BMW 740e review – an E-xecutive Statement

With but a few exceptions (and whether they like it or not), the corporate world is moving towards a more environmentally concerned, planet protecting culture. Heads of state, commerce and industry are all looking to reduce their carbon footprint while still keep the wheels of trade turning freely. They must manage their business and still make profits but also have one eye firmly fixed on causing less long term global impact – it’s a balance that is admirably being swayed in favour of protecting our world’s future – but I need to ask; at what personal cost?

Like a pressure cooker, CEO’s and high ranking executives are bulging at the seams with their long hours and heavy workloads, seldom getting a chance to let off steam and enjoy their leisure time – but don’t feel sorry for them, BMW have come to their rescue, with the 740e.

The BMW 740e is an ideal release for future proofing leaders that enjoy the good life but still want a fulfilling drive to clear their heads. Its luxury, refinement, styling and technology aside (I’ll get to that in a moment), the big sedan’s overall package takes a big step towards restoring the balance of motoring’s good vs evil dilemma by offering head scratching power (via a combination of fossil and reusable energy sources), slowing the fuel gauge rate down to a reported 2.2L/100k’s (combined) and yet titillating the senses with its silky performance.

The stylish new BMW 7 series that graced NZ roads last year was a pleasure to drive and a greater pleasure to review. The technology that oozed from literally every corner of this luxurious vehicle made for an effortless automotive experience. The gesture controlled infotainment, the adaptive gearbox setting, and the big nod towards driving autonomy was all wrapped up in a statuesque shell full of classy materials and finishes. BMW have kept all this refinement and have now added a plug.

You are probably well aware of plug-in hybrids by now, they are no longer revolutionary in automotive terms but are generally seen in (can I say) smaller less prestigious vehicles, and not so much in luxurious limousines – so in context; the move by BMW is a lot more radical.  

Let’s cover the powertrain straight off the bat. For those of you that really need to know – the 2L (no that’s not a typo) 4-cylinder petrol engine BMW uses TwinPower Turbo technology with Valvetronic fully variable valve control including Double-VANOS variable camshaft control and High-Precision Injection (phew), while the liquid-cooled electric motor in the plug-in hybrid is integrated into the vehicle’s transmission. It has an output of 83 kW (113 hp) and delivers maximum torque of 250 Nm. Up to approximately 40 km can be covered in 100% electrical mode, reaching a top speed of up to 120 km/h – Feel better for knowing all that?

I kid you not when I say that the the 740e comes with a 2L engine, but fear not my gasoline favouring friends, you’d be hard pushed to pick it. You see, rather than it being an under powered luxurious lump, the addition of turbos and electricity combined with the subtraction of weight (via its Carbon core) gives combined figures of 240kW power and 500Nm torque and means that it will still accelerate from 0-100kph in around 5 and a half seconds and will top the speedo dial at (a limited) 250kph.

As I previously mentioned, its good looks and styling is essentially the same (why wouldn’t it be?) but for the keen eye’d amongst you, the kidney grille sports some blue lined high-lighting (there was a blue tinge to the headlights but that was the BMW Laserlights) and there are a few e-drive badges dotted around the exterior, oh and the extra ‘fuel’ flap on the nearside front wing is a bit of a giveaway.

Leather adorns the interior, from the exclusive ‘Nappa’ on the furniture to the exquisite finishing on the trim and instrument panel, it’s quite the statement. Hand gestures may be only one of the ways to control parts of the high tech infotainment system but wagging your finger to play with the Harman Kardon’s volume is very infectious – I guess that’s how some CEO’s communicate. The remainder of the cabin is as familiar as its ‘conventional’ brothers but with addition of ‘e’ control buttons on the console and the battery power gauge in the digital instrument cluster.

For me (not being set up for it at home) topping up the electric power meant that I had to run a cable from my wall socket, under the garage door and out to the car and I have to admit it was a bit of a chore (especially in the rain). I would assume that executives with greater means (and bigger garages) would have less landscape problems but I still get the feeling that having another thing to ‘connect’ would irk less tolerant professionals – I could be wrong, after all they do have an environmental conscience don’t they?

The push button start; ignites the..no wait, as with all EV’s the ignition is a complete non event (sigh) however the 740e does have it’s fair share of jekyll/hyde about it. With battery power taking care of this large sedan off the mark, you get a vigorous momentum shift if you plant your foot down hard, and this impressive thrust continues as the 4 cylinders and turbos (eventually) join the foray. However, treated with less disrespect, (ie drive it like the luxurious sedan that it is) and the powerful 7 series hybrid makes for a silky smooth ride, it will quite simply glide along on its 20” rims all the way up to its top speed (well certainly well into triple figures that’s for sure). The combination of a big wheelbase and a well calibrated air suspension makes for a drive that would be hard pushed to spill your latte (especially on a long run) But even so, you can slip it into the sports modes and enliven the spirit when you feel the need.

In saying all that, the 740e never really gives you a sports car experience because; well it’s not a sports car but it will still get the pulse racing when handled aggressively.

The list of driving aids and safety equipment is virtually endless (seriously after this go and check it out) but there are a few that are well worth re-affirming. The ambient lighting that surrounds the cabin can be personalised and are also two-toned (I opted for a blue and white pinstripe – it made me think of a well tailored suit). Next is the road sign reading technology, it keep an eye on the speed limits and flashes them up on the head-up display – it literally couldn’t be caught out, even at roadworks – this is a licence saver.

And last but not least, the adaptive cruise control. Ask any executive about the hours that make up their working day and they will tell you that twice a day there is a period of time that is on the whole unproductive, it’s called the commute. Many people use this time to get frustrated with other drivers or do their best to shave off mere minutes of the drive by cutting across lanes and tailgating – I pushed the adaptive cruise control button (with stop&go function), set it to 60kph and relaxed, letting the 740e do all the work, burning zero carbons as it went – can I feel a little smug right now?  I have to admit to being rather cautious about this feature in the past but it well and truly works.

In my humble opinion, plug-in hybrids still take a little getting used to and require a little infrastructure thought (wireless charging at home and work perhaps), my commute did need to include a petrol element. But, if the world is going to move the EV way, why not surround yourself in luxury and performance. BMW’s 740e, seems to have it all in spades, oozing tech, power to thrill and a plug to ensure the planet doesn’t cook – and that makes quite the statement!

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