First Drive – BMW 740e iPerformance

The Cape weather is fair, mildly overcast with the odd speckle of rain as I silently cruise down Baden Powell Drive, coast side in the BMW 740e iPerformance.  The reason for the silence is more than just the supreme sound deadening in the latest BMW 7 Series – it’s because of something called ‘eDrive’.  If it weren’t for the instrument cluster reading zero RPM, I’d be none the wiser that I was currently using not a single drop of fuel.


If you’re a technophile, you’ve no doubt heard of BMW eDrive by now.  It’s the name given to all hybrid drive technology from the German manufacturer, driving everything from the commuter BMW i3, to the racy i8, with even a hybridized BMW X5 40e benefiting from the perks of electric power.  It’s a stepping stone to the future, as far as BMW is concerned – and I’d like to believe they’re on to something.


Using a pairing of an electric motor, complete with 9.2kWh battery, and a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 4-cylinder engine, boasting combined outputs of 240kW and 500Nm, the BMW 740e iPerformance will consume a mere 2.2l/100km on the NEDC consumption and emissions test.  On just the electric motor alone, the NEDC test says the BMW 740e iPerformance will travel up to 48km.


The stark reality is that both figures are highly likely to be unachievable in this thing called ‘the real world’ – but that doesn’t make the BMW 740e iPerformance any less relevant.


Unless you’re hooning it around in a most ungentlemanly manner, the hybridisation of the 7 Series will most definitely reduce your consumption substantially.  There will be those that argue that a 730d will afford similar consumption, with more torque, for the same price (R1 431 500) – but lest we forget, ‘diesel’ is a dirty word nowadays, and the emissions that aren’t tested for from it are arguably as damaging to the environment as any CO2.


No, the BMW 740e iPerformance somewhat transcends that notion the moment the combustion engine dies and you’re left shuffling along on electric power alone.  This is elitism, yes, but it’s luxury with a clean conscience.


With the exception of the eDrive capabilities, this is still very much a 7 Series like any other.  It’s classy, capacious, and offers the luxuriant ride quality one would expect of such a vehicle.  With the drive-select in Comfort+, the super soft dampers absorb and cushion every dimple in the road’s surface.  The steering is eerily light, but pinpoint accurate and responsive to the slightest input.


In Sport mode, for those who prefer to chauffeur themselves at pace, the BMW 740e iPerformance is still every bit a BMW.  The adjustable dampers still cosset the ride, but with greater communication of the surface below.  The steering weights up some, and without the weight of a 6-, 8-, or 12-cylinder engine up front, the BMW 740e is sharper and more adept and precise than expected.


For something that is very much a luxury yacht on wheels, there’s immense driver enjoyment to be had.  Not only that, but the hybrid drivetrain offers genuine performance credentials too, with a claimed 0-100km/h sprint of 5.4 seconds, thanks to that instant hit of electrified torque.


But for those who will treat this as a most comfortable way to go about their business, this is every bit the mobile office and/or smart-home you could want.  It still boasts a full tech-suite including gesture control for the infotainment system, full-LED headlights, the BMW Display Key and BMW’s RTTI (Real Time Traffic Information) built in to the navigation.


The BMW 740e iPerformance is also capable of almost fully charging its own battery – through driver prompted energy regeneration.  Opt to let it do its own thing, though, and you’ll need to top it off from the mains; a process that will take just shy of 3 hours to reach a full charge.


It’s a small price to pay, the time it takes to charge, but it’s a step toward a cleaner, greener future.


You’ll be seeing a lot more of these ‘iPerformance’ models from BMW in coming years.  In much the same way M-Performance bridges the gap between core-brand BMW models and full M-Division vehicles, iPerformance bridges that gap between core- and BMW i-models such as the i3 and i8.


They may not be bulk sellers now, but iPerformance models will pave a path to more efficient electric commuters, more potent electric sportscars of the future, or for those who refuse to change over, it’ll likely afford more freedom for the combustion-powered performance car in lieu of environmental savings made elsewhere.


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