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Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 BMW 750i Active HybridThe 2011 BMW 750i Active Hybrid is big, brawny, largely unjustifiable green machine.
A 7 series hybrid, like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence, it seems a concept that pulls at opposite poles. Well, let's try to make the case for the 2011 BMW 750i ActiveHybrid and Check The Tech. I tell you, I don't know what to make of the six-figure hybrid luxo sedan, like the hybrid S class, hybrid Lexus LS, or the new Panamera hybrid, isn't it just a lot of fashion? Worse, apologism? Now, to be sure, all these big battery cars emphasize performance without penalty, not absolute greenness. Inside this car you got the usual BMW 7 layout with several cues that tell you this guy's a hybrid. Still having a hard time getting used to that but let's get to it. First of all, I've got the split screen setup with my hybrid layout on the right. You don't have to have that up there but it's an interesting reminder that this car has got the electronics, the battery, the regeneration, the electric boost all going, and it's a very simple graphic, unlike a lot of the Japanese cars that kill you with a Masters in electrical engineering when they show you the hybrid layout. We know our sources. We've got CD, we've got an aux jack that's standard. I do have an optional USB iPod deal over here. You gotta pay more for that. Okay, this is interesting. Some new stuff here. Under BMW Assist which is their kind of their OnStar of sorts, there's something I wanna show you. You got a concierge service you can call and you got roadside assistance but this is something new. Here's BMW Search. When you dig into that, you get some internet services. You've got a built-in cellular radio in the car. Once you get into it, you've got this home screen. You've got a bunch of business quotes on the top. They know who the 7 series buyer is. News will let you get some very simple news headlines but not to read them 'cause that's a little dangerous. It lets you have them read to you, kinda like a really shabby podcast, but the most interesting tool here is the first one, Business Search. This is getting into the future how navigation systems and communication are gonna work. I can look up whatever I'm interested in and once you find what you're looking for, this is really a quick way to get there. Click once, click again for start guidance, and off I go to get a cool refreshing drink. One choice in the transmission, eight-speed automatic. We've seen this guy before. Sport mode is over here but there's another sport mode that says "Dynamic Drive Control" stuff here and that's where you've got four modes. You've got a comfort mode here where everything's kinda lackadaisical--easy throttle response, soft suspension. You move to normal and, well, things are more normal, then you go to sport where you've got the choice to configure this. Does it sporty up the chassis? The drivetrain? The drivetrain and the chassis, and finally Sport Plus is the most aggressive set of settings and there's nothing to configure there, it takes everything to its most taut, holds RPMs the hardest, gives you the most response on the throttle, tightens up the dynamic suspension the most. The head up display is standard on the hybrid 7 and it's the best in the business, to the point that it seems only BMW takes this technology seriously today. This is also one of the first BMWs to support the new integration of Twitter, Facebook, and web radio stations in iDrive. It uses Apple's iPod Out technology, but the look is still very much iDrive, not iOS, as we saw during its debut at the Geneva Auto Show. You need to have an iPhone, of course, and the smartphone cradle for it, for the whole system to work. Now, the MSRP on this car isn't the only way that you pay for the joy of ownership. You also pay in the rear end, the its, not yours, no, kinda both. There's the problem. That's the active hybrid power unit. That little carpeted gnome sits there as long as you own the car. That's the electronics box for this hybrid. Unfortunately, it's kinda big and it sticks into what's already an occluded trunk space. Now, where a 7 hybrid has to earn its keep is here in the engine room. We start off with the 4.4-liter V8 direct-injection double-valves, variable valve, blah, blah, blah, that's kinda standard BMW stuff right now including the direct injection technology, then you ram the electric assist into that and things get really interesting. 455 horsepower, 515-foot pounds of torque, like that number. Zero to sixty for this 4800-pound SOB is 4.7 seconds. That's almost an act of God. 17/26 is the MPG, not exactly stunning but, again, this car is not going after the Prius. Oh, by the way, while we're here, proof that the Germans never got over losing that war. They've installed these brain hook to kill you when you're working on it. They even put a little phony label here saying, "Don't lift your head up, you might get a little doink." Doink, my ass. You might see part of your brain hanging here, dripping blood. On the road, I find this car really can go Jekyll or Hyde based on these dynamic drive controls because it's a hybrid. When it wants to be luxurious, it's real sedate. When it wants to kick your ass, it does a real good job of that, that's because it's got an electric motor in there which can make serious more serious. Here's an odd one. When you come to a light and you've got the autostop, the engine dies and you're waiting for you to go, there's no power steering assist, so if you're sitting there in a stop situation, you wanna start to sorta knibble your way toward the lane change you're about to make, the wheel's dead. You need three strong men and a monkey just to turn this thing, and as a result, the engine detects that, and the car refires the motor. When you engage the blind spot technology, all I get is that little flag there in the mirror if someone's in my way. The car's never gonna nudge me. Lane departure, that again works by spotting lane lines, reading how the car's driving and giving you a really mild stick shake through the wheel. Now here I'm entering the Bay Bridge from a dead stop and it's easy. Wow, this car is fast. That's just great fun. To have a car that weighs this much get out of its own way that quick, you grin a lot. And then you think about the $103,000, you don't grin so much. So here's the question, who's this car for, the showy, green nut or someone who's actually making a rational purchase? Let's compare the 7 series. Alright, here's the dirty little secret about BMW 7s. A 7 hybrid delivers 17/26 MPG and does 0-60 in 4.7 for a base price of around $102,300. A 740i delivers almost identical 17/25 MPG, 0-60 in 5.8, while basing at $70,600, almost $32,000 less. Now, equipment does vary between them but neither is slumming it. So, the 7 hybrid is 1.1 seconds faster at a cost of nearly $2900 per tenth. I'd get the 740. I'd hardly miss the 1.1 seconds in a sprint, and even after loading up a few extra options for parity, I'd have around $20,000 left to go buy some carbon credits or something. Okay, let's price the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 750i. Oh, boy. Base price is $103,000 with delivery, so when you do that calculation where you figure out how many years it'll take to earn back the hybrid premium based on fuel savings, the number on this car is like 74 years so let's ignore that. You buy it for other reasons. It's a speedy big guy. The major options you're going to want are the driver assistance package, $1350 for the lane departure warning and also the blind spot assist technologies. The HUD is built in, the head up display, that comes with the car standard. Most everything else does as well but $400 more for the iPod USB jack. It's an insult, I know, but you're gonna wanna do it. $2200 gets you the rear seat entertainment system, not really interesting to me but some folks still like that sort of thing. At least the screens are really wide. You're going to pay $2600 for the night vision with pedestrian detection. Again, I'm not sold on that either, and the deal of them all is that multicamera package for $350. That's like Tata Nano pricing, i.e., don't get that.