Thirsty hybrid

It is a pleasure to drive the 740Le, but its lithium battery does a poor job of retaining charge.
It is a pleasure to drive the 740Le, but its lithium battery does a poor job of retaining charge.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

BMW's plug-in hybrid 740Le does everything expected of a luxury limo except for one thing

BMW's plug-in hybrid 740Le is everything a 7-series limo should be - smooth, luxurious and full of finery and amenities, including rear massage seats.

And despite being equipped with a relatively puny 2-litre four-cylinder engine, it is not lacking in the performance department at all.

BMW's stated 0-100kmh acceleration time of 5.3 seconds is believable at the wheel.

Given any situation - whether overtaking, merging or exiting from a corner - the big sedan feels like a 4-litre cruiser. Its "740" nomenclature is, therefore, not unsuitable.

In terms of refinement, the car now stands shoulder to shoulder against its arch rival, the Mercedes-Benz S-class. BMW has clearly done something to its suspension, allowing the vehicle to glide along with nary a worry about tarmac blemishes.

And with its electric motor providing 250Nm of torque from the moment your right foot applies the slightest pressure on the pedal, it suffers from none of the harshness associated with overcoming inertia.

And from 1,550rpm, the petrol engine joins in the fun, raising combined torque to a heady 500Nm. To say the car is effortless is putting it mildly.

  • SPECS / BMW 740LE XDRIVE IPERFORMANCE

  • Price: $500,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged paired with electric motor

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 326bhp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 500Nm at 1,550-4,400rpm

    0-100kmh: 5.3 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh

    Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100km

    Agent: Performance Motors

So, in terms of driving pleasure, this limo gives you very little to complain about.

Except for one thing. Its lithium battery does a poor job of retaining charge. The car arrives with 50 per cent charge. Within a couple of trips, it drops below 10 per cent.

The electric system offers three drive modes: all-electric; auto, which leaves the decision-making to the car; and charging mode, which channels maximum engine and recuperative energy towards replenishing the battery.

Despite choosing the last mode, the battery fails to rise above 10 per cent charge.

Hence, you would have to plug in to juice up if you want to enjoy this hybrid 7er's unique proposition - driving a big car with a small carbon footprint.

BMW promises a fuel consumption of 6.8 litres/100km. But the test-car uses 70 per cent more petrol.

This, of course, has to do with it being an all-wheel-drive and me having no opportunity to charge it up externally.

But even if I did, I am quite sure I would have to plug it in every night to enjoy some semblance of electric drive the next day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Thirsty hybrid'. Print Edition | Subscribe