Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hypermiling Like A BOSS. Driving the Active Hybrid 7

Hy·per·mile verb (used without object), hy·per·miled, hy·per·mil·ing. to improve fuel mileage in a motor vehicle, as by adopting certain driving techniques or making design alterations to the vehicle. It is with the latter where we start our review of the Active Hybrid 7. At first glance, you'd be hard pressed to tell that this is anything different from the per-facelifted 7s, and if you miss out on the badges, even harder to put this apart from it's regular non-hybrid compatriots in the 7 stable. But the changes or design alterations are there, apart from the fan-blade wheels, there are little nips and tucks to create a slightly more aerodynamic shape to boss through the air. Our test car came in a lovely dark and elegant shade of blue, helps give it a nice understated flair i reckon. Big cars always look good in dark paint. With the exterior retouches kept to a minimum, you wonder where did the bulk of the "design alterations" go? Even opening the bonnet, the only indication of anything different is the blue stripe with "Active Hybrid" indicating a slightly greener drive train. How much greener? Well, on paper, it claims 6.8litres for every 100km traveled. Unfortunately, our driving style and the limited time we had with the car did not allow us to substantiate these claims. Power delivery on the other hand did not take any step back as aided by the electric motors, this "Eco" 7 pumps out 354 horses and a good 450Nm of torque. In comparison, the non-hybrid 740Li while delivering the same amount of torque is short of 34 horses. While the Active Hybrid does gain some additional weight from the additional electric drive train, you hardly feel it when you're foot is on the floor. Inside, leather and wood is all around, put together with the technical precision and solidity deserving of a top-of-the-line German manufacturer. For the driver, all the controls fall into place neatly and something worth bringing up, is the revised iDrive system. It now comes with with fluid transitions and looks and flows great. The added smoothness seemed to have been included at the cost of the 3D rendered buildings we used to seeing in the navigation maps and hopefully that will be rectified in a future software update. Of course, being a 7, the main arena here is for the occupants in the back. With a fully adjustable massage chair, loads of legroom, luxurious carpets and individual climate controls, there is hardly anything to complain about. Except for just one small thing, i couldn't figure out how to control the rear tv screens from the back. Poor driver up front will just have to contend with commands from the rear seat passengers then. Being the limousine of the BMW range, this car must be comfortable and it must cocoon the rear occupants from the dreary outside world we live in. Those in the back have it pretty much covered. The 7 makes long trips feel shorter then they really are. This might have something to do with the hybrid system as it envelops the cabin with silence when the car is only running on electric power. Especially when coming to low speeds or halts in traffic, the silence of the interior being interrupted by the whirr of the aircon or the crystal clear sounds of the fantastic audio system. It's oh so quiet... One thing we must not forget though, while this is a luxo-barge, it is also a BMW, which means, it must also drive well, it must take corners with dynamism, and it must to put it lightly, have an element of fun. For the driver, multiple modes toggle the driving characteristics of the car giving this big barge the capability to be hustled along roads quickly on the right (or wide) roads with the onset of understeer only when you push hard into corners. It takes some effort to shift the back end loose even after disengaging the electronic nannies, and even then, the chassis reacts well to tightly bring the car back on line. This eagerness to change direction does come with a slight tradeoff as even on the most comfortable of chassis presets, the dampening might still be a tad firmer than it's rivals. It doesn't detract from the high levels of comfort though as on cruises, i even missed a couple of expressway exits as the car just propels you along into just enjoying the ride. The boot space does take a slight hit as the batteries take up a bit of space, as you can see from the picture, it will still take quite some effort to fill it up. The Active Hybrid 7 comes in at SG$426,000, so it surely can't be for someone mulling over the recent hikes in fuel prices. $426,000 is coincidentally, the same amount of money as it's regular albeit less powerful non-hybrid stablemate, so, more car for the same amount of money perhaps? Do i like it though? To be honest, the thought that kept coming back to me after the drive was that the Active Hybrid 7 although a technological powerhouse and having the "feel good" eco image, showcases just how good the regular revised 7 Series is, even without the Hybrid drive train. It isn't for everyone... If you like technology, this is for you. If you like technology and prefer to sit in the back, this is for you. If you like technology, prefer to sit in the back and want more car for your dollar, this is for you. If you like technology, prefer to sit in the back, want more car for your dollar and you are public image conscious, this is perfect.


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