Tuesday, March 20, 2018


If your concept of a plugin hybrid vehicle is a little econobox with the styling flair of a Model T, then we have a surprise for you.

BMW now offers a plugin hybrid version of its top-of-the-line 7 Series sedan.

Yes, even BMW, a manufacturer of vehicles that have become somewhat of the ultimate symbol of decadent opulence, has felt the need to cater to the public’s infatuation with plug-ins. Of course, government regulation has something to do with it, too. Got to meet those CAFE marks, you know.

Unlike a fully electric vehicle like the German automaker’s BMW i3, the BMW 740e xDrive is a conventional gas-electric hybrid equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor that combined produces 332 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque, the latter kicking in at only l250 rpm.

“Combined” is the key word here. It probably is going to account for the bigger part of your driving experience since “electric only” range is extremely limited.

How limited? I charged it overnight up to 100 percent capacity at home (it’s a considerably shorter time with the 240-volt outlet) and took off on electric power the next day. It seemed like I blinked and it was out of juice.

Of course, I exaggerate, but only a little. Officially, range on electric-only driving is an estimated 14 miles. You get it by pushing the proper button on the console, and then it switches to gas automatically when the battery is drained.

It’s not like you have to call for emergency road service, but still, if you live in an urban environment of almost any size bigger than Andy Griffith’s Mayberry you’re not going to be able to rely on electric driving for any extended time. If you want, you can set a target range for saving battery power to save all-electric driving for later.

Not that that is a bad thing.

Even with a 4-cylinder engine, a first for the 7-Series in cars BMW exports to the U.S. from the final assembly point in Dingolfing, Germany, the 740e is a pretty spritely performer. You can set it in various modes like Sport or Sport+ to enhance performance as well.

That is going to affect fuel mileage, of course. EPA figures are 27 miles-per-gallon running on gas only and 64 MPGe combined electric-gas operation.

The “xDrive” in the name, by the way, denotes it is all-wheel drive, the only configuration offered in plug-in models.

Other than the powertrain, the 740e offers anything and everything you can get in other 7-Series models, which means top-end cabin treatments with lots of leather and high-quality, soft materials and premium features like a Harman Kardon sound system and iDrive 6.0 system with touchscreen and a navigation system with a 10.2-inch, high-definition screen.

Keyless entry, a panoramic moon roof, backup camera, wireless charging and WiFi hotspot, adaptive LED headlights and fog lights, 14-way power adjustable front seat with lumbar support, an 8-speed STEPTRONIC transmission with paddle shifters, run-flat tires, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 4-zone climate control, and Concierge Services are included in the base MSRP of $90,700.

Throw in extras like a Driver’s Assistance Package (head-up display, blind spot detection,  and lane departure warning), a Parking Assistance Package, Integral Active Steering, 19-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto) capability, along with other options and the total can come close to $100,000 with the $995 destination and delivery charge.

What I liked about the 2018 BMW 740e xDrive: The overall ambiance makes for an pleasant experience in the vehicle, even when stuck in rush-hour traffic. Despite its size (206.6 inches long, 74.9 inches wide with a wheelbase of 126.4 inches), the 740e is a capable performer.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 BMW 740e xDrive: Operating the infotainment systems doesn’t seem as imposing as it once did — maybe I’m getting used to them or BMW has dumbed them down — but I still find having to rely on spinning a dial on the console to get through various menu options, some of them as simple as changing audio mode or a radio station, to be distracting. Fortunately, I often have a driving partner with me to alert me when traffic has stopped a quarter-mile ahead. Having to plug it in to get a full charge (which takes time) can be a nuisance, depending on what the situation with electric outlets is in your driveway/garage. It is for mine.

Would I buy the 2018 BMW 740e xDrive? Probably not, because I just don’t get it when it comes to plugins. You can get a base 740i for a lot less, and even a 740i xDrive is going to save you several thousand dollars up front. You get all that’s good about the 7-Series plus the opportunity to step up to a more powerful powertrain, and fuel mileage in the base isn’t all that bad (21 mpg city, 29 highway with the turbo-6).

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