2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Gets Updated Full Hybrid Powertrain

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2013 BMW 7-Series

2013 BMW 7-Series

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BMW's first-ever hybrid sedan, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 launched for 2011, was an odd beast.

Its mild-hybrid system paired a 455-horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with a small electric motor, making it a bit faster than its conventional counterpart but only marginally more fuel-efficient.

For 2013, BMW has upgraded the powertrain of its largest hybrid luxury sport sedan, making the electric motor bigger, reducing the size of the engine, and giving it the full-hybrid capability of powering the car solely on electricity under some circumstances.

Same hybrid for 3, 5, 7 Series

In effect, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 gets the same package of engine, electric motor, and 8-speed automatic transmission already used in the hybrid 5-Series and the hybrid 3-Series sedans that were unveiled last year.

The big V-8 is replaced by a 315-hp 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, with a 40-kilowatt (55-horsepower) electric motor fitted between the engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission that has been adapted for hybrid use.

That's significantly larger than the 15-kW (22-hp) motor fitted to the first generation car, and powerful enough to move the car on electric power alone under light loads.

The new model is part of a much larger update for the entire 2013 BMW 7-Series line.

Up to 2.5 electric miles

BMW says the second-generation ActiveHybrid 7 can run up to 2.5 miles on electricity alone, if the driver "goes easy on the accelerator," at speeds up to 37 mph.

2013 BMW 7-Series

2013 BMW 7-Series

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The combined output of the engine and motor is 349 hp, and peak torque is quoted at 367 lb-ft. BMW estimates that 0-to-60-mph acceleration will be about 5.5 seconds--down on the previous model's 4.7 seconds, but still quite respectable for such a large, heavy, luxurious sedan.

The lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk uses cells from A123 Systems, which also provides batteries for the Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sport sedan.

MPG not yet rated

The EPA has not yet rated the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7's fuel efficiency.

The earlier ActiveHybrid 7 was rated at a combined 20 mpg. We logged 24.0 mpg during a not terribly strenuous road test of the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 over our usual test route.

BMW notes that on the European cycle, the latest hybrid 7-Series achieves 14 percent higher fuel economy than the updated 740Li sedan with the same 3.0-liter turbocharged six in non-hybrid form--which itself did 20 percent better than its predecessor model on that same European cycle.

In other words, the 2013 ActiveHybrid 7 might come out with a combined EPA rating of around 27 mpg.

Who's the fastest hybrid?

That's lower than the combined 29-mpg rating of the 2012 Infiniti M35h, which its maker has touted as the "fastest full hybrid sedan" on sale.

2013 BMW 7-Series

2013 BMW 7-Series

Enlarge Photo

(BMW in turn claims the first-generation ActiveHybrid 7 is "the world's fastest street-legal hybrid" of any variety, with its 0-to-60-mph time of 4.7 seconds.)

BMW notes that the 2013 hybrid 7 can call on up to 155 lb-ft of extra torque from the electric motor in "boost mode" if the driver needs extra mid-range acceleration for passing or other maneuvers.

At the other end of the economy scale, there's also a "Eco Pro" driving mode that includes a coasting function and more economical settings for accelerator, engine, and transmission mapping.

Single-motor system

As with all hybrids, the engine switches off when the car comes to a stop and regenerative braking turns the electric motor into a generator to recharge the battery pack.

The BMW hybrids now all use a single-motor hybrid system, unlike the twin-motor packages used by Toyota and Ford. The system can either power the car or charge the battery, but it can't do both at the same time.

The 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is available only in the long-wheelbase model of the 7-Series, unlike the first-generation hybrid, which was offered in both regular and long-wheelbase styles.

Pricing hasn't been announced for the U.S. but its long-wheelbase predecessor carried a base price of $101,000.


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Comments (5)
  1. It's about time they got rid of that stupid V8 hybrid setup. If they had dumped the V8 in the X6 Hybrid and not fitted nearly all optional extras as standard, the X6 Hybrid might have been more popular and stayed in production. I liked the V8 but it made for a unbalanced hybrid drivetrain, in a hybrid both gas and electric are supposed to work together but the V8 was just to much and only led to a minor improvement in gas milage. That's why the X6 Hybrid failed, the price was over inflated from the standard models and the gas milage was only slightly better, it just made no sense.

  2. @CDspeed: Remember that the X6 hybrid was a totally different powertrain, using an adaptation of GM's Two-Mode full hybrid system. It could travel in all-electric mode, and got a better improvement over standard X6 fuel economy numbers.

    But Mercedes-Benz and BMW pulled out of the Two-Mode consortium, leaving the tech to GM alone. Among other reasons, the cost was stupendous: it's rumored that each Two-Mode transmission + battery pack + power electronics cost > $10,000. The handful of ActiveHybrid X6 models sold (perhaps 2,000 globally?) are now orphans. Benz was smarter; they leased their ML 450 Hybrid models, so they can take them all back at the end of the leases and destroy them.

  3. The city gas mileage for the X6 hybrid was rated at 17 mpg the standard V8 is rated at 14 mpg city so it's only 3 mpg better. When I said the car made no sense I meant it was only 3 mpg better and about $23,000 more then the standard V8 so it didn't make much sense to pay a lot more for something that was only a tiny bit better. I had taken a serious look at buying one but decided against it for this very reason.

  4. Yeah, but that's more than a 20-percent improvement in city mileage. You're right, though: It was extremely expensive and I doubt BMW really expected to sell many. I think they viewed it as a sort of first-generation experiment. RIP, in any case.

  5. I dont agree with CDspeed comment. Probably from someone who have never driven the AH7? Well let me tell you that the "stupid" v8 setup is car that I own it is purely amazing. The car was never sold as a high eco friendly car...rather an early attempt to start crossing hybrid technology into powerful cars. It worked. The car is an absolute monster capable of running 4.5 0-60 & 12.7 1/4 mile times in a car that is 5000+pounds, and still can do high 20's mpg on the freeway. That is impressive, there's no arguing it. Looking at pure absolutes with numbers in only a couple of categories is narrow sighted. V-12 performance with v-6 fuel efficiency for a car this size...amazing.

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