- Cross Pollination
Blend BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo with an electric motor and you have a very fine 7 Series indeed. Take one technological marvel – the G12 7 Series – blend carefully with BMW i know-how and voilà, you have a hybrid Seven. Does it make sense for the UK buyer though? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: #Drive-My and BMW.
There was a time when it might have been unthinkable to propose a 7 Series with a four-cylinder engine – the executive express is all about sublime wafty comfort after all and badging a model in the rangetopping series as, say, a 720d just isn’t going to cut it for the company chairman. Even with all today’s downsizing, where 12s are becoming eights and sixes are turning into fours and fours into threes, one did think that perhaps the 7 Series would be sacrosanct and stick with the largest engines possible…
But that’s not the case and here we have the world’s first four-cylinder 7 Series: the 740e. It’s that last letter that gives the game away, though, as in BMW speak ‘e’ equates to added electrification, so not only do we have a four-cylinder petrol engine up front but this is backed-up by a synchronous electric motor and a 7.4kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined peak output is 326hp and 369lb ft of torque – surely more than enough for the chauffer room bragging rights. One might have a niggling doubt that when it’s in operation on its own that the four-pot petrol might not be man enough for the job but, as the most powerful incarnation of this engine, its 258hp and 295lb ft of torque should be more than enough to be getting one with, surely? Well, there’s only one way to find out…
If you’ve not driven a Seven for a while it does take a little bit of familiarisation when you slip back behind the wheel – not that it’s difficult to drive or is particularly intimidating from behind the wheel, but if you’re to get the best from it you need to remember what all the buttons and switches do. And as I’m about to depart Hyde Park Corner in central London on my way to deepest darkest Oxfordshire I want to ensure I’ve got everything just so before doing battle with the tail end of rush hour. One has several modes to choose from with the hybrid Seven and while I could have asked it to run purely on electric power (Max eDrive) I tend to think it’s probably a little bit more of a real world test to opt for Auto eDrive.
Nevertheless it’s on purely electric power that I waft away from our London rendezvous point and head off out of London along the A4. It’s a slightly odd experience, though, with the Seven being whisper quiet. The only tell tale that you’re under power being found in the dash pod as the speedo needle rises and the rev counter glows with various degrees of blue indicating that battery power is being used while the tacho needle itself stays resolutely on zero. This continues all the way to the outskirts of London when I finally awaken the petrol unit as I boot the big Seven away from the last set of lights before the M4 motorway begins. It’ll pick up its skirts and fly when required, too: 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds should be plenty fast enough for even the most demanding of company chairmen.
Once onto the M4 there’s a chance to play with some of the settings and I discover that I’m not a huge fan of the Super Comfort setting for the suspension as it seems a little too wafty for my liking – the normal Comfort mode does just fine. I’ve now asked the engine to fully recharge the slightly depleted battery (Battery Control mode) as I want to experience eDrive on the motorway and after a few minutes I have a full battery and switch to Max eDrive and, if anything, it’s even odder flying down the M4 with a silent drivetrain. Eventually the engine will kick back in when the batteries are depleted or if you exceed 87mph.
The pre-programmed route in the sat nav is soon advising me to pull off the M4 and I wend my way up towards our destination revelling in the combination of near silent running through the towns to showing surprising speed when both the battery and engine are playing together. The sat nav seems to be suggesting I’m only about ten miles from my destination so I pull off the road to take a few snaps, but mainly because I want to experience the ‘Executive Lounge’ option that’s fitted to this longwheelbase machine. Along with gesture control for the iDrive, the Executive Lounge was one of the other items that seemed to really capture the imagination when the latest Seven was launched. Essentially this option involves the front passenger seat moving forward, dipping its headrest, folding the back rest towards the front of the car and then electrically folding down a footrest for the rear seat passenger and as it’s only come on stream for RHD cars I’d not yet fully tried it out.
Once I was parked-up I donned my best company chairman’s expression and plopped myself into the nearside rear seat and went to work on the buttons. Once I’d tried the massage function, the cooling function and watched a bit of telly I went for the full recline experience and it is slightly surreal to see the passenger seat gently moving away from you and folding itself down before the footrest electrically drops down for you. I have to say it’s remarkably comfortable and I’d be a very chuffed captain of industry indeed if my company car was equipped with this option! Apart from if I was paying for it that is, as the full Executive Lounge comes in at an eyewatering £6675, although there is a diet option at £1750 which just gets you the clever seat. I know which my shareholders would be happier with.
Once I’m back behind the wheel I wend my way towards my destination only to discover that I’d been a bit of a cretin and that the distance to destination shown was actually just a waypoint en route and that I still have another 30 miles to go… and that I’m probably going to be late for lunch. Now, as we all know, captains of industry don’t like to be late for lunch so I delve into the Seven’s full performance envelope and hustle the big bruiser along increasingly small roads. It plays this role very well, although the nigh-on 50mpg I’d managed so far started heading south very quickly indeed.
I did manage to make lunch by the skin of my teeth and reflected upon what has been an enthralling drive. There’s no doubt that the blend of BMW and BMW i technology really does work very well – the shift from battery to internal combustion to battery and internal combustion is utterly seamless.
This might be an overused term but it perfectly describes the feeling when you’re driving the car – and the only clue that it’s happening at all is given by the instrumentation which undergoes subtle changes as the car works between modes.
So, there must be some down sides, no? The first one is that the boot is smaller in the hybrid Seven than in the ‘normal’ car – 420 litres compared to 515 litres in a non-hybrid, but that’s still 25 litres more than you’d get in an S500e S-Class hybrid Mercedes. Then there’s the issue of the claimed 117.7mpg for the xDrive version of the 740Le. Put simply, you’ll never see this sort of economy unless you only ever do journeys of less than around 20 miles and have a charging station at either end of your journey. This isn’t really BMW’s fault, though. It’s the ridiculously old-hat testing procedure that all manufacturers have to put their cars through and BMW will happily admit that in real world conditions your economy will vary wildly. On pure eDrive it reckons you could return circa 188mpg if your journey is less than 20 miles. For a medium distance commuter travelling 30-40 miles to work BMW says the #PHEV-Seven will return between 55-70mpg but for long distance travel – trips over 150 miles – you’ll see 35-40mpg. So whether the 740e makes sense for you will really depend on the sort of driving you do.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the 740e is congestion charge-free and, when compared to a 740Ld xDrive, the 740Le xDrive would save a 40 percent taxpayer a hefty £5000 in benefit in kind. That’s a fair chunk of change in anyone’s book.
With the arrival of the 740e BMW has also brought in a new trim structure for the 7 Series which now sees the introduction of a standard car, a tweak to the Exclusive model line and the M Sport remaining the pinnacle of the range. The standard trim level drops Comfort seats from the rear and the Pure Excellence exterior design package, while the Exclusive model gains Gesture Control, soft-close doors and the aforementioned Pure Excellence exterior kit. The amount of kit you get on this model is pretty impressive and knocks what comes as standard on the (more expensive) Mercedes S-Class 500e into touch by some measure.
Overall I’ve been hugely impressed with the 740Le. I wasn’t exactly a doubting Thomas before I drove the car; it’s probably fair to say I was a little ambivalent but now I’ve got to grips with the car in UK conditions I can see it really would make a lot of sense for some people. If you spend the majority of your time in a major conurbation then it’s just about perfect – wafting along on pure eDrive while the world goes by is a great experience that seems to have a calming effect on you, but if you fly up and down the motorway all day every day then a diesel Seven is still the weapon of choice.
TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-740Le-xDrive-iPerformance / #2017 / #BMW-740e-iPerformance / #BMW-740e / #BMW-740e-G11 / #BMW-740e-iPerformance-G11 / #BMW-G12 / #BMW / #BMW-740Le-iPerformance-G12 / #BMW-740Le-iPerformance / #BMW-G11 / #BMW-740Le-xDrive-iPerformance-G12 / #BMW-740Le-xDrive-G12 / #BMW-740Le-G12 / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-7-Series-G11 / #BMW-7-Series-G12 / #BMW-7-Series-Hybrid / #BMW-7-Series-Hybrid-G12 /
DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four petrol with 88kW synchronous electric motor and 7.4kWh lithium-ion battery, eight-speed #Steptronic auto, fourwheel drive
MAX POWER: Petrol: 258hp @ 5000-6500rpm; electric: 113hp @ 3170rpm; combined peak output: 326hp
MAX TORQUE: Petrol: 295lb ft @ 1250-4800rpm; electric: 184lb ft at 0rpm; combined peak output: 369lb ft of torque
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
0-62MPH: 5.4 seconds
CO² EMISSIONS: 54g/km
PRICE UK: 740e iPerformance from £68,330, 740Le #xDrive #iPerformance as tested from £74,880
There’s no doubt that the blend of #BMW and #BMW-i-technology really does work very well.
Once I’d tried the massage function, the cooling function and watched a bit of telly I went for the full recline experience.