Software is tough stuff. Toyota now has 15 years of experience writing hybrid-electric control software, and it has no intention of sharing its hard-won expertise.
But blending changes in power flow among a combustion engine, one or more electric motors, regenerative brakes, and a high voltage battery pack in a way that's imperceptible-or at least tolerable-to drivers and passengers is a much tougher task than it may seem.
Which brings us to the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7, the company's first mild hybrid and "the world's fastest hybrid vehicle." The first Toyota Prius back in 1997 wasn't a stellar vehicle and, frankly, neither is this one.
It's still a 7-Series BMW, of course, which means it's big, fast, solid, and luxurious. It may be the only hybrid in the world with electrically raised and lowered headrests, for example. And it's definitely fast when you put your foot into it, with a 0-to-60-mph time of just 4.7 seconds.
Like any BMW, the handling is exemplary. And it's a big car... Read More »