Ford C-Max Energi

Styling

BMW’s lavish and roomy flagship sedan is now available as a more efficient plug-in hybrid version. In terms of style, the large 740e sedan looks like its pure-gas siblings—steering clear of the radical design approach that BMW took for its polarizing i3 small electric car.

Like other recent BMWs, the 740e now positions its headlamp cluster directly next to the chrome grille, and you’ll find small vents located behind the front wheel wells. The plug-in 740e’s most distinguishing visual feature is the charging port—directly in front of the driver’s door. There’s plenty of room for the port in a car that is as long as the 7-series.

The 740e features blue accents and badges but otherwise keeps to the 7-series script. If you like the styling of other BMW models, then you’ll also appreciate the 740e. The extended size of the 7-series is imposing—not necessarily conveying a message of environmental restraint.

Performance

The luxurious plug-in hybrid combines a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine with an electric motor for a total system producing 322 horsepower. You won’t be lacking for power in this capable luxury vehicle. It’s quiet and smooth.

It might seem incongruous for BMW (for the first time) to put a four-cylinder engine into a 7-series. But the 111-horsepower electric motor takes up the slack. A sprint from zero-to-sixty is estimated at just over five seconds. The two power sources are adeptly managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission—for smooth shifting and a nearly imperceptible relationship between electricity and gasoline. Some reviewers believe the four-banger has to work hard for highway power, thereby producing more noise and vibration than desired in a six-figure luxury sedan.

Part of the 740e’s challenge is that is the heaviest 7-series made by BMW. This is a vehicle designed for relative efficiency in a very capable all-wheel-drive highway cruiser—not a performance-oriented GT doling out driving fun. Instead, the engagement can be found in a great ride using less fossil fuel and a long list of modes allowing you to control when you use battery-power—and when it’s saved for maximum efficiency.

Ford C-Max Energi

Efficiency/Range

Weighing in at about 4,700 pounds, the heavyweight plug-in hybrid 740e carries about 550 pounds more than the rear-drive 740i. That said, a car of this heft achieving an EPA rating of 64 MPGe is impressive.

Official ratings for plug-in hybrids are always tricky because how you drive matters a lot. Reaching the official numbers means plugging in as much as possible. With a full charge and put into EV mode, the 740e delivers about 14 miles strictly on electricity. That gets used up fast—so if you have a long commute (or road trip), the big sedan is relying strictly on the 2-liter engine. To complicate matters, depending on your selected mode, some of that gas could be slurped down to recharge the battery pack. Swapping one form of energy for another is not necessarily the best strategy for efficiency—although the idea is more about being having both sources of power available for better performance.

After the charge is depleted, the BMW 740e is rated at 27 miles per gallon. While the mid-size BMW 530e is only slightly better at 29 mpg on a depleted battery, it can travel about 31 miles purely as an EV before gasoline is utilized. If green motoring is the goal here, then the argument could be to downsize from a plug-in 7-series to a plug-in 5-series, which is still a quite comfortable vehicle.

Keep in mind that the 740e has a smaller fuel tank than its gas-powered stable mates—thereby limiting total cruising range. And BMW babies the vehicle’s 9.2 kilowatt-hour pack, only using about 6 kWh of its capability.

Charging

The relatively modest 9.2-kWh pack can be charged in less than three hours via a 240-volt charging station—or overnight using a standard 120v plug. As stated above, drivers can also charge up the battery pack via the gas engine. In fact, BMW marketing says that “you might even forget that you’re driving a plug-in hybrid” if you don’t bother to charge—a strategy designed to gain acceptance, but that undermines the reason a plug-in hybrid exists.

Ford C-Max Energi

Passenger/Cargo Room

As with other 7-series variants, the 740e’s cabin is refined and quiet—rivaling the most luxurious sedans on the market. The model is only available in the marque’s long-wheelbase form, ensuring maximum leg room for all five passengers.

Despite its generous proportions, BMW borrowed some the 740e’s trunk space for housing the battery pack. That means the model’s trunk cargo capacity is reduced from about 18 cubic feet to 15 cubes—putting the 740e’s trunk at a distinct disadvantage compared to similarly priced vehicles.

Price

There’s no escaping the 740e’s high cost. Its $90,095 base price is $4,600 above the all-wheel-drive 740i. By the time you add leather, nicer wheels, and driver assistant technology, you could easily push the price beyond six-figures. At that point, you’ll want to look beyond the 740e (or similarly priced and equipped Mercedes-Benz 550 plug-in hybrid) to a host of plug-in hybrid SUVs that cost tens of thousands of dollar less while providing the same amount of all-electric range. The Volvo XC90 T8 tops our list. Or why not go fully electric with a high-performance variant of the Tesla Model S that is perhaps not quite as comfortable—but is a lot faster and will never use a single drop of gasoline ever?

The first 740e units went on sale in December 2016. On average, about 50 of the flagship plug-in hybrids are sold every month.

BMW 740e xDrive Plug-In Hybrid specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $91000
Est. tax credit: $4700
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 14 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 9 kWh
Charging rate: 3.3 kW

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