Skip to navigation Skip to main content

Going Green to the Greens Get you and your clubs back and forth without trampling mother earth's toes

BMW Active Hybrid 7

Is it possible to mention environmental issues, luxury cars and golf in a motoring article aimed at golfers without taking a cheap shot with the word 'green'?

I'm not so sure, but I'll give it a go. With Japan being quite forward in the uptake of environmental issues over the last decade, it's about time the automotive industry supplied us with the cars we need to keep up with the rest of the tree huggers. What we have here is a selection of luxury hybrids that will get you and your clubs and friends back and forth without trampling mother earth's toes.

We cannot yet get all they way to the club without the use of some fossil fuel, but we can at least use as little as possible with the vehicles available to us today.

BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid

BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid

First up for our “sheer driving plea- sure” we have the fastest hybrid sedan currently on the market in the form of BMW’s Luxury ActiveHybrid 7. With a 0 to 100km/h time of just 4.9 seconds in such a large car, it’s clear that it’s going to be blowing some smoke to get there. This ActiveHybrid uses a mild-hybrid technology to offer assistance to the twin-turbo V8 engine. Kinetic energy generated while braking and while not accelerating charges the lithium-ion bat- tery mounted in the trunk. The battery then powers the electric motors, which assist when accelerating, boosting the performance. When stuck in traffic, the engine automatically cuts out to save emissions, and the electric motor fires it back up again once the light turns green.

BMW’s own tagline for the 7 mentions “elegance for everyday and to make an
impression,” and while its eco-friendly credentials are slightly dubious with 25mpg, it certainly makes an impres- sion. Inside and out, we are treated to the usual precision German engineering and ultra high quality finish. Packed with ev- erything you would expect from a top-of- the-line marque, BMW ConnectedDrive brings all the latest technology to the driver. Night vision with person recogni- tion assists on those long drives home,
a “heads up display” provides access to all critical info without the need to glance away from the road, and side view gives camera assistance for parking or driving in confined areas. Of course the important thing for us is the trunk space, which is unimpeded by the small battery and allows for ample storage. Outside it does mention the “hybrid” features on the trunk lid and C pillars, but it’s still a quintessential luxury cruiser.

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche isn’t exactly a name associated with vegetarianism and frugality, but the German company’s new range-topping Cayenne S Hybrid certainly goes a long way to prove it has turned over a new leaf. This Supercharged 3.0 liter V6 engine with “electric machine” motor generator operates in parallel full hybrid drive. As with the BMW, the electric motors assist with the acceleration and overall performance to save on fuel economy, giving the performance of a V8 from a V6 engine. The added advantages with the Porsche include the ability to glide or sail along using only electricity once up to speed. Energy generated through breaking is again used to charge up the battery. With a 0 to 100km/h performance of 6.5 seconds it won’t catch the 7, but it certainly has a cleaner conscience with figures closer to 35mpg.

Even though it’s a 4x4 and a hybrid, it is most certainly a Porsche: it looks like one, drives like one, and is completely built around the driver. The striking center console meets the dashboard in similar fashion to the Carrera GT, constantly reminding the driver of the sporting heritage.

Switching from petrol to hybrid happens smoothly without being obtrusive, while the in-dash screen and five dial raised console keep the driver informed of all critical details. Aluminum and carbon trim options allow the interior to remain close to the race-inspired roots, but the quality of every detail certainly impresses. Externally, it doesn’t shout about its configuration, but the power domed hood gives a nod to what lies beneath. From a storage perspective, although its large 4x4 trunk space is tight enough, the split folding 40/20/40 rear seats allow capacity to be increased to accommodate up to three bags comfortably.

Lexus LS600h

Lexus LS600h

For the true environmental connoisseur, it is always better to select homegrown, local produce for its freshness and lower carbon footprint. With that in mind, we cast our eyes over the Lexus LS 600h Luxury High performance saloon. This V8 with VVT-iE and high-output, permanent-magnet, electric drive motor with regenerative breaking is closer to the BMW, but shares more of the features of the Porsche. Permanent four-wheel drive and the ability to run solely on electric power constitute similarities, but the size and weight distribution of this car puts it well behind the other two in terms of handling. From an economic point of view, the 30mpg figure is quite respect- able for a car of this size and comfort level.

Within the confines of the luxurious cabin, all the expected features are in place. The new LCD display cluster incorporates a Lexus hard drive based navigation system as well as a backup camera. Ubiquitous iPhone/MP3 USB integration through the 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio system, combined with a DVD player, provides ample in-car entertainment for both driver and passengers. The Advanced Parking Guidance System provides hands-free parallel parking, which is certain to spook passengers. Overall, it’s everything you have come to expect from a top-of-the-line Lexus. Mounted behind the rear seats, the Hybrid Synergy does eat considerably into the trunk space, so it may be more suitable for a trip for four to the driving range than to the course.

While all three models are close enough in price and specifications, the Porsche comes in closest to the flag on the right side of green. Sorry, I had to do it.

More on Air