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Petrol-electric power arrives in BMW’s 7 Series

7 of the best: A mid-life update for the BMW 7 Series sees prices rise on some models as well as the introduction of a new fuel-saving ActiveHybrid 7 variant.

BMW not expecting big things from its biggest hybrid, ActiveHybrid 7

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27 Nov 2012

BMW Australia expects to add minor incremental sales gains from its first hybrid 7 Series large luxury sedan when it hits showrooms in early 2013.

With a price premium of more than $17,000 over the more efficient diesel 730d, the new $222,000 (plus on-road costs) petrol-electric ActiveHybrid 7 is expected to appeal to a niche audience.

No sales targets have been provided, but BMW Group Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott told GoAuto: “The ActiveHybrid 7 has strong potential, as it adds hybrid technology to what is already the volume seller: the 740i.”

Rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi are debating their hybrid limo plans for now, leaving the freshly updated $217,900 Lexus LS600h F Sport as the only direct competitor for the ActiveHybrid 7, which arrives as part of a mid-life makeover for the current 7 Series that arrived in 2009.

Like most top-end luxury large sedans, the 7 Series needs a lift, as sales of vehicles in this class are down 27.2 per cent this year, with 7 Series down even more, by 37 per cent, to just 79 vehicles to the end of October.

Its arch-rivals, the Benz S-Class and Audi A8, are also depressed, down 28.6 per cent and 41.3 per cent respectively. The S-Class leads the class, with a mere 90 sales year to date.

All of BMW's petrol and diesel 7 Series models cop price rises ranging from $2000 for the base 730d – now $204,600 – up to $5900 for the more expensive petrol models.

In return, buyers of the latest range gain features such as rear self-levelling air suspension, electric-assisted power steering, more comfortable front seats, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission across all models and revised diesel and petrol engines that deliver fuel efficiency improvements of up to 25 per cent, as well as more power and torque.

Subtle exterior changes include a revised kidney grille that has nine vertical slats instead of 12, world-first adaptive LED headlights with anti-dazzle technology and a redesigned lower bumper that now has three air openings instead of one.

The hybrid 7 Series is distinguished by badges on the C pillar and boot, as well as a special light 'Liquid Blue' paint colour, should buyers want it.

At the rear, fresh dark-lens tail-lights have been added, along with a chrome strip across the bumper to give the car a wider look, and quad exhaust pipes instead of the previous dual items.

BMW 7 Series owners who tick the box for the EfficientDynamics pack will get fuel-saving idle-stop and the so-called EcoPro mode that delivers more efficient driving by restraining the engine and transmission, as well as trimming power going to the heating, air-conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heaters.

While the new-look 7 Series petrol and diesel models are already in Australian showrooms, the big news is the arrival in January of the first hybrid 7 Series, becoming the third petrol-electric BMW model to touch down locally in a matter of weeks.

Like the ActiveHybrid 5 and ActiveHybrid 3 that precede it, the ActiveHybrid 7 employs a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbocharged engine, along with an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.

However, the big ActiveHybrid 7 gets 10kW more power and 50Nm more torque than its smaller siblings, thanks to a 235kW/450Nm version of the straight-six engine, taken directly from the new 740i.

The electric motor generates 40kW for a combined 260kW and 500Nm driving through the rear wheels, good for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.7 seconds.

The ActiveHybrid 7 can drive up to 4km on electricity – or eDrive – at up to 60km/h, before the petrol engine kicks in.

Australia’s combined fuel economy test reveals the ActiveHybrid 7 achieves 6.8 litres per 100km fuel economy, which is superior to the 7.9L/100km of the 740i with its new 3.0-litre turbo TwinPower petrol engine, but falls short of the diesel 730d that can manage 5.6L/100km – a reduction of 1.2L/100km over the previous model.

The ActiveHybrid 7 can also be had in a long-wheelbase version for $237,000 – a $15,000 premium over the standard-wheelbase car – making it a rival for the similarly stretched Lexus LS600hL.

However, the Japanese company has remained coy about the price of its stretch limo version, saying it is “price on application”.

The BMW hybrid is not only more efficient than the 5.0-litre V8 hybrid Lexus (10.7L/100km), but also 0.2 seconds quicker to 100km/h (Lexus: 5.9 seconds).

Like the Lexus, the previous European 7 Series hybrid was powered by a V8 engine, but in keeping with BMW’s downsizing trend, the switch was made to six-cylinder turbo power with direct injection this time around.

The new 740i also employs the same straight-six with forced induction, making it 0.2 seconds faster from zero to 100km (5.7 sec) than the previous model, while slicing its thirst by 2.0L/100km or 21 per cent (7.9L/100km).

BMW claims its revised six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel 730d base model is the most efficient car in its class, using just 5.6L/100km and emitting 148 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

Power is up 10kW to 190kW, while torque has been lifted 20Nm to 560Nm. The 730d can cover the 0-100km/h dash in 6.1 seconds – just four-tenths of a second slower than the ActiveHybrid 7.

The biggest fuel consumption gains – 25 per cent – have been made with the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 in the 750i, which now has a combined fuel figure of 8.6L/100km and yet gets more power and torque.

The V8’s output has been boosted to 330kW and 650Nm – up 10 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively – cutting the 0-100km/h acceleration time to 4.8 seconds – the same as the vaunted M3.

All 7 Series from the 730d to the 750i get the eight-speed transmission in place of the previous six-speed unit.

As well, all 7 Series get the new coasting mode that allows the car to freewheel down the highway to save fuel, should the driver lift gently off the accelerator.

The flagship 760i already had the eight-speeder attached to its twin-turbo V12, which remains unchanged this time around, with 400kW and 750Nm. Fuel consumption remains a relatively thirsty 12.9L/100km.

BMW says road noise has been reduced with extra sound deadening in the B and C pillars, skirts and boot, along with more streamline exterior mirrors that now also include the side indicator lights.

Ambient lighting can adjust the colour of the cabin to taste, while new leather colours are available, in an ivory/black combination or beige.

The new 7 Series has an all-digital dash. While it retains the familiar four-circle layout of the traditional BMW display, the cluster can change colour according to driving mode – Comfort, Sport or EcoPro.

Speedo numbers grow larger when the needle points to them, and in Sport mode a big digital speedo emerges, along with a gear indicator when using manual shift.

Head-up display is standard, along with so-called driving assistant that includes lane-departure warning and 'approach warning' – an anti-collision warning system.

A world first on the refreshed 7 Series is the anti-dazzle dynamic light system that blacks out the portion of the headlight high beam directed at cars ahead of the 7 Series.

The four directional LED headlamps create a 'tunnel of darkness' in the direction of either oncoming traffic or cars ahead of the 7 Series, courtesy of the High Beam Assistant.

The lights also turn in the direction of travel, with the blacked-out spot following any vehicle within range.

In a world first, the upper-spec 750i and 760i models get Dynamic Light Spots – a spotlight to pick out pedestrians or wayward animals on the road from a distance of up 100 metres.

The spotlight, which is optional on other 7 Series variants, uses the night vision infrared technology to highlight the intruder on the road, laying a line of light in the direction of the illuminated person or, in Australia perhaps, kangaroo.

The beam gradually decreases in power as it closes with 30 metres.

The electric steering also allows automated parking in the new 7 Series – called Parking Assistant – with a dashboard screen showing any obstacles to the rear and sides.

2013 BMW 7 Series pricing*
730d 3.0L diesel (a)$204,600
740i 3.0L (a)$211,500
740Li 3.0L (a)$226,500
750i 4.4L (a)$281,100
750Li 4.4L (a)$297,800
760Li 6.0L (a)$391,500
ActiveHybrid 7 3.0L (a)$222,000
ActiveHybrid 7L 3.0L (a)$237,000
*Plus on-road costs

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