BMW ActiveHybrid 7

There are typically two types of gasoline/electric hybrid-powered cars: those whose existence is meant to move people from one place to another with the least amount of gasoline, and those that exploit the same technology to offer greater performance. The 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 belongs to the latter school of thought.

So try not to think of the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 as a rolling contradiction with a price tag that outweighs its efficiency. Instead consider that it's a sophisticated super sedan with the power of a V12 engine, only with the thirst of a mere V8. Only then does this $100,000 techno-vessel begin to make sense.

At the heart of the 7 Series hybrid beats a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V8 and an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission. Of course, there is also a three-phase synchronous electric motor sandwiched between them. When the output from both systems is combined and blended, the result is a 17-foot-long missile that can either accelerate like a sports car or earn about 24 mpg on the highway -- but not both.

If fuel economy is your number-one goal, you could buy two Chevy Volts, a charging station and probably a solar array for your home's roof for the cost of the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. On the other hand, if greater performance is a priority, the even more powerful 760i or the Alpina B7 are likely better choices.

Meanwhile, Porsche now offers the Panamera Hybrid at a similar price. It benefits from better mileage (but at the expense of power). There's also the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid, undercutting the BMW's price a little while also delivering slightly better fuel economy. However, if you are somehow looking for a luxury sedan that combines hybrid street cred with sub-5-second 0-60-mph sprints and dynamic handling, then the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is the only game in town.

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