BMW remains committed to expanding its range of low emission offerings in Australia. As well as BMW i branded models, the company also offers plug-in hybrid i Performance versions of the 3 Series, X5, and now the 7 Series.
Though beaten to market by the plug-in Mercedes-Benz S 500 e, the BMW 740e undercuts that model on price (by over $90,000) and fuel consumption, but is just 5kW down on power but provides an extra 20Nm or torque.
On value alone that means you’re likely to see more of the hybrid 7 than the equivalent S. But, in something with the size and heft of a 7 Series, is a hybrid drivetrain the right fit? BMW offered us a quick preview in Australia’s first 740e to find out.
Vehicle Style: Prestige upper-large sedan
Price: $229,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 240kW/500Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 2.2 l/100km
As its numerical value suggests the 740e sits alongside the turbocharged six-cylinder petrol 740i in the 7-Series range, but under the bonnet the six cylinder is ditched in favour of a four-cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor.
It provides a claimed maximum of 48 kilometres of electric range, meaning nothing but whisper-quiet vibration free running for the commute to and from work - which in a high-end limo like this that sounds ideal.
Pricewise the regular wheelbase 740e slots in between the petrol-only 740i and long wheelbase 740Li and shares its thorough standard equipment list with the 740i.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather upholstery, power adjustable multi-contour front seats with heating and cooling, rear and rear side sunblinds, soft-close doors and boot lid, configurable ambient lighting, auto lights and wipers, proximity key with pushbutton start, Display Key, adaptive LED headlights, four-zone climate control, powered sunroof, colour head up display, active cruise control and speed limiter
- Infotainment: 10.2-inch touchscreen, iDrive control, Gesture Control, DAB+ digital radio, 20GB media storage, rear 7.0-inch tablet, 16 speaker Harman Kardon audio
- Cargo Volume: 420 litres
No matter where you look or what you touch the 740e is properly opulent. Iin fact this current-generation 7-Series features BMW’s best interior effort yet (having learnt a few tricks from Rolls-Royce perhaps) with leather covering almost every imaginable surface while rich wood trims and metal finishes are elsewhere on every button and touch point.
The quilted Nappa leather upholstery is beautiful to sink into and, as nice as the front seats might be, the rear is the perfect place to breathe in, breathe out, and relaaax in - although given its huge exterior dimensions rear legroom could perhaps be just a touch more generous than it is.
Infotainment is via the latest generation of iDrive which links the familiar tombstone screen and rotary controller to a new touchscreen interface with gesture control, allowing basic functions to be controlled by waving a finger in the air.
Rear seat passengers also get their own touchscreen tablet that can be released from the centre armrest to control climate, media, and more without troubling the driver.
With the added hybrid battery packs stored in the rear of the vehicle boot space takes a dive from the regular 7-Series’ 515 litres to a more compact 420 litres. Still enough for plenty of luggage, though diligent packing is recommended.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 190kW/400Nm four-cylinder turbo petrol plus 83kW/250Nm electric motor (240kW/500Nm combined)
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Front and rear adaptive air suspension type, wishbone front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: Electric power steering
The 740e is the first four cylinder 7-Series in BMW’s history, though BMW has plenty of experience with four cylinder engines in the 3- and 5-Series.
It’s also not the first time the company has paired its turbocharged four cylinder with a hybrid setup. The 330e and X5 xDrive 40e offer a similar setup and both have been on sale in Australia since last year.
Combined power figures for the 740e match the six-cylinder 740i at 240kW, but the added squirt from the electric motor brings torque up to 500Nm (compared to 450Nm for the 740i).
The 2.0 litre turbo engine generates 190kW and 400Nm on its own and the electric motor tips in 83kW and 250Nm - but the final output figure isn’t as straightforward as adding the two peak figures together.
Slide behind the wheel of the 740e, thumb the starter button and the digital instrument display comes to life in eery silence. You are new ready to go. No noise, no vibration,
With no need to call the petrol engine into action unless the battery charge is low, or maximum acceleration is called for, the 740e ups the refinement factor even further than the already impressive petrol powered models.
A very short drive program meant we couldn’t monitor fuel usage, or dive deeply into the eDrive control modes that allow maximum electric power, a hold function to save battery charge for later, and an Auto eDrive mode that works out how best to balance battery and petrol propulsion.
One opportunity we did get was to mash the throttle on an uphill run and watch the power usage gauge in the instrument cluster swing beyond 100 percent into ‘Boost’ which opens the taps on both the petrol engine and electric motor.
There’s a genuine shove in the back, just right for swift overtaking, though the rise in engine revs has the four-cylinder at its most vocal. It’s still hardy what you’d call uncouth though.
Gentle driving is more likely to be the 740e’s forte, and with the smooth and almost silent drivetrain underneath, and the potential to surpass the diesel 730d’s fuel economy with a properly charged battery (5 hours for a full charge from a wall plug or 2.5 hours with a BMW i Wallbox), the 740e should find a successful niche.
Before branding the 740e with a complete seal of approval TMR will put one through the regular review cycle, charge it a few times, drive it in and out of town, and report back on BMW’s hybrid limousine.
Right now though the early signs are promising. Just like the 330e and X5 40e before it, the 740e combines efficient city driving with long-range touring ability, eliminating the fear of range anxiety that plagues regular electric vehicles whilst still delivering the zero tailpipe emission benefits in the right conditions.
BMW’s legendary road feel isn’t changed, nor is the 740e stripped of any of the flagship BMW’s luxury features. Not only that but the addition of the 740e (and the introduction later this year of a plug-in hybrid 5 Series) shows BMW’s ongoing commitment to sustainable mobility.
Overseas 740Le model shown