Getting myself acquainted with the 2017 BMW 740Le was quite an eye-opener, considering that the last BMW I sampled was the entry-level 120i. Talk about worlds apart.
The BMW 740Le sits in BMW Malaysia’s lineup as the sole 7 Series offering. The BMW 730Li and 740Li have both been discontinued, so if you are looking for a brand-new 7 Series, this is your only option.
Time to take a closer look at the locally-assembled BMW 740Le xDrive.
The new BMW 7 Series made a global debut in June 2015, replacing its predecessor that was introduced back in 2008.
Codenamed G12, the sixth generation BMW 7 Series is the first model from Munich to be underpinned by the company’s new CLAR platform.
The PHEV version of the new 7 Series is globally available in three configurations - the standard-wheelbase 740e and the long-wheelbase 740Le, the latter offered with a choice between rear- and all-wheel drive.
In Malaysia, the G12 7 Series made its local debut in early 2016 in two variants - the 730Li and 740Li; while the BMW 740Le xDrive you see here was introduced in April 2017.
Seeing that the BMW 740Le is locally assembled at BMW’s facility in Kulim Kedah, it qualifies for the government’s EEV incentives. With the said incentives, the BMW 740Le can be had for RM598,800; without it, buyers would otherwise need to fork out a hefty RM853,800.
Versus the previous generation model, the new G12 7 Series exudes luxury without being overly garish.
The dopey headlights from its predecessor have been replaced with sleeker units, while the amount of chrome up front has been dialed down considerably as well. BMW’s signature twin kidney grilles continue to dominate the front end.
Even the rear end has been thoroughly improved, as the tail lights have undergone the same sliming session as the headlights.
Changes between the now-discontinued petrol and plug-in hybrid include a number of ‘eDrive’ and BMW ‘I’ emblems. Being a plug-in hybrid, the charging port is located on the front left fender of the 740Le. Similar to the 740Li, the plug-in hybrid version is also shod in 19-inch twin five spoke alloy wheels all round.
Being a range-topping limousine in the company’s lineup, we expect nothing less than plush leather and premium materials throughout the interior, including on non-touch points.
Compared to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the interior of the BMW may not exude the same luxurious ambience, but the latter still edges ahead in terms of overall ease-of-use and ergonomics. In addition, we reckon that the 740Le also takes the crown when it comes to in-car technologies.
As mentioned earlier, BMW’s choice of materials in the 740Le is excellent and it is evident. Nappa leather can be found on the seats, giving passengers and drivers alike an exceptionally pleasant ride.
Whilst the interior design of the BMW 740Le may not match the one found in the W222 S-Class, we reckon that the former redeems itself in terms of in-car technology.
Just like the BMW 730Li and 740Li that was sold earlier, the PHEV variant also features the same Samsung-manufactured tablet that is able to control various features of the car, including the colour of the ambient lights. Additionally, the tablet is able to control the infotainment system, though it lacks the ability to control the navigation system.
BMW’s iDrive system is perhaps the best in the industry when it comes to ease-of-use. In the case of the 740Le, the iDrive’s display is nice and large. Text and graphics are also crisp, something other manufacturers could learn. Despite its excellent usability, the lack of Android Auto certainly cripples its in-car connectivity appeal for some, though Apple CarPlay is available for iPhone users.
As with all recent BMW models, owners of the 740Le also have access to the BMW Concierge Service. We managed to experience the concierge service for the most mundane of tasks, like navigating us to a location that was not found on the on-board navigation system (See why Google Maps could come in useful now?).
Continuing on the topic of technology, we also enjoy using the BMW’s Display Key. This little doohickey is able to control basic functions of the 740Le, including turning the lights on and off, arming the car’s alarm plus view the total available range. However, Malaysia-assembled units do not get the cool R/C parking feature, which essentially transform the 740Le into a giant remote-controlled car. To charge the Display Key, drivers just need to position the key into the designated wireless charging spot located in the centre console or via the micro USB port located on the side of the key.
As the BMW 740Le is a plug-in hybrid, we also sampled the charging feature of the car. To charge, we just hooked the car up to a wall socket and plug the car in. Depending on the house you live in, you might want to set the car’s charging rate to low, which would take up to 8 hours to fully charge. No big deal if you have to charge your 740Le and be fully charged by morning.
Under the bonnet of the BMW 740Le is a relatively small 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. While some may view the engine capacity as inadequate, we believe that’s far from the truth.
Coupled with the electric motor that’s housed in the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission for a combined output of 326 hp and 500 Nm, the BMW 740Le is anything but a slouch.
When the batteries are fully charged, acceleration is brisk, even with passengers on tow. Even with the batteries depleted, we never felt wanting from its turbocharged engine, which does an excellent job of providing ample haste when needed.
The benefits of the small turbocharged engine is two-fold. Owners can benefit from cheaper roadtax than an equivalent rival with a larger engine.
On the other hand, handling is also worth noting. As BMW models are geared towards the keen drivers, handling of the 740Le speaks for itself.
Taking our usual test route along the Karak Highway, we noticed that the BMW 740Le behaved more like an oversized 5 Series, as opposed to being lugging a luxo barge around. The small turbocharged engine up front also allows the 740Le to boast a more responsive front end, making the large BMW rather nimble for its size.
Ride comfort is also commendable on the BMW. The rear seats feature more than enough legroom even for tall folks. Ride comfort is further supplemented by its standard air suspension with self levelling. The combination allows the BMW to boast exceptional ride comfort without compromising handling.
If we were to nitpick, it would be the size of the fuel tank. The size of the fuel tank is a measly 46 litres, a considerable decrease in capacity from the normal 7 Series’ 78 litre tank. Reduction in fuel tank capacity is a result of BMW placing the hybrid batteries in the boot of the 740Le. This results in a considerably shorter driving range and more stops for refuelling on long distance journeys.
The BMW 740Le is an extremely polished product from the folks at Munich, but there are compromises to be made if one were to pick between this or the W222 S-Class.
While the BMW may boast a much more functional and intuitive cabin than its main rival, the S-Class’ interior, from our experience, feels more upmarket and distinctive. Ride comfort of the W222 is sublime, suiting the target audience better.
With that said, being a plug-in hybrid means that the BMW 740Le could be a better choice than the W222, as the latter features a much larger 3.5-litre V6 unit. The smaller engine in the BMW means road tax and fuel bills will be less of an issue for owners. On top of that, having AWD is an added assurance as weather conditions can be quite harsh at times. The presence of AWD does set the BMW and its rivals apart especially when it rains.
For future owners, both the Mercedes-Benz W222 S-Class and the BMW 7 Series are excellent choices, but we reckon the latter edges out ahead of its rival when one factors in the massive savings and potential fuel bills future owners will be enjoying over the S-Class.