Test Drive: 2017 BMW 740Le

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Hybrid 2.0.

Once upon a time, hybrids were built with a single purpose in mind – fuel economy. Words like sexy and exciting, as well as luxurious and thrilling, were not part of the vernacular of engineers working on hybrids.

Fast-forward to 2017, and oh how much has changed! As it turns out hybrids can be highly-coveted, elegant and exciting to drive. Case in point, the 2017 BMW 740Le.

As the flagship in BMW’s lineup, this 7 Series lineup in general is already at the pinnacle of what BMW offers customers. 7 Series sedans have been engineered to be sporty and spacious, luxurious and refined. And our test vehicle was packed with technologies and creature comforts you’d expect in a vehicle with a base MSRP of $107,900.

Electrified excitement

But it’s the little “e” at the end of the model designation that makes a big difference. It indicates that this gorgeous executive sedan is electrified. The 255-hp four-cylinder engine is coupled to an electric motor, which translates into a  combined output of 322 hp and 369 ft. lbs. of torque, as well as an official fuel consumption number of 8.8 L/100km (combined).

As a plug-in hybrid, the 740Le can be charged at home or at a charging station, and once “full” can go roughly 50 km on battery power alone. However, the driver can decide when to use engine power only, battery power only, or a combination of both, for optimum performance.

Sneaking out of your neighbourhood at 5 am, you might decide to keep it in electric mode until you’re out of earshot. Or perhaps you might decide to do so while in an underground garage, just to limit exhaust fumes. Otherwise, we kept out test vehicle in automatic mode, allowing the onboard computer to make all the hard decisions, and it did so seamlessly.

The transition from electric power to gas power to both is so flawless you wouldn’t know it’s happening unless you looked down at the instrument cluster. BMW has done a great job managing the drivetrain and power output, which translates into a luxurious ride with minimal input from the driver.

Luxurious hybrid

And while we’re on the topic of luxury, let’s take a closer look at just how luxurious a hybrid can be nowadays. Our 740Le came equipped with loads of extras and amenities, which brought the “as tested” dollar total to a little over $145,000. “What does that buy you,” you ask?

The most expensive upgrade on our vehicle was the Executive Lounge Tier 2 ( a $10,000 value), which effectively turns the back seat into something you’d enjoy while on a transatlantic flight in business class.

It includes heated and ventilated seats with a massage feature, along with “Executive Lounge Seating” and an “Executive Lounge Rear Console.” In short, this means that the rear passenger on the front passenger side of the vehicle can stretch out and enjoy the drive since the front passenger seat can be moved far forwards (electrically) and its backrest folded forwards for maximum leg room. In addition, a folding table allows him or her to work while on the go.

Clearly, this feature was designed with the executive in mind – someone so busy that they need to be driven, rather than do the driving. The package includes BMW Touch Command, which allows that same very busy executive to control everything from the A/C and heating to the interior lighting, as well as the blinds for the glass sunroof, the roller sunblinds, the entertainment system, and more – all with a 7-inch tablet integrated into the centre armrest in the rear.

When not working, that same executive can kick back with the other rear passenger, enjoying an entire menu entertainment features available via the dual rear screens. Mind you, sometimes all a busy executive wants is to close his or her eyes and enjoy some great music, in which case they can relax to the soothing sounds coming out of the Bowens & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system ($4,900 option). This upgrade turns an already impressive sound system into an acoustic experience most audiophiles would appreciate.

Say ‘no’ to odours

But what if our executive were to be relaxing to all that great music, only to be assaulted by an offensive odour? BMW has found a solution to that as well, thanks to the Ambient Air system ($500 option), which fills the cabin with whichever pleasing aroma is on the olfactory menu for the day.

At the press of a button, the air fragrance cartridge, located in the diffuser in the glove box, is activated filling the passenger cabin with whichever scent was chosen by the vehicle owner.

Naturally, the 740Le is packed with all the performance features you’d expect in a BMW, along with advanced driver assist technologies and a full array of safety features. It’s a true performance sedan with an extra level of luxury and an electric motor that cuts down on fuel consumption, and adds a bit of oomph to the driving experience when needed.

Unlike the hybrids of a bygone era, the 740Le proves that you can have your cake and eat it too. BMW has packed performance, fuel economy, luxury and refinement into a single package that allows this hybrid to make a bold statement. It’s a must see, whether you enjoy driving, or prefer to be driven.

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