The novelty of spotting a BMW with an oversized flap on its front left fender will soon be a thing of the past. Out of the four iPerformance plug-in hybrid models offered by BMW globally, three of them are already on sale in Malaysia. The latest one, the 740Le xDrive (referred to as 740Le in the remainder of this article), will become the sole 7-Series model once the inventory of the 730Li and 740Li are depleted. Electrification, it would appear, is on a charge.
BMW Malaysia is leaving no stones unturned and has given the 740Le a comprehensive equipment list. It is consequently the only sedan in the current line-up with xDrive permanent all-wheel drive (with variable torque distribution between the front and rear axles), just like the one found in the X5 xDrive40e. There’s air suspension of the self-levelling, adaptive variety as well, along with a host of active safety features that include lane keeping aid, adaptive cruise control and cross traffic alert.
The 740Le picks up where the 740Li left off in terms of interior appointments; expect plush Nappa leather at every touch point and the ability to customise a bewildering array of amenities over a tablet interface, all the while admiring the LED graphics on the ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic roof as the Comfort Seats perform chiropractic moves on your back. It is a lounge alright, one that’s capable of doing 250km/h.
Should you fear the future?
On the evidence of the 330e and our brief outing with the 740Le in the outskirts of Munich, the future is there to be embraced, even if you’re a loyalist of unadulterated internal combustion propulsion. As the newest and most advanced of iPerformance plug-in hybrids, the 740Le has the benefit of lessons learnt from past endeavours of ActiveHybrid, BMW i and iPerformance models before it, and it’s evident from the very first turn of the 740Le’s Nappa-wrapped steering wheel.
New technologies should never get in the way of pleasure for both the driver and passenger, nor should it unduly complicate the usage of a car. Just like its other PHEV siblings, three eDrive management modes are offered in the 740Le; you’d be wise to let the car figure out how to maximise energy usage in the default ‘Auto eDrive’, or if you so choose, be propelled by electric power up to a theoretical range of 41km in ‘Max eDrive’ (engine will still cut in when required) or retain the state of charge with Save Battery. In the latter mode, BMW has now added a Battery Control function to allow the driver to dictate the level of battery power he/she wants to be keep for later use or to replenish via on-board charging, from 30% to 100%.
Whichever mode you elect, the 740Le feels wholly natural from the way it steers (feels like one size smaller), the manner it delivers its power (seamless), and to how it’s able to waft like a true luxury limo by brushing aside bad surfaces as if they weren’t there. If not for the digital pointers on the 740Le fancy LCD instrument display, you’d also be hard pressed to tell when the combustion engine is in play and when the car is running on electric juice, such is the level of refinement.
That the 740Le is fast shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore, this is the way of modern plug-in hybrids and their elastic electric grunt. Despite tipping the scales at over two tonnes (2075kg according to BMW), the 740Le will out-accelerate the 730Li (258hp/400Nm, 0-100km/h in 6.3s) and shade the 740Li (326hp/450Nm, 0-100km/h in 5.6s). As long as its 9.2kWh battery pack holds sufficient charge to invoke ‘eBoost’ from its 113hp/250Nm electric motor in support of the 258hp/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, the 740Le will do 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds.
The caveats you should take note of
Portly kerb weight aside, the 740Le comes with a couple of packaging compromises in order to accommodate components related to the hybrid powertrain. But unlike the 330e, the high voltage battery modules are now tucked under the 740Le’s rear seats for better space utilisation as opposed to being house in the trunk. While the boot capacity has shrunk a little to 420 litres (from 515 litres), the floor is entirely flat and the trunk has a shape that easy to make full use of, though it does result in a resized fuel tank measuring only 46 litres, as opposed to the usual 78 litres.
Of course, whether that has a negative impact depends wholly on usage patterns and driving styles. Suffice it to say, timely top ups of the battery pack via an external power source would unlock efficiency levels a plug-in hybrid is designed to offer. That said, it’s interesting to note that after putting thousands of 330e and X5 plug-in hybrids on Malaysian roads, we’ve yet to hear of any widespread dissatisfaction attributed to modest fuel tank sizes.
Can you resist electrification?
BMW Malaysia has clearly set up stall with the introduction of three key plug-in hybrid models while trimming petrol-powered equivalents from its line-up. Detractors will say this is a business necessity given the favourable government policies accorded to locally assembled hybrid vehicles. They may have a point, but there’s also no denying that the 740Le is a worthy testament of BMW’s commitment to an electrified future. More importantly, going down this path doesn’t appear to be at odds with the brand’s driving-centric DNA. Resistance, it would seem, is futile.
BMW 740Le xDrive iPerformance
Price: RM598,800 (w/o insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged inline-4, AWD
Output: 258hp @ 5,000rpm, 400Nm @ 1,550rpm
Electric output: 13hp, 250Nm
System output: 326hp, 500Nm
Transmission: 8-sp auto w/shift paddles
Performance: 0-100km/h in 5.3 seconds, top speed 250km/h (limited)
Fuel efficiency: 2.5L/100km or 40km/l (combined cycle)
Electric range: 41km (up to 140km/h)
Battery capacity: 9.2kWh
Wheels/tyres: 19in alloys, 245/45 R19 (F) / 275/40 R19 (R)
Safety: 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control
Warranty: 5-year unlimited (vehicle) w/ maintenance; 6-year/100K km for high voltage battery; 2-year for run-flat tyre
(Credit to Paramount Pictures)