Slotting in between the 740i and 750i in the 7-series range, the 740e, which originally premiered at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, joins the recently launched X5 xDrive 40e as the second version of BMW's iPerformance sub-brand and the fourth electric or hybrid model after the i3 and i8.
Although both the X5 and i8 were prominent at the launch, the latter unsurprisingly receiving the largest share of stares, smiles and finger pointing, the 740e proved to be more than match when it comes to the business of luxury with a conscience.
On first glance, you will be forgiven for confusing the hybrid 7 for a normal 7-series as there is little to suggest what beats beneath those elegant and sculpted lines. Look closer though and you will notice the i8-inspired blue detailing on the grille and around the BMW emblem on the wheel caps, the charging flap on the left front wing, eDrive badges on the C-pillar and a chrome ‘i’ logo on the front panels.
As with the standard model, the 740e can optionally be specified from a choice of three interior and exterior packages; Pure Excellence, M-Sport and Individual, each with its own set of aesthetic touches and finishes inside.
Open the front door, you are greeted by the same angled, if slightly aged interior layout as the standard car, but one which drips with technology enough to make the top brass as NASA proud, and comes with superb levels of refinement and enhanced levels of luxury.
Aside from the different graphics contained in the instrument cluster and Control Display, as well as the eDrive button on the centre console, the biggest indication that you are about to pilot an electric car comes when you press the start button to the sound of well… nothing.
In a seven series first, power comes from the same 190 kW and 400 Nm TwinPower 2.0-litre B48 four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine used in the X5, combined with a 83kW lithium-ion battery pack mounted underneath the rear seats for a total output of 240 kW / 500 Nm.
Connected to an eight-speed Steptronic gearbox, BMW claims the 740e will sprint from rest to 100 km/h in 5.4 secs and on to a limited top speed of 250 km/h. More crucially though, the 740e can travel 48 km on a single charge at speeds up to 140 km/h with the combined fuel consumption being rated at a rather optimistic 2.1 litres/100 km and emissions at 45 g/km.
In addition to being fully charged in just under three hours using BMW’s i Wallbox, or just over four by means of a normal 220 volt socket, the 740e also boasts four driving modes allowing for maximum efficiency or performance.
In Auto eDrive, power only comes from the electric motor although the petrol unit will kick-in under heavy acceleration when the speed exceeds 80 km/h. Switching to MAX eDRIVE still sees the electric motor being top dog, but a sudden kick-down will activate the petrol. The final mode, Battery Control, sees the 740e making sole use of the petrol engine with the battery being placed on charge until the recouped energy is needed.
Getting behind the wheel of the 740e following a quick stop at a public charging point in the V&A Waterfront, and after an intense and erm… electrifying first leg in the i8, it became immediately clear that it its geared towards comfort and cruising rather than the sporty intentions associated with say a 740i.
Doing without the Sport orientated box fitted as standard on the rest of the 7-series range, the tranny in the 740e is nonetheless a gem of an automatic with smooth and slick changes that you hardly feel other than noticing a slight drop when glancing at the rev counter.
Similarity, the Adaptive suspension as part of the Driving Control Experience, took the lumps and imperfections of the Cape roads in its stride with no jolts or sudden shudders being felt in the cab. Of course this can be changed by virtue of the system’s four modes; ECO PRO, COMFORT, SPORT ADAPTIVE, that adjust throttle response, the ride, gear changes and steering response depending on preference.
What is arguably more impressive is the level of quietness inside no matter if you are driving 100 km/h or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. With the petrol engine switched off, only the slightest of road noise filters into the cab to remind you that you are moving.
As mentioned earlier, the 740e breaks from tradition by offering a four-cylinder for the first time in any generation of 7-series. Down two cylinders on the 740i and four on the 750i it might be the “little” 2.0-litre four-pot does a remarkable job of hauling the 740e along, with the instant 250Nm torque boost from the electric motor dispelling any notion of it being a luxo-barge with very little go.
Where things start to become tricky though is the 740e’s price. At R1 431 500 for the standard model, it comes in at R25 000 more than the 730d and a whopping R52 500 dearer than the 740i. Yes, its introduction based on the local success of the i3 and i8 will no doubt please buyers looking to go green in style and comfort, but for now, there is no getting away from the fact that a fully loaded examples of the 740i and 730d makes for a more compelling buy.
|740e||R1 431 500|
|740e Pure Excellence||R1 444 300|
|740e M-Sport||R1 474 800|
|740e Individual||R1 663 000|