In some ways I guess I am the target market for the BMW 740e. Not in the sense that I earn enough to buy one — motoring journalists don’t get paid that much unless they are called Jeremy Clarkson. What I mean is my daily commute to and from the office is not that far, amounting to about 10km per day between Sandton and Rosebank.
This is where hybrids — and in particular plug-in hybrids — are supposed to make sense, especially big luxury ones. With a claimed electric range of 45km the 740e should have been able to get me to and from work on electric-only power for most of the working week.
My initial impression was good. Once I had made my daughter late for school by going through every menu in the front and rear infotainment systems to satisfy her demand to watch her Paw Patrol DVD in the luxurious back seats, we cruised silently and effortlessly, returning the claimed 2.1l/100km.
That figure remained for a few days of short commuting, particularly as I was able to recharge the car each day at the office, but then I had to go a little further and that required waking up the 2.0l petrol engine.
I did my best to keep the consumption in check but there was no avoiding the needle moving along the gauge as the consumption figure rose on the highway. It rose even further in traffic. It settled on 7.8l/100km and stayed there for the rest of the time we had the car.
It is a far cry from the claimed 2.1l/100km, but then this is a large 7 Series: 7.8 is the kind of figure that you would get in a large family hatchback or a crossover, especially if you spend your day in urban traffic.
The 740e switched effortlessly and seamlessly between electric and petrol modes. It made for a truly relaxed cruiser, which is undoubtedly what BMW wants the car to be. After all, execs do not want to arrive at work flustered.
The argument that you could save yourself a fair bit and opt for the 730d instead is valid. The 730d will probably return a similar consumption figure, mainly because the diesel engine does not have to work as hard as the 2.0l petrol motor in the 740e when it kicks in.
But if you have decided that traffic frustration is just not for you and you have moved closer to work, the 740e does make a decent case for itself, as indeed do other plug-in hybrid models and even electric vehicles.
In the 740e you get all the luxury that comes with a seven and, these days, loads of technology too, so while you might be driving a hybrid you are also driving in the lap of luxury.
It will not make sense to everyone in this segment of the market and for others it will not be as practical as the diesel, but the other side to it is emissions. With governments in other parts of the world implementing stricter emissions rules, the 740e emits a claimed figure of 49g/km of CO2. That is better than a Prius, so you get to drive in luxury while being just a little kinder to the environment too. – Mark Smyth