REVIEW: 2018 BMW 740e XDrive iPerformance- The Tesla Model S Alternative

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BMW’s plug-in hybrid 740e XDrive iPerformance is an amazing green car that offers large green luxury sedan shoppers an excellent alternative to a fully-electric vehicle.

What is it? 

The BMW 7 Series is the biggest sedan BMW builds and among the most luxurious vehicles sold in America. This week we tested the plug-in hybrid electric version of this sedan line and came away with a much better understanding of why about ten percent of 7 Series shoppers opt for this greener trim.

Pricing and trims

The full-sized, five-passenger BMW 7 Series starts in the high $80K range and can rise to over $160K depending upon options and drivetrains. Shoppers should be sure to look closely at the standard and optional content in this high-priced sedan line. Things like Apple Car Play and heated seats, which are standard in many luxury sedans, are pricey options in this BMW.

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We tested the 2018 740e XDrive iPerformance with a sticker price including options and delivery of $99,845. Our plug-in hybrid electric vehicle tester had no performance compromises related to its drivetrain and we came away thinking this might be our favorite after having tested a few versions of the 7 Series in recent years.

The Equipment

Our “740e”, which we will call it for the remainder of this review, came with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and electric hybrid drive. The automatic transmission was perfectly happy with this arrangement and the overall feel of the drivetrain is one of impressive refinement and capability. Equipped with all-wheel drive and all-season tires, this is a true four-season vehicle. The 740e’s fuel economy is about 15% better than the base 3-liter twin turbocharged 740 at 27 MPG. The electric drive has the capability to propel the car 14 miles on electricity alone and the combination of these two drive systems earns the 740e a whopping 64 MPGe rating. During our testing, the MPG display averaged 38 MPG over a week of driving.

The 740e is wonderful when in electric mode and many of the trips we made during the week used only electrons. However, with a rate of charge of only about one mile for every hour connected to a 115 Volt outlet, the car cannot charge as quickly as, say a Nissan Leaf, which adds about 4 miles of charge for every hour connected to a 115 Volt outlet. This limited our electric-only driving somewhat. Also, by our math, the car costs more to run on electricity, so it didn’t break out hearts to be driving in hybrid mode for much of the week.

The Drive

One would think that a hybrid version of the 7 Series might be the slowpoke in the lineup, but it isn’t. BMW says, and we believe, that the 740e has the same 5.1-second 0-60 MPH time as its 3-liter turbocharged gas version. That is more than fast enough for a vehicle this size and style and we never found anyplace to test this car where we could use its full potential. Any further performance is window dressing. This car is fast in all situations if you wish it to be. We didn’t. This is a grown-up’s luxury car, and as large as most airport limos. We drove it like we expect most 7 Series drivers will. Maturely. When driven this way, the BMW 740e shines. Power is ample in every scenario and the car is ultra-quiet.

Handling is no different than any of the previous 7 Series cars we tested. Competent and comfortable is the theme. There are Sport drive modes, but we opted for Comfort. Over our terrible New England winter roads blasted with potholes and frost heaves, the BMW 740e was supremely comfortable. Rather than a compromise, we feel that the plug-in hybrid version of the 7 Series is its best.

Seating

Our tester was far from the top of the trim lines in terms of interior accouterments, but the front seats were very comfortable and easy to adjust. However, they were only heated, not cooled. Given that cars like the Honda Accord now feature cooled seats at a third this car’s cost, we were a bit surprised. The rear seats were just standard in our tester, not the luxury limo seats we have seen in prior testers, but were still super comfortable and had amazing legroom. We put a six-foot-two-inch tall adult behind a six-foot adult. Even in that configuration, the rear passenger had a foot and a half between his knees and the front seat.  The 7 Series is a huge sedan. And larger than the Model S inside, if anyone was wondering “why not a base-trim Tesla Model S.”

Infotainment and controls

The 740e has the same infotainment system any BMW owner will find. The cool hand-gesture controls and outstanding head-up display are the pluses. We also found it very easy to use voice controls to enter navigation destinations. Our phone synched in seconds and all of the menus are relatively logical. The base audio didn’t knock our socks off like a Bowers and Wilkens would have but was good nonetheless. Amazingly, BMW has found a way to charge money for Apple Car Play. Adding it is an extra $300. That might well have us marching right out the door of a BMW dealership on principle, but perhaps others won’t mind paying for what is now a defacto standard item in all economy cars. There was no Android Auto capability, so if you are part of the majority of Americans who do not use an Apple product smartphone, and you want to see Google Maps on your screen, you’re out of luck.

Overall

The 740e XDrive iPerformance is a green sedan with a hard to live with charger. Still, we loved the driving experience and even when not using power from a socket this plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is 15% more efficient than the base 740. And it is just as quick. Any shopper for whom conserving fuel in a full-sized luxury sedan is a priority, but not a top priority, should seriously consider the 740e.

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham