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The beauty of hybrids

Justin Harper
Justin Harper • 5 min read
The beauty of hybrids
The BMW 740Le xDrive iPerformance offers a realistic plug-in hybrid technology BMW has finally launched its plug-in hybrid 740Le in Singapore, giving drivers a realistic alternative to a pure petrol- engine car in the luxury sector. Its full name is the
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The BMW 740Le xDrive iPerformance offers a realistic plug-in hybrid technology
BMW has finally launched its plug-in hybrid 740Le in Singapore, giving drivers a realistic alternative to a pure petrol- engine car in the luxury sector. Its full name is the BMW 740Le xDrive iPerformance. That is quite a mouthful, so let’s just call it the 740Le.

I have been a big fan of BMW’s work in electric mobility since 2014, when I first set eyes on the i3 and i8 models — two very iconic and stylish cars that broke the mould in terms of sustainable electric vehicles. Since then, BMW has been leveraging this cutting-edge technology and introducing it across its mainstream range.

Earlier this year, it launched five new plugin hybrid cars within its iPerformance range in Singapore. These were the 225xe Active Tourer, 330e, 530e, X5 xDrive40e and, of course, the 740Le.

As a result, BMW has placed itself in pole position in terms of plug-in hybrid technology and will likely remain there for many years to come, if this latest range is anything to go by. The beauty of hybrids is that they are essentially two cars in one, with their petrol and electric power combo.

The 740Le is a slick electric car with an extended zero-emission range, as well as a luxury saloon with lots of old-fashioned petrol power when needed. This is a strong combination that BMW hopes will win over the plug-in hybrid sceptics. The more time you spend in this car, the more you will discover just how smart it is, from the power sources to the onboard technology.

I would probably need a full month to drive this car and uncover all of its features, many of which are hidden in the driver screen menu. For the power plant, BMW has used its two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as the base. However, to give it a bit of a kick, this has been retuned to produce an impressive 258bhp, making it the most powerful four-cylinder petrol engine ever used in a series-production BMW.

The electric battery produces 113bhp of very torquey and silent power, which is surprisingly low for a big and heavy vehicle of two tonnes. But this is a very smart car. The powertrain gives you the choice of two eco-focused driving modes: Auto eDrive and Max eDrive. In Auto eDrive, the car toggles power between the petrol engine and the electric battery, similar to a traditional hybrid. In Max eDrive, the car runs purely on electric power.

On top of this, there are three adaptive chassis and transmission settings — Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro. Comfort mode delivers smooth power by carefully balancing the outputs of both petrol and electric, Sport mode lets the electric motor and petrol engine work together to deliver maximum performance, while Eco Pro mode maximises the car’s electric range. I spent the majority of the test drive in Max eDrive as I wanted to see how the 740Le drove in purely electric mode. The battery lasted for a considerable amount of time before I had to recharge it at one of 60-plus charging stations dotted around the island.

In Max eDrive, once you become accustomed to the eerie silence of the electric motor, you just marvel at how torquey the car is and how smooth the delivery of power is. The sheer luxury of the cabin and onboard technology also distract you from its eco-friendly credentials. Fit for a king, each chair has multiple massage functions, from full body to shoulders. For the backseat, it has its own tablet to control everything, from the air conditioning to the sunscreens, along with the massages and radio or media options.

The Bowers & Wilkins sound system is another nice perk for a car just a shade over $500,000. In fact, the 740Le is teeming with gadgets such as multiple cameras, lane-changing safety features and remote parking. Some potential drivers are put off by hybrid or electric cars because of the lack of boot space, given the need to accommodate hefty electric batteries. But the 740Le’s boot is still very generous and sufficient for a week’s shopping plus a couple of scooters.

This is the third car I have driven within the new 7 Series range (having test driven the 740Li and 750Li); the 740Le is by far my favourite. It includes all the luxury and comfort of its non-hybrid siblings but with more sophistication. I love the way the car moves from electric to petrol, based on the driver’s behaviour. It runs on pure electric mode at low speeds, provided there is enough charge, with the engine kicking in when required at high speeds or if you put your foot down. Ultimately, this is one of the smartest cars on the road.

$500,800 including COE
Petrol engine: 1,998cc, inline 4
Power/torque: 258bhp/400Nm (petrol); 113bhp/250Nm (electric)
Fuel consumption: 6.8L/100km (petrol); 149W/km (electric)
0 to 100kph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 250kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 806 (Nov 20) of The Edge Singapore.

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