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2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Preview

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
2011 BMW ActiveHybrid7Critical Knowledge:
  • New ActiveHybrid 7 Series model available in short- and long-wheelbase variants
  • The most powerful hybrid luxury sedans in the world, according to BMW
  • Turbocharged V-8 engine
  • Single electric boost motor
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Total hybrid powerplant rating of 455 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. off torque
  • Reported 15 percent more fuel efficient than the BMW 750i
  • Arrives in the spring of 2011
Introduction
The BMW 7 Series is the flagship of the German automaker's model range. Only available as a 4-door sedan, the first generation appeared in the late 1970s with a 6-cylinder powerplant and a 4-speed automatic transmission. The second generation, introduced in 1986, heralded the 8- and 12-cylinder powerplants that would become offered in future models. That model also inaugurated the available stretched ("L") variant for more rear passenger leg room. The third generation, debuting in 1994, brought satellite navigation and Xenon HID headlamps to the model range. The fourth-generation 7 Series, with sales starting in 2002, introduced BMW's iDrive infotainment controller.

The current model, the fifth-generation 7 Series, was completely redesigned for 2009. The new 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7, the first hybrid sedan from the automaker, follows on the heels of the BMW ActiveHybrid X6-each fitted with slightly different hybrid technology. The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is due in showrooms in the spring of 2011.

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2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7Model Lineup
BMW will offer the ActiveHybrid 7 model in both standard and long-wheelbase variants. The standard model shares the same platform as the standard 7 Series and looks similar, with the exception of badges and unique wheels. The long-wheelbase version has been stretched by 5.5 inches to create additional room in the rear seat (like the standard 750Li model). Both share identical hybrid powerplants, transmissions and rear-wheel-drive powertrains. Unlike the standard 7 Series models, available with "xDrive" all-wheel drive in 2010, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is only offered with rear-wheel drive.

As expected from the flagship platform, the 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is offered with a long list of standard convenience features including full power accessories and leather upholstery with genuine wood cabin accents. The standard audio package features a DVD player, auxiliary audio input, and a 40-GB hard drive. A Premium Sound package upgrades the stereo with increased amplification and additional speakers, among other improvements.

A standard 10.2-inch high-resolution color display is used by the next-generation iDrive infotainment/navigation system. Other technology-laden options include Active Cruise Control with new stop-and-go capability, Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Head-up Display, High Beam Assistant, BMW Night Vision with new Pedestrian Detection, and Side View and Back-up Cameras. The long-wheelbase BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is available with a Luxury Rear Seating package consisting of multi-adjustable rear seats with ventilation and active support-a type of massage feature to promote comfort and prevent cramps on long journeys.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7Hardware
Under the hood of the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is a gasoline-powered, 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. The engine alone is rated at 440 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. However, being a hybrid powerplant, an additional single 3-phase synchronous electric boost motor supplies assist to the gasoline engine to bring the total hybrid powerplant rating to 455 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque. The electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and the torque converter on an 8-speed electronically controlled transmission. According to the maker, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 accelerates to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.

With a standard auto start-stop feature designed to shut down the engine when the vehicle is at a stop, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 delivers fuel economy that is 15 percent better than the 750i (currently 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway), according to the manufacturer (official EPA numbers were not yet released when this preview was written).

Like the standard 7 Series models, the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is equipped with a suspension design utilizing many aluminum components to reduce unsprung weight and improve the ride quality. The front suspension is a double-wishbone design while the rear is a sophisticated multi-link design. Standard wheels are 19-inch aluminum alloy with a special 10-spoke "aero" design to reduce drag. The tires are extended-mobility "runflats" sized 245/45R19 in the front and 275/40R19 in the rear.

Safety
Hybrid vehicles, with high voltage electrical systems and additional battery mass, require special safety considerations. According to BMW, all components in the BMW ActiveHybrid 7's high-voltage system feature full insulation and special plug connectors. The battery itself is protected by a high-strength steel housing positioned within the wheel wells keeping it protected from damage in a crash, the company states.

As is customary in all current BMWs, 3-point safety belts are employed for occupant protection at all seating positions. The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 has front belts with pre-tensioners-with innovative electric motors rather than pyrotechnics-to pre-tension the belt in anticipation of impact. Other safety systems in the flagship BMW include front- and side-impact air bags, front/rear side curtain air bags down the length of the passenger cabin, and knee air bags for the two front occupants. In the event of an accident, the standard BMW Assist automatic emergency calling system is newly enhanced to include accident severity analysis. Standard active safety features in every BMW ActiveHybrid 7 include anti-lock brakes (ABS), dynamic stability control (DSC) with Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), and Dynamic Brake Control.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7Technology
The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 features two interconnected electrical networks. Like a conventional automobile, a 12-volt on-board power supply runs most of the standard electronics and accessories. However, the ActiveHybrid 7 Series also has a 120-volt network featuring a lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery to supply power to the electric motors-and the primary gasoline engine starters. The Li-ion battery generates 400 watt-hours of power and is compromised of 35 individual cells. The battery is very compact and is small enough to be mounted underneath the trunk floor. Overall battery weight is just 60 pounds, says BMW. This means the electrical storage system requires minimal compromise to overall luggage or passenger capacity (often a complaint with gasoline-electric hybrids when compared to gasoline siblings), and it does not affect the BMW's ideal 50-50 weight distribution.

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