Ireland’s drivers have been obsessed with engine capacity for years. A car’s cc has been used as an indicator of one’s place in society. On the corporate ladder young executives would start with a 1.6 litre and work their way up to a middle management 2 litre and then perhaps all the way up to a director’s 3 litre or larger company car. You may be familiar with the age old saying “there’s no replacement for displacement”, for years it pointed out the obvious that to get big performance from a car you need a big engine. Large luxury cars like the BMW 7 Series need large capacity engines with plenty of cylinders to deliver enough pulling power to shift their bulk along swiftly and smoothly… its the law – sort of! The very last thing luxury car owners want is to feel short on power and that is why buyers might need a bit of convincing to get behind the wheel of a 2 litre 7 Series, and yes, that’s a two followed by litre.
Okay so the 2 litre engine in my test car doesn’t do all the work. On the C pillar behind the rear door is an eDrive badge that means it is a plug in hybrid or PHEV for short. Following hot on the heels of the X5 eDrive40e, 225xe and 330e the 740e & Le (long wheelbase) borrow a lot of technology from BMW’s i subdivision and sits in the German firms iPerformance range of vehicles. The 7 series eDrive PHEV comes in three versions. The 740e, Le and xDrive Le with intelligent all wheel drive. The PHEV can run on internal combustion power alone but day to day it combines the power of the Twinpower turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor housed in the 8-speed Steptronic transmission. The EfficientDynamics 2 litre is quite powerful delivering 258hp and 400nm of torque. This alone would be ample power to haul any large four door machine from board meeting to board meeting but by adding a liquid cooled 95hp/250nm electric motor BMW has boosted power even further. The eDrive 7 Series has a quoted total system output of 326hp and 500nm. The sprint from 0-100kph takes just 5.3 seconds and the top speed is, as you’d expect, electronically limited to quite fast. All that power must come with a huge thirst I hear you say but BMW quotes a staggering average fuel consumption figure of 2.1 l/100km or 134mpg. In the real world the fuel tank drains fairly quickly unless you frequently charge up the batteries. Emissions are really low too from just 49g/100km CO2 with the 740eup to 53g/100km with the xDrive. The good news keeps coming as the government is continuing for the next five years with its subsidy towards the purchase of a plug in hybrid with a €2,500 grant towards the luxury car.
Apart from the eDrive badging you will know its a PHEV by the blue detailing in the grille and a fuel flap that houses the EV socket on the front nearside wing. This flap should be less obvious and I’m sure it will be in the next generation but for now it interrupts the rather handsome side on view. It takes roughly four hours to charge the batteries fully via a standard home socket and this delivers 37 kilometres of electric only range. The high voltage 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack delivers a net output of 7.4kWh. As the pack sits underneath the rear seats boot space shrinks to a still reasonable 420 litres. You can keep up to date with the car’s systems and state of charge via a smart phone app. BMW is also the first car firm to introduce wireless Apple carPlay connectivity that connects via bluetooth. As with the fossil fuel powered 7s there is an options list as long as an opera glove. You can spend thousands on extra luxuries like the Executive Lounge that allows you literally stretch out in the back seat with your feet up while the soft leather seat massages you. Some of the options are very useful like the incredibly bright laser headlights and the sublime surround sound hi-fi system from Bowers & Wilkins.
I tested the 740Le xDrive on a variety of roads and surfaces in Ireland and some months ago in the UK. The xDrive system distributes power to the front and rear wheels as it sees fit and overall the car has a nice rear wheel drive feel. All the driving aids from the fossil-fuelled 7 Series feature and you can also adapt the various modes to a highly personalised degree. The newly designed Driving Experience Control switch lets you select from EcoPro, Comfort and Sport. You can also keep life simple and activate Adaptive mode and the car will anticipate your needs and adjust itself to your driving style via various sesnors and a camera that reads the road ahead.
There are three selectable hybrid modes: Auto eDrive is the obvious default setting where the car sorts recharging and EV power delivery itself. Generally in this mode the car drives using battery power and only fires up the engine at around 80kph or lower when accelerating hard. Battery Control is a setting that lets you select the amount of battery power the vehicle should maintain from 30-100 per cent, so you can use EV mode later in a journey or if say you intend to drive into a congestion charge zone like London city when in the UK. Max eDrive is the EV only mode. The 740e can run on electricity alone at speeds up to 140kph. As you imagine this will drive the car on electricity only until the engine kicks in as a result of the batteries running low.
My xDrive felt very lively and surefooted. From a standing start the big 7 would take off with gusto regardless of the quality of the road surface or weather conditions. 0-100kph takes just 5.3 seconds. The impressive pulling power from a standing start delivered by the electric motor seamlessly filled the power gap that a rev hungry petrol engine would leave. The 1998cc engine is reasonably hushed and insulated in the engine bay. On occasion you could hear a less than creamy engine sound when accelerating in Battery Control mode. Under hard acceleration in Auto mode the engine note was acceptable and even slightly sporty. iPerformance 7s feature two axle self leveling air suspension with dynamic damping control. Active steering that acts on the rear wheels is optional also.
Behind the wheel or better still behind the driver if you have ticked the Executive Lounge option for €9,695.54, the 740Le xDrive is an indulgent place to be and so it should be for the price. 740Le xDrive is a significant luxury car that points the way forward for all manufacturers. eDrive buyers won’t miss the lack of cylinders despite the car weighing almost 2 tonnes. Perversely 7 Series eDrive owners will enjoy claiming the environmental high ground with their very green yet very large luxury car.
7 Series prices start at €90,920 for the 730d. iPerformance 7s start from €91,830 including government grants. My 740Le xDrive M Sport test car fitted with about €30,000 worth of extras cost €144,289.55