Review: BMW 740e is electric luxury in motion

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Cape Town - The BMW 7 Series is one of the finest cars yet. There are few things wrong with it and remains the automaker's flagship. In BMW’s arsenal it is the epitome of luxury and automotive advancements and the features it has is indicative of what buyers in the lower Series’ can expect in a few years when the technologies become cheaper and more mainstream.

But in 740e guise this 7 Series is not just your ordinary, run-off-the-mill Beemer with a big engine. Nope, this one has an electric engine that supports a 2.0-litre petrol engine - a combination of future meets present.

A 2.0-litre engine?

For this model BMW decided to equip the 7 Series with a 2.0-litre engine. A 7 Series with a small(ish) engine is a bit unheard of, but given that this 740e’s purpose is to be a fuel efficient lounge, it does start to make sense. With both the petrol engine and electric motor running in tandem, total output is a punchy 240kW and a mammoth 500Nm. The real kicker in all of this? BMW claims that fuel consumption is a measly 2.1 litres/100km. 2.1! 

To achieve that claim, the 740e can run on pure electric power for short distances. And when cruising in peak traffic, drivers can simply engage all-electric mode and go about life in pure fuel-saving silence. As is to be expected, the eight-speed gearbox is smooth as silk regardless the driving mode.

Insanely comfortable

What sets BMWs apart from other vehicles is that its rear-wheel drive setup gives the car a near 50/50 weight distribution over both the front and rear axles. And it is no different in the 740e. The car lost none of the trademark driving traits the 7 Series is known for, despite the purpose it has to fulfil in the range. But in the 7 Series you’d much rather want to be a passenger in the rear seat than the driver. The 740e is akin to a limousine; an amazing experience for passengers. 

To their exposure, drivers are treated to a number of driving aids to make the experience behind the wheel memorable. At speeds up to 50km/h, the car will steer through both the front and the rear wheels. This not only makes the 740e more manageable, but it helps to get around tight turns and manoeuvre into parking bays. To better the experience drivers are treated to adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and headlights that turn with the direction of the steering wheel.

Being seated in the rear is of course where you’d much rather want to be. Not only are passengers treated to the massage functions, but the seats can recline for that extra bit of comfort. The rear windows and the big rear mirror have sun visors for extra protection against a glaring sun. To further aid the experience, the rear axle features air suspension; and it does have a profound impact on how the car gobbles up the hobbles. It’s as if the vehicle retains its ride height over speedbumps and other undulations, with only the axles lifting and dropping.

Other tricks up its sleeve include a boot than opens with motion sensors, the steering wheel that drops and lifts when you start or shut the car down, voice and gesture control, as well as night vision that detects objects in the dead of night.

The meaning of this car

The world is moving, at a very fast pace, towards an all-green future. The leaps and bounds made towards that reality can be seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. But though that reality is possible in first-world countries, others like South Africa are somewhat behind in terms of infrastructure to support such a lifestyle. Why? Because there are too few fast charging stations, and electricity supply at home are both too slow and too expensive (unless of course you make use of alternative energies and have a fast charging station at home). But then a car like the 740e comes along to help South Africans make sense of the changing world.

The car relies primarily on its petrol engine and does the electric motor only serve as backup. The purpose of the latter is not to enhance performance, but rather to reduce consumption and emission gasses. And that, to South Africans, is what we need. Because we are lagging in terms of infrastructure, a traditional engine is still our way of living for the foreseeable future. BMW implemented hybrid technology in the 740e and made this 7 Series a car that can’t be overlooked. 

Diesel and petrol derivatives are the default options, but in the 7 Series range the 740e manages to blend present and future in a contemporary package.

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