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On the move with BMW 7 Series plug-in hybrid

By JAY WONG | 4 May 2017


It’s a near eerie silence, with only the faint buffeting of air while being flanked by the blurred view of Bavaria’s scenery zipping by to indicate motion as the new 7 Series (G12) glided in electric mode along the highway on a sunny day in Munich, Germany.

We peeled off the highway and began to ‘swish’ by barn-like buildings while the engine remained asleep under the hood.

Unbelieveable would be more apt to describe this feeling while repeatedly confirming that the engine was still inactive at 0rpm on the tacometer while at speeds of over 100kph.

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Even then, there was still a comfortable amount of gusto coming from the electric motor while seated within the plush confines of the new 740Le.

Aside from the luxurious cabin, the new seven has undoubtedly been gifted with the best of technologies and handling prowess that the Munich-based carmaker has to offer.

This has moved the outgoing 7 Series (F01) aside in order for the sixth generation 7 Series (G11) to rise.

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In and around Munich’s quaint countryside, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that this was once home to beer-making monks and also the birthplace of Oktoberfest.

But instead of beer, we were to sample Bavaria’s finest flagship automotive offering - the long-wheelbase 740Le (G12) iPerformance plug-in hybrid that comes with a 3,210mm wheelbase and measuring 5,298mm-long, 1,902mm-wide and 1,479mm-tall.

With gentle curves accented by a few sharp creases along its hood and shoulders, the 740Le looked “well-fed” and burly enough to tip the 3.0-tonne mark on the weighing scale.

But does it?

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“Nein!” (No!). In fact, its kerb weight is somewhere between 1,795kg and 2,255kg (depending on variant) thanks to the extensive use of lightweight materials - particularly carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), to help it remain somewhat lean.

Still, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder B48B20 engine managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission for the rear wheels did sound a little lacking.

But, when the combustion engine’s 255hp / 400Nm and the electric motor’s 111hp / 250Nm combined their efforts, there’s now 326hp and 500Nm of fun.

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The performance figures are impressive and, for the sake of science, we stomped on the throttle to experience its 0-100kph in 5.5 seconds, which did well to suck us into our backrest. Unfortunately we couldn’t go on to the electronically limited top speed of 250kph - due to the tight confines of country roads.

In emissions-free mode, the electric motor can get the car cruising up to 140kph and after charging the empty 9.2kWh lithium-ion battery for 200 minutes to full, there’s a chance of squeezing out 48km of range from it.

The rear of the cabin looked tremendously inviting, hence the starting point.

Without doubt, the cabin provides for a first-class experience with its uber plush leather upholstery and the powered rear seats for dialing in that perfect seating position.

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There’s also a personal set of climate controls for added rear comfort.

Knee-room at the back is more than generous with a large personal-screen mounted directly in front and a tablet residing in the centre armrest, just aft of the cup holders and above the seat’s controls.

Everything is simply within easy reach.

On the flip side, driving the G12 hybrid will have one enjoying the supple ride it offers or the strange amount of nimble agility that’s been tuned into this particular ‘Panzer-wagen’ that can go from gentleman to ruffian with a simple twitch of the ankle.

It’s capable of gently ushering passengers up to highway speeds or simply sucking them into their respective backrests and it won’t allow for more than four to cram into the cabin.

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The length of this car isn’t so much felt, but its breadth is quite pronounced, with plenty of shoulder room while trying to limit the hands experiencing more of the luxurious materials - it’s an experience not to be missed out on.

The brakes have a comfortable yet firm initial bite and the transmission shifts are smooth, quick and decisive in managing the engine and electric motors - both of which operate like butter on warm toast and yet are somehow devilishly responsive.

Not to mention, the suspension will take a serious amount of beating before occupants realise what’s happening, yet there’s still a considerable amount of road feel coming back to the driver.

READ MORE:
G12 BMW 730Li tested
F02 BMW 730Li tested in 2014
It’s April 2017, and BMW 740Le has arrived in Malaysia

Both engine and electric motors do a good job of providing individually when asked, but it’s the combination of the two that really excites the emotions.

The new 7 series is much like a jumbo jet, cruising at an altitude of around 200mm, with first-class personal seating facilities, and as large as it may look, it really lacks those cumbersome handling traits associated with a large vehicle.

Instead, it’ll behave more like a nimble jet, so when it comes to deciding whether to take the driver’s seat or be seated, it might be best left to a coin toss.

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