Pros: Lavishly luxurious, impressive performance, exciting technology
Cons: Handling could be better, reduced boot space
The days of fuel-guzzling luxury cars are well and truly behind us it seems, as many of the best cars in the class are starting to move to plug-in hybrid technology. For the first time ever, BMW’s 7 Series is available with the firm’s i technology, which mixes a four cylinder petrol engine and a fully electric motor for powerful and economical motoring. We spent a week with this new 740Le xDrive recently, to see if electric power is well-suited to the large luxury saloon, and if it can tempt buyers away from the traditionally popular diesel-powered models.
What is it like?
From the outside, it isn’t easy to distinguish the plug-in hybrid version of the 7 Series from traditional diesel and petrol-powered versions, but there are some clues if you look closely. There are eDrive badges on the C-pillars along with blue detailing inside the kidney grille and a noticeable square flap near the front door on the passenger side, which opens for charging the battery system. Our test car is a high specification M Sport model so it gets large 20-inch double spoke alloy wheels, an M Sport body styling kit and lots of other extras which make it stand out more, but also hike the asking price.
As you’d expect, the interior of the BMW 740Le xDrive offers a plethora of luxury inside. There are no exposed plastics, as all panels are finished in soft-touch leather and there is beautiful wood effect detailing on the dashboard with chrome lining from every angle. No matter how tall you are, it’s easy to get comfortable in the 7 Series’ front seats, while the rear seats take comfort to a whole other level. In addition to reclining massage rear seats and TV screens, this long-wheelbase model also has BMW’s optional Executive Lounge console which slides the front passenger seat forward electrically and presents a foot rest to the a fully-stretched out seating position; luxury at its finest!
Both the 740e and 740Le xDrive are powered by a 258hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 112hp synchronous electric motor that produces a combined power output of 326hp. Acceleration in sport mode is seriously impressive, with 0-100km/h taking a mere 5.3 seconds, but you’ll drain the battery quickly with regular hard acceleration. The hybrid drivetrain is matched to an eight speed automatic transmission, and it also has permanent all-wheel drive system that can even be used in all-electric mode. When fully charged, the battery has a range of up to 46 kilometres of all-electric driving, but we found it hard to match these figures out on the road.
In theory, the 740Le xDrive can return as little as 2.0-litres per 100 kilometres (117MPG) in fuel economy with extremely light-footed driving, but again we found it hard to replicate anything near this during our test on Irish roads. Another benefit of the plug-in hybrid platform is of course a low emissions output, and the 740Le xDrive slots into one of the lowest emissions brackets with €170 annual motor tax. To make the best use of electric driving you’ll need to make short trips (circa 40 kilometres) with charge points easily available. It is also possible to set how much battery charge you would like to save for a later stage using BMW’s battery control system.
One distinct advantage that the 7 Series has over its rivals is how it drives out on the road, and that remains the case even with the heavier i Performance models. This all-wheel drive xDrive model handles very well out on the road with plenty of cornering kudos and the intelligent all-wheel drive system is reassuring in wet conditions, withlots of grip in tight turns, which was really beneficial on tight and twisty backroads which we sampled in Mayo. As you’d expect, comfort levels are sublime with minimal road noise and a supple ride quality from the air suspension system.
Prices for the iPerformance BMW 7 Series range start from €90,810, so it is right on par with other plug-in hybrid luxury cars on the market. Of course, the level of standard specification needs to justify the asking price and it certainly does with autonomous parking, BMW’s gesture control system, satellite navigation, night vision cameras and a whole host of other features included. Our test car has every conceivable extra and commands a price tag well over €140,000, which means it has everything from the Executive Lounge package that we touched on earlier, to electrically-controlled sun blinds and a button-operated fragrance dispenser; fancy!
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The BMW 740Le xDrive combines incredible luxury and comfort with an emissions-free platform that packs real punch. Plug-in hybrid technology is well-suited to the 7 Series platform, but it will only make sense for those who have easy access to charge points and will use the range cleverly during daily use. The 740Le xDrive marks a real step towards future luxury travel for BMW, and while the asking price is incredibly high, it’s nice to note that there are savings to be had on fuel costs, motor tax and carbon footprint.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: BMW 740Le xDrive
Prices from: €90,810
Price as tested: €144,289
Annual Road Tax: €170
Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and electric motor
Top Speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 5.3 seconds
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 420 litres
Author: Karl Connolly