Best of both worlds
BLENDING luxury, style, power and cutting-edge technology, the 7 Series is a true flagship for BMW. But can a hybrid version possibly be as good as its siblings? Borrowing technology from the BMWi sub-brand, the Munich-based company has created the BMW 740e and long-wheelbase 740Le xDrive to follow in the footsteps of the X5 eDrive40e, 225xe and the 330e plug-in petrol-electric hybrids.
Working with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, the petrol engine produces 258hp while the electric drive system produces 112hp – a combined output of 322hp and peak torque of 500Nm.
Efficiency may be the aim but endowed with such power, the 740Le responds by surging from 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds.
Such outstanding performance is matched to extraordinarily low official consumption and emissions figures.
The 740Le xDrive is said to achieve 117.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 54g/ km. To achieve that, you’ll need to drive like your granny, make only short trips and put the car on charge at the end of every journey.
Then, you may be able to fully enjoy its all-electric, emission-free driving range of 29 miles. It just about allowed my commute but, after plenty of “real life” driving, I achieved a much more believable 36mpg.
For those who enjoy driving, the good news is the 740Le xDrive drives just like the rest of the range. The addition of the plug-in hybrid system does nothing to dampen its dynamics.
As suggested by the figures, it’s genuinely fun and involving when you stick it in Sport mode, especially the gigantic surge of electric power when accelerating from standstill.
The 740Le xDrive is only the second BMW model to distribute its power permanently to all four wheels in pure electric driving – extra traction which aids performance. While BMW’s Active Steering helps the limo – surely what the Le is designed to be – feel much more agile than you’d expect its vital statistics to allow.
And, of course, in Comfort mode, the 740Le glides impeccably smoothly on its air suspension while the outside world passes by in near silence.
Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro modes are activated by the touch of a button. There’s also an adaptive mode which uses cameras and sensors to almost magically adapt the car’s responses to the driver’s style and route.
In the Auto eDrive, the Beemer’s brain decides which motor works best. It defaults to all-electric mode at low and moderate speeds while petrol power bursts into life at speeds of around 50mph or under heavy acceleration.
Max eDrive is pure electric, which gives the BMW a top speed of 87mph. Plunging the accelerator into kickdown immediately springs the petrol engine back to life.
Also in this mode, a battery control setting cutely allows you to decide how much charge you want to preserve for later in your journey. This means you can charge it on long journeys for later emission-free use around town.
If all that sounds daunting, it’s not. It’s all easily accessible via clearly marked buttons next to the gear shift.
You’d expect a £75,000 car to be comfortable and luxurious and the plug-in 7 Series doesn’t disappoint – it is exceptionally comfortable and spacious. The interior is all high-quality leather and stylishly machined buttons throughout. And, with the Le, there’s acres of space in the back. For those high-flyers who need to be driven from meeting to meeting, it really is one of ‘the’ places to be.
So are plug-in versions of the 7 Series as good as the others in the range? Yes they are.
TEST DRIVE BMW 740LE XDRIVE
MODEL: BMW 740Le xDrive PRICE: £74,880 MECHANICAL: 322bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine plus electric motor driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox MAX SPEED: 155mph 0-62MPH: 5.3 seconds COMBINED MPG: 117.7 INSURANCE GROUP: 23 CO2 EMISSIONS: 54g/km BIK RATING: 13% WARRANTY: 3yrs/unlimited mileage