BMW has always been noted for its sporty models, but for the past decade it has also been seriously researching and building full-electric, and petrol-electric hybrids.
Indeed, BMW has set up an iPerformance division to develop and market these cars of the future.
We’ve just spent a fascinating week road testing a BMW 740e iPerformance. It has the same standard specification as the established 740i pure-petrol and is priced at $229,000 plus on-road costs.
Hard to pick from the standard 7 Series at a distance, the eDrive badges are a giveaway, as is the added “fuel” flap on the left-front guard which gives access to the electric input.
High levels of standard equipment show this petrol-electric hybrid is anything but a science experiment.
It rides on 19-inch light-alloy wheels and has a glass sunroof and quality Nappa leather upholstery that is soft and comfortable.
On the same subject there are heated seats for driver and front passenger, even heated armrests on the centre console and steering wheel.
Infotainment is a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound system together with DAB+ digital radio.
Professional navigation can be used by BMW gesture control and real-time traffic information is excellent, as is the ability to get BMW Concierge Services set up on all your plans. The letter “e” in the sedan’s title obviously refers to electric, but the “40” in this 7 Series refers to the output you would anticipate from a conventional 4.0-litre engine.
It actually has a 2.0L turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine producing 190kW of power from 5000rpm-6500rpm and an impressive 400Nm of torque, available all the way from 1550rpm-4400rpm.
Working with the turbo-petrol is a liquid-cooled electric motor that’s integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The motor is powered by a high-voltage battery beneath the rear seat. This lithium-ion unit is liquid-cooled and has a 9.2kWh capacity, with 7.4kWh useable.
The electric motor delivers 83kW, and 250Nm of torque and can provide emission-free motoring at speeds up to 140km/h without the petrol engine being used. Don’t forget that the laws of automotive physics are different in Australia from other countries, where 140km/h is normal on motorways.
Mounted on the centre console, the eDrive button offers three modes:
In the default Auto eDrive mode, it melds electric and petrol propulsion.
MAX eDrive mode biases the system to electric power, the petrol engine engaging either when the throttle is depressed beyond the kickdown detente or when the gearshift lever is pushed into sport mode.
Battery Control mode 740e allows the petrol engine to provide drive, as well as charging the battery pack, storing the charge for later electric driving.
With the supplied cable enabling connection to a standard 240-volt power supply, the BMW 740e iPerformance can be charged from an ordinary domestic household socket in about five hours.
Customers can option a BMW I Wallbox to be installed. This enables a charging rate of up to 3.7kW at 16 amps, and can provide a complete charge in 21⁄2 hours.
BMW also provides a ChargeNow service incorporating a card that grants simple, convenient access to partnered public charging stations.
Incidentally, when we asked the ChargeNow website for navigation information using Google Maps, it not only gave us driving instructions, but also provided the option of getting there by tram.
Someone has to have a look at the website to sort this out.
BMW Driving Assistant Plus provides lane-change and lane-departure warning, steering and lane-control assistant, forward-collision warning and pedestrian warning with light city-braking function, crossingtraffic warning (front and rear), rear collision prevention and active cruise control with stopand-go function, rear-view camera and surround view with 360-degree function and panorama view.
The 740e is big, imposing and smooth to ride in. There is, of course, no noise from the electric motor. However, the little petrol unit made an unusual clicking sort of noise when accelerating hard.
Like all electric vehicles, the big 7 Series has the magical instantaneous throttle response that’s provided by an electric motor that has maximum torque from one rpm.
When running on petrol, which frankly was most of the time, the big, heavy BMW 740e typically used 7L to 8L per 100km on motorways and 10L-12L/100km around towns.
The long-awaited “better battery” is still required if electric cars are really to make their name on the sales front.
BMW has been one of the major leaders in technology for many decades and you can be sure the behind-the-scenes people are doing all they can. In the meantime, the BMW 740e proves you can have smooth, luxurious personal transportation in near-silent running.
Big, imposing and crammed with the latest electronic technology, the BMW 740e is a step into the future. Pictures: Marque Motoring
BMW 740e provides smooth, luxurious personal transportation in near-silent running.