by Gabe Beita Kiser
Not many people associate the opulence and performance of a flagship large luxury sedan with fuel-saving hybrid technology, but times are changing, and BMW has done just that with the 2019 740e xDrive iPerformance. The 740e is the second hybrid 7 Series after the ActiveHybrid 7, and the first to have a charging port as a plug-in hybrid with 14 miles of pure-electric range. BMW was the first premium manufacturer to offer a plug-in hybrid of their top of the range sedan although Mercedes has followed suit with the S560e plug-in hybrid, which is still to be released in the U.S. The 740e is based on the regular 7 Series and has all the latest bells and whistles associated with the regular model. It uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a battery and electric motor to make a combined 322 horsepower. Can it truly be possible to enjoy your full-size luxury sedan's performance with a clean environmental conscience?
The current 740e was introduced as part of the sixth-generation 7 Series, which debuted in 2016. There are no updates for the 2019 model as there is already a facelifted 2020 model on the horizon.
The 740e look exactly like the gasoline-powered 740i with only discreet badging to tell them apart. The front bears the distinctive BMW kidney grille, flanked by some of the best looking LED headlights on any BMW car. Apart from the headlights, there are subtle LED fog lights and air intakes. It has a long side profile due to the extended wheelbase and sits on 18-inch wheels. The rear has an elegant chrome accent running across the width and complimenting the twin exhausts below. A few hints of blue on the wheels, headlights, and grille along with eDrive badges, is all that lets you know this is no regular 7.
Being a large luxury sedan with an extended wheelbase - only the long-wheelbase variant is sold in the US - the 740e has massive proportions. It has a length of 206.6 inches on a 126.4-inch wheelbase. The height is 58.2 inches, and the width is 74.9 inches. These all measure exactly the same as the standard 7 Series range, but what differs is the 740e's curb weight; tipping the scales at 4,740 lbs, making it far heavier than the base 740i but also much lighter than the V12-powered M760i xDrive.
The 740e has a 2.0-liter turbo-four that makes 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, joined by a 111 hp, 184 lb-ft electric motor, which boosts the overall output to 322 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The engine and motor are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, but with a slight difference in that the electric motors are solely responsible for driving the front axle. As is the case with most BMWs using the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, it effortlessly swaps between the gears, telepathically reading needs based on throttle inputs and keeping the engine in its sweet spot. The engine itself is decent, but it's the electric augmentation that's the star of the show, giving the mere 2.0-liter far more punch than it should rightly have in such a hefty vehicle. At no point does the 740e feel underpowered and it maintains the reputation of the 7 Series by having a brilliant drive.
How does a 4,500 lbs luxury sedan with a turbocharged 2.0 liter, four-pot perform? Surprisingly well. There's an immediate gush of energy on take-off before the car settles down into the characteristic relaxed driving experience the 7 Series is renowned for. The steering is accurate with great feedback, and the cabin is extremely quiet and insulated from the outside world. Despite the adaptive dampers, the massive weight is still felt around the corners, and the sedan presents with slight body roll when going all in. This shouldn't be a problem for most luxury sedan buyers looking for comfort more than handling, and the 740e has comfort to spare. It may seem a little soft at times, but the 7 Series is still the most dynamically gifted of the large luxury sedan contingent.
The whole point of a plug-in hybrid is to get great gas mileage. However, it only becomes worthwhile if it is actually used, and with the low electric range of only 14 miles, the 740e will need daily charging to enjoy the benefits of great fuel economy. It gets estimated figures of 27 mpg. To counteract the weight of the battery, BMW has also reduced the fuel tank size from 20 gallons on the regular 7 Series to 12.1 gallons on the 740e, which additionally diminishes the range. The 740 gets an estimated economy of 64 MPGe on the electric motor or a combined 27 mpg with the gasoline engine. This is in contrast to the combined 24 mpg achieved by the standard combustion-only 740i.
Forget about the electrified drivetrain once you climb inside the 7 Series, because in here it's all about luxury. Front occupants get pampered with 39.9 inches of headroom and 41.4 inches of legroom. Thanks to the extended wheelbase, rear passengers can also sit in the utmost comfort with 38.9 inches of headroom and 44.4 inches of legroom. Five can easily fit unless the Luxury Rear Seating Package is chosen. With the Luxury Rear Seating Package, a console with an embedded tablet takes up the center seat, but the two side seats become ventilated with massage option and are independently power-adjustable, cutting the total amount of passengers down to four.
Compared to the regular 7 Series, the hybrid gets less trunk space thanks to the battery that is stored underneath. It has 14.8 cubic feet of trunk space compared to its gasoline-powered sibling's 18.2 cubic feet, but it's still comparable with rivals and can easily accommodate two large suitcases thanks to the wide opening trunk lid, even if it is a little shallow.
Apart from the trunk, there's a glove box, front cup holders and a massive center console storage bin in the front. Rear passengers get a storage tray and rear cupholders in the center armrest.
The 7 Series is a showcase for what BMW can do and includes a list of common, as well as unique, features not seen on many other cars. Four-zone climate control, power-closing doors, a power liftgate, automatic high beams, keyless ignition, a panoramic sunroof, heated 10-way power-adjustable seats, power rear sunshades, and adaptive LED headlights are just some of the standard features available. Being a BMW, there are also many safety features included, such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Some of the optional advanced features include the surround-view camera and a head-up display. Of course, the 740e has some unique party tricks, like a tablet to control the car's functions, and the BMW Sky Lounge, which comprises of thousands of LED lights which light up the ceiling of the car at night.
There's no doubt that the 740e has a fantastic infotainment unit as befits its stature as a top of the range luxury sedan. The standard features include a 10.2-inch screen that can be operated by touch or via BMW's user-friendly iDrive system. It also has a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, AM/FM radio, a rearview camera, and USB inputs. Other features like Bluetooth connectivity, wireless charging, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with one year's subscription, and a Wi-Fi hotspot are also standard. Unfortunately Android Auto isn't available at all, and Apple CarPlay is only free for the first year after which there is an annual subscription; this remains a rather odd omission or careless oversight on the part of the luxury car manufacturer for a vehicle in this segment.
The 2019 740e has had no recalls for the 2019 model year and has a good predicted reliability rating of four out of five from J.D Power. Like most BMWs, it has a four year/50,000-mile basic warranty and powertrain warranty. It also has an unlimited perforation and corrosion warranty. The BMW Ultimate Care is valid for three years/36,000 miles, and the BMW Roadside Assist runs for four years/unlimited mileage. The hybrid components have an eight-year/80,000-mile warranty.
Unfortunately, there is currently no test data available from either the NHTSA or the IIHS. BMW has a stellar reputation for safety and the 7 Series, with all its state of the art safety features, is expected to continue the tradition. A standard suite of airbags is supplemented by a range of inclusive safety technologies, like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and even available semi-autonomous self-steering highway cruise control. Also available is lane-keep assistance and a surround-view camera.
There's no question at all whether the BMW 7 Series is a good car. It is one of the most technologically advanced vehicles out there and has one of the best interiors around - not to mention BMW's famed driving dynamics. The main question is whether it's worth buying the hybrid model over the standard gasoline-powered options. Many people buying a car at this price point expect blistering performance, which the 740e just can't match. The 750i and M760i xDrive put out 445 hp and 601 hp respectively and are in another league to the 740e. For those wanting less performance and just a comfortable cruiser that does the job, the 740i puts out 320 hp compared to the 740e's 322 hp, and comes in at $83,650 - $7,600 less than the 740e at $91,250. The only way to justify spending more on the hybrid is if it will be charged daily and used extensively to save on fuel costs, which might bring down the long-term running costs. The electric range of 14-miles isn't anything to write home about and will only work for short trips. Most people will just buy the 740i and use the extra $7,600 for fuel.
There is only a single model in the 7 Series hybrid range, officially dubbed as the 740e xDrive iPerformance, and it comes at an MSRP of $91,250 excluding registration, licensing, and taxes, as well as the $995 destination charge.
|740e xDrive iPerformance Plug-In Hybrid||
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
The 740e xDrive iPerformance is the only model in the range and is the one to buy. Or is it? To be honest, we'd avoid buying it and go for a regular 740i instead - the hybrid benefits are just not impressive enough to warrant the purchase over the gas-powered variant. But if you must, we'd recommend opting for all the additional driver-assist features, as well as the Luxury Rear Seating package, because if you own a 7 Series, you'll want to be as comfortable as can be while someone else does the driving - and remembers to charge the 740e. Standard equipment is still impressive, with four-zone climate control, heated, power-adjustable seats, and an impressive 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system paired to the 10.25-inch iDrive infotainment system.
For those seeking a hybrid luxury sedan, the options are limited. While the Volvo S90 is a bit smaller than the 740e and thus technically competing against the 5 Series, it's still elegant and powerful, and is a worthy rival at this level too. As with most new Volvos, the interior is a thing of beauty, with simple and elegant lines and their huge infotainment screen. The S90 T8 Inscription has a starting price of $69,000 and features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with an electric motor making a combined 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. While the S90 is priced much lower, it has similar front and rear space with 37.8 inches of front headroom and 42.2 inches of front legroom. The rear has 37.8 inches of headroom and 40.4 inches of legroom. Both cars are conservatively styled and retain their respective brand design elements. Both are also loaded with the latest tech toys and safety features. Considering that the Volvo has almost 80 hp more power, has a similar electric range, and is over $20,000 cheaper, it is definitely a better buy.
Another luxury hybrid on the market is the Lexus ES 300h. It is a normal hybrid instead of a plug-in but still delivers a great all-round package. It's powered by a 2.5-liter engine, mated to a CVT transmission and electric motor to make a combined 215 hp. The Lexus comes in three different trims, the Standard, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury, so buyers have a choice when it comes to features. Prices range between $41,560 and $45,210, which is half the price of the 740e at $91,250. The interior is modern and spacious with lots of features, but it comes nowhere close to the 740e in terms of class. At only 215 hp, performance is lacking from the Lexus, but it makes up for it with brilliant estimated fuel economy of 44 mpg combined. There's no doubt that the 740e is a much better car at the pinnacle of what BMW can do. But at half the price, the Lexus is fantastic value for a hybrid luxury sedan.