BMW 2011 Active Hybrid

Ultimate Green Power

A new generation of ‘hyper’ hybrids aims to electrify the senses

by Scott Sutherland

Once upon a time, there was a fear the automobile was destined for mediocrity. There was a constant uneasiness that the automotive world would be taken over by ‘efficient’ vehicles that are slow, serene and… well… pleasantly peaceful but less than exciting to drive.

Thankfully, it was never to be.

A new generation of environmentally responsible ‘hyper’ hybrid sedans, SUVs and crossovers are smashing barriers and forging a pathway to an exciting future ahead.

Rise up and cheer – “Green power to the people!”

Some of the latest and most significant applications of hybrid technology are making their way into luxury and performance vehicles. This is significant because consumers can have assertive expectations – and rightfully so – of higher calibre vehicles. A premium hybrid vehicle must be a captivating proposition when compared to its traditional ‘non-hybrid’ stable mates.

It’s been more than a decade since the first hybrid vehicles came to market in Canada, with the introduction of the Toyota Prius in 2000, considered the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. Lexus followed with the introduction of the RX400h SUV in 2005. According to Lexus of Canada, it became “the world’s first luxury hybrid.”

Today, the premium vehicle market in Canada is exploding with new hybrid technology. Manufacturers, such as BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Cadillac and Lincoln are all showcasing their newest hybrid masterpieces. From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense.

According to the global-marketing information company, J.D. Power and Associates, “Buyers of HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) and BEVs (battery electric vehicles) are generally older, more highly educated… high-income individuals who have a deep interest in technology” – a prime consumer group for premium vehicle manufacturers.

No doubt, this consumer group will carefully evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of a “hyper” hybrid before making a purchasing decision. Fuel efficiency, pricing and performance statistics will certainly be considered.

Taking a close look, the comparisons are interesting.

For example, BMW’s 2011 Active Hybrid 7L (MSRP $132,300) commands a $15,700 upgrade over its non-hybrid variation – the 2011 750Li xDrive (MSRP $116,600).

The hybrid version actually out-performs in acceleration (0-100 km/h) with an astounding time of 5.1 seconds (versus 5.4 seconds). Further, it has more total power (455 hp versus 400 hp) and better fuel efficiency (city: 12 L/100 km versus city: 15.4 L/100 km). The hybrid is actually faster and more powerful than the non-hybrid model.

Another example is the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S 400 HYBRID (MSRP $105,900), which is actually lower priced than its non-hybrid sibling – the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S 450 4MATIC (MSRP $108,000). In this case, the hybrid accelerates at a milder pace of 7.2 seconds versus 5.9 seconds (0-100 km/h). The hybrid version also has less power (295 hp versus 335 hp). However, no surprise, fuel efficiency is better with a city rating of 11.0 L/100 km (versus 14.9 L/100 km). To be fair, while the hybrid version may not have the aggressive performance of its sibling, the hybrid is still an exceptional machine – placing more emphasis on efficiency rather than performance.

The growth of hybrid applications will have an interesting effect on the auto industry. Premium hybrid vehicles will certainly raise the vogue factor of ‘going green,’ which could potentially influence consumer acceptance.

It’s interesting to note that the world of auto racing is also embracing hybrid science.

Porsche has drawn a line in the sand and boldly announced it is very serious about hybrid technology. At the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Porsche unveiled its wild 918 RSR racing car – which, according to Porsche, is a “racing laboratory for hybrid technology.”

This is good news because racing technology often trickles down into consumer vehicles.

Porsche is on a mission. In the racing world, all eyes are on Porsche.

Progress is a beautiful thing. So, too, is the environment. Increasingly, consumers are adopting a viewpoint that the environment does not belong to our generation – but rather, is borrowed from future generations.

This growing awareness of sustainability is a driving force behind the push for better, more efficient, more environmentally responsible automobiles.

However, consumers are still human – they still crave desirable automobiles that electrify the senses.

Thankfully, auto manufacturers appear to be listening. With a new generation of premium “hyper” hybrids, and even the arrival of hybrids on the race track, manufacturers are creating responsible vehicles that can indeed excite. CEOs of the auto world are acknowledging that “going green” needs to be sensible – and that consumers analyze multiple factors such as practicality, reliability, fuel efficiency, performance and cost when evaluating a hybrid.

Hold on tight – the new generation of hyper hybrids has enough green power to pack a punch. Good times lay ahead with no guilt required.

The future of personal transportation is looking bright … and very green.

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