The word hybrid is indelibly attached to the Toyota Prius, a vehicle renowned for its frugality. And when the suffix plug-in is added, perhaps the first car to come to mind is the Chevrolet Volt. Both cars are true green machines that save owners money over the course of ownership, as well as at the pump.
What, then, is a $90,000 plug-in hybrid?
BMW thinks it has the answer. It's the 2017 BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance, and it's the car that I've been trying to wrap my head around for the past week.
The "electrical machine"
The 740e is powered by the same hybrid system as found in the X5 xDrive40e. It features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that produces 255 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 to 4,000 rpm. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that houses an electric motor--what BMW calls an electrical machine--that can put out 111 horsepower and a maximum of 184 lb-ft of torque. The motor actually substitutes for a torque converter and it can power the car or act as a generator for the battery. Total system power is 332 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
CHECK OUT: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e first drive review
BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is standard, and so is a plug to charge the 9.2-kwh lithium-ion battery pack located under the rear seat. Of that 9.2 kwh, 6.5 are actually usable, as BMW leaves room at the top and bottom of the charge range to keep the battery in good shape and let the motor continue to aid the engine even when the EV driving range is depleted. The battery can be charged in under three hours on a 240V outlet or less than seven hours on a 120V outlet.
On a full charge, the battery can power the can on electricity alone for 14 miles, according to the EPA. The EPA also rates the 740e at 27 mpg in combined city and highway driving and gives it a 64 MPGe rating (a measure of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in 1 gallon of gasoline). Those are not headline-worthy numbers by any stretch.
2017 BMW 740e xDrive i PerformanceEnlarge Photo
Pick your mode and your level of electricity
The 740e has three to six driving modes, depending on how you define and categorize them. The various modes—Auto eDrive, Max eDrive, Battery Control, Eco Pro, Comfort, and Sport—use the electric motor differently, and some adjust the steering, transmission, throttle, and suspension.
The default mode that BMW seems to be hinting it wants the 740e to use most often is Auto eDrive, which aims to maximize the car's electric range and uses the motor to aid the gasoline engine for best efficiency. Eco Pro and Comfort fall under Auto eDrive. In Eco Pro, electric boost from the motor is only accessible if you kick the throttle down hard past a detent toward the end of the pedal travel. Eco Pro also enables a freewheeling function that shuts off the engine between 25 and 100 mph when cruising along.