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2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Overview
Depending on your perspective, you could look at the 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 (AH7) in one of two ways. The sleek, stylish luxury sedan remains an attractive, tech-savvy, distinctive and highly efficient mode of transportation and brings along with it a certain level of prestige for its owner. It sits on a stretched long platform and comes equipped with all the latest gadgets and innovations, including a hybrid powerplant that increases fuel economy while ensuring a high level of performance.
But you could also view the AH7 as a long walk for a short drink, because all that cutting-edge hybrid technology improves fuel economy numbers by only a few mpg over the standard long-wheelbase 740Li, which uses the same 6-cylinder engine but costs several thousand dollars less than the AH7. Prospective buyers will have to decide for themselves whether they're getting good value by spending a hefty price premium for an incremental improvement in fuel economy, along with feel-good exterior badging designed to let others know you have at least some concern about fuel conservation and efficiency.
The AH7 rolls into 2014 unchanged from 2013, when it received a number of updates, including a new powertrain and some exterior restyling. A 3-liter TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine, developing 315 hp, now powers the AH7. It replaced the initial V8 engine, which powered the vehicle upon its introduction in 2012. The hybrid powerplant also includes a 55-hp electric motor, a lithium battery and an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission tweaked specifically for the AH7. Working together, the V6 and electric motor deliver 349 hp and peak torque of 367 lb-ft, good enough to drive the AH7 from 0 to 60 in a respectable 5.5 seconds.
By replacing the V8 with a turbocharged 6-cylinder, BMW managed to increase fuel economy numbers for the AH7 to 22 mpg city/30 highway. That's certainly an improvement over the 17/24 offered by the V8-powered AH7. But it's also only mildly better than the 19/29 offered by the 740iL, powered by the same engine but without all the hybrid add-on gear. At the same time, the plain-Jane 740iL motors to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, just one-tenth of a second behind the AH7. Again, prospective buyers will have to decide whether an extra tenth of a second and an additional 1 or 2 mpg at highway speeds warrants the price premium placed on the AH7.
The AH7 with its hybrid engine does offer a number of capabilities not found on BMW's gas-powered sedans. It can cruise up to 37 mph and a distance of 2.5 miles on electric power alone, for instance, in near silent operation. Alternatively, when required, the electric motor can kick in an additional 155 lb-ft of torque for a quick boost in acceleration when passing or merging. An engine start/stop feature, Eco Pro cruising mode and regenerative brakes help improve efficiency.
Regardless of fuel economy numbers and engine efficiency, the AH7 remains an attractive, highly desirable luxury sedan. Thanks to its long wheelbase, which remains the only AH7 platform available for 2014, the luxury hybrid sedan stretches to an overall length of 199.7 inches, or more than 16.6 feet. The long nose, contoured hood, clean sidelines and coupe-like roof design create an elegant look, while the large dual kidney grille with vertical chrome slats and full-width lower front air intake provide an aggressive touch. The heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors were redesigned in 2013 and now feature integrated turn signals, while the L-shaped BMW taillights remain unchanged. LED foglights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual exhaust pipes and auto-leveling HID headlights with corona rings and cornering lights are among the other standard exterior features.
Inside, the AH7 comes well-equipped, as expected of a vehicle bearing 7 Series badging. However, the cabin doesn't deviate much from the interior of the gas-powered 740iL or receive any unique features to distinguish itself from the rest of the 7 Series. Also, the AH7's standard feature list doesn't quite match those of top-level 7 Series trims like the 750i and 760iL.
The heated 4-way power-adjustable seats with memory were redesigned in 2013 and are now thinner and more ergonomic, providing good comfort while at the same time opening up a little more legroom. However, they're not the 20-way power Multicontour seats found in the upper-level trims, although those seats are optional in the AH7. Dakota leather comes standard, along with high-gloss wood trim, 4-zone automatic climate control, a 2-way power moonroof, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with a power tilt/telescopic column and audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls. Drivers can use the automaker's iDrive controller to manage the standard navigation system, which includes a 7-inch touchscreen and 200GB hard drive. A rear-view camera and 205-watt, 12-speaker with HD radio and SiriusXM satellite radio also come standard. Numerous options are available, including ventilated seats, Nappa leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed instrument panel, a variety of interior wood trims and upgraded Harman Kardon and Bang & Olufsen audio systems.
Like the rest of the 7 Series, the AH7 continues to deliver a quiet, comfortable ride befitting BMW's flagship vehicle. Such features as Dynamic Damper Control and a self-leveling rear air suspension ensure comfort and agility, while the variable-assist rack-and-pinion steering provides precise control. Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control and antilock brakes with brake-fade compensation and a start-off assist also come standard. However, BMW does not offer its xDrive all-wheel-drive system on the AH7. At the corners, 18-inch light-alloy wheels with run-flat tires come standard, although owners can upgrade to a variety of optional 19-inch wheels.
The AH7 runs in a small but growing class of similar luxury-oriented hybrid vehicles, including the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid, the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the Lexus 600h L and the Infiniti M Hybrid. Some, like the Porsche Panamera S and the Lexus 600h L, offer more horsepower than the AH7, checking in at 416 and 438 respectively, but they also cost quite a bit more. The Panamera manages 22/30 mpg, but the Lexus doesn't quite measure up when it comes to fuel economy, getting only 19/23 mpg. Like the AH7, the Mercedes-Benz S400 comes equipped with a V6 engine, but ekes out only 19/25 mpg, and it also costs quite a bit more than the AH7. The Infiniti M costs less and posts slightly better fuel economy numbers of 27/32. It puts out 360 hp, similar to the AH7's combined 349 hp.
All in all, giving its power, pricing, features and fuel-economy numbers, the AH7 holds its own against the competition. However, prospective buyers seeking a truly fuel-efficient, distinctive and head-turning vehicle might want to consider the electric-powered Tesla Model S, which starts at about 20 grand less than the AH7, makes the 0-60 jaunt in just 4.2 seconds, includes luxury-oriented features and uses not a single drop of gasoline.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.