will go the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But, the 7 Series’ rear seat is still much more comfortable and pampering than any other BMW model.

Now, for the big question – should you buy the ActiveHybrid 7? Yes, if you want to pin your Green-Cred on your shoulder. But, with the diesel 730Ld being capable of delivering over 2.5 kmpl of mileage more than the ActiveHybrid 7’s average and also emitting about 10 gms lesser of Carbon-dioxide per kilometre, the equation gets more complicated. And the 730Ld is locally assembled and cheaper than the ActiveHybrid 7 by ₹30 lakh.

Published on October 09, 2014
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