Words by: Adam Allen
It gets commendable fuel economy.
Might as well get the obvious out of the way. That’s right folks- the plug-in hybrid version of BMW’s luxobarge is the most efficient in the 7 series lineup. We achieved 11.3L/100km over the course of our Road Test which, for a car this large and bristling with technology is an achievement for which BMW can be proud. A series of drive modes that lets the driver choose on how the battery pack and engine play off one another ranging from electric propulsion only to a setting that focuses on charging the batteries as much as possible. Auto eDrive was the setting that impressed the most, however. It monitors a plethora of parameters and ultimately decides on the best mix between exclusive electric or gas motivation or a combination of the two. It works beautifully and seamlessly, and it’s worth noting that the start/stop system on this car is the most transparent we have encountered to date in a BMW.
It’s the slowest 7 series, but it isn’t slow.
M760Li owners won’t fret that their performance metrics supremacy of the lineup is in jeopardy. Despite the added oomph from the batteries, the 740Le has but a 4-cylinder turbo to rely on rather than the large displacement inline-6, V8 or V12 you can get as you move up the lineup. Total system power is 322 and 369 foot pounds of torque- these numbers would be praiseworthy on any luxury sedan let alone one whose raison d’etre is to deliver the best possible fuel mileage. While it may lack the authoritative shove of it’s better endowed stablemates, the 740Le more than holds its own keeping up with the ebb and flow of traffic. It never encourages you to engage in hooliganism but flick the button for Sport mode it becomes downright sprightly.
It rides beautifully and it handles pretty good, too.
Air suspension is a beautiful thing, and the 740Le employs it to good effect. We usually shun Comfort Mode for Sport Mode under most circumstances when driving a BMW, but we found ourselves gravitating to the even more sumptuous Comfort Plus Mode which replaces suspension components with decadently stuffed pillows. OK, so we made that up, but all kidding aside the big Bimmer has a hedonistically creamy rode quality that must be experienced to be believed. It’s no Jolly Roger though- the 740Le manages to balance cushy and taut with alacrity. While it isn’t a sharp scalpel you might tap for apex carving duty- there are many other better choices in the BMW catalogue that would serve you better for that purpose- it won’t embarrass itself whatsoever. The whole experience is slightly marred by wishy washy steering and a wooden feel when you step on the brakes (a drawback as a result of the energy being recaptured when slowing down) but those aren’t going to be deal breakers anyhow. All is forgotten once you get the 740Le in its element for a calming highway cruise. No matter the speed and no matter the road surface, simply throw on your favorite music and savor the tranquility as the miles melt away courtesy of your carbon fiber laced luxury chariot.
Under the right conditions, a serene all electric commute can be yours.
If you use care with how you apply the throttle (we did) and plug it in fastidiously (we didn’t) you will be able to travel a rough distance of just over 20 kilometers using only the battery’s juice. If you’re careful, you can reach a maximum of 140 km/h before the 2.0 litre engine fires up to step in to help. A good number of commuters we talked to have a daily journey that falls within that range, and if they plugged it in while at work it stands to reason that they could get to and from the office without using a drop of gasoline. You find yourself trying in earnest to eke out every useful electron until it becomes a game of sorts- plus, leaving the gas engine to hibernate adds another layer of smoothness to an already relaxing drive. Despite that, the overall range courtesy of the 9.2 kilowatt battery pack isn’t that stellar, and in the real world- one that has elevation changes and cold temperatures like we encountered- that range drops precipitously so you don’t end up netting the distance you saw on the readout when you set off.
The interior is breathtaking.
No matter which 7 series is being talked about, it’s widely accepted that even the most basic versions aren’t exactly slumming it where the interior is concerned. Our tester, which had roughly $21,000 in extras was a bona fide showstopper. The kit that made the biggest impression was courtesy of the aptly named Executive Lounge package ($10,000) which includes goodies like heated/ventilated/massaging rear thrones with an ‘Executive’ console featuring a removable tablet (known as BMW Touch Command) which enables you to perform all kinds of tasks. There’s also a foldout picnic table which has a swiveling hinge, a work of art unto itself. Oh, and a hi-resolution tablet adorns each seatback so you can work while in transit, or at least pretend to. This is a rare case where you’d almost prefer to give up the driver’s seat in favor of the rears but no one would fault you if you did just that in the 740Le’s case. Every surface is carefully finished in glove soft leather, the wood and aluminum accents found throughout are of the finest quality and the entire expanse of the ceiling is fashioned out of Alcantara- the bits that aren’t part of the huge panoramic sunroof, that is. Our only complaint? All the hybrid and battery gubbins eat into truck space more than we’d like.
Don’t feel like driving? The 740Le can take alleviate you of that burden.
First things first- if you view driving as a burden, please move on as none of the above interests you anyway. However, if you are prone to bouts of laziness- and who isn’t?- or like to impress your friends and coworkers with the latest gadgets, you’d love our tester. It features every single comfort and convenience bauble that you can imagine, and it can communicate with your smartphone do to stuff like pre-warm the cabin on a cold morning or lock your doors remotely if it slips your mind. It can also ‘remember’ how you enter a parking spot- either backing up or pulling in- and then retrace its steps when it’s time to leave, the driver only having to modulate the brakes while the car does the grunt work. If it all makes you feel like the big 7 Is smarter than you are, well, that’s probably because it is.
If you insist on a plug-in hybrid executive saloon, the 740Le is in a class of one.
Since Mercedes Benz and Audi have elected to pull their competitors to the 7 series PHEV from the Canadian market, the 740Le is acclaimed to the top spot of your shopping list by virtue of having no challengers. Besides, even if those two were available for purchase you’d be best to avoid them anyway- BMW does a better job of rationalizing the hybrid experience with their company flagship than the others. Another thing to know about the 7 series- it isn’t long for this world. The 2020 model which promises even more luxury and tech is waiting in the wings and it looks promising. The 740Le will make return as well, and rumor has it that it will get BMW’s exalted inline six under the hood. We’re staying tuned.
2019 BMW 740Le xDrive Sedan- Specifications
- Price as tested: $143,450
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 211 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 369 @ 1,350 rpm
- Electric Motor Output: 111 horsepower @ 0 rpm (9.2 kWh lithium ion-battery)
- Total System Output: 322 horsepower/369 lbs-ft. of torque
- Curb weight: 2,150 kg (4,740 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.3/100km (21 MPG)