Monday 20 January 2020

Plugging into 'green' luxury: BMW 740e shows how you can have your hybrid cake and eat it

First Drive: BMW 740Le xDrive

Luxury: BMW 740Le xDrive
Luxury: BMW 740Le xDrive
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I don't think there are too many countries where you get up to €7,500 knocked off the price of a large 'green' luxury plug-in saloon.

Not only do you pay less because of incentives, the VRT and road tax bills are lower too. And here's the really mad bit: you never have to plug it in if you so wish.

The BMW 740e brings the benefits of plug-in ownership into sharp focus.

VRT relief of €2,500 and an SEAI grant of €5,000 anchor the price of the conventional wheelbase 740e at €90,810 on-the-road.

I know it's a shocking lot of money for most of us but not for some. I'm sure they love the idea of something 'for nothing'. The fact that someone is 'donating' that amount of money to encourage 'greener' cars must appeal on several levels.

But the thing is there is no compulsion or checks in place to ensure that you ever, and I mean ever, use the 'plug-in' part.

As you know, plug-in hybrids have a chargeable battery pack and, in this case, a 2-litre 4cyl petrol engine. The combined power output of the 740e is a respectable 326bhp. The plug-in differs from your ordinary hybrid because you can charge it at home, at work or at public points as well as when the engine is on the go.

In doing so, it has been computed that the electric part alone will more than cover the average commute, thereby significantly reducing your overall fuel bills. They say you can get up to 50km on electric only. Make that 25km/30km.

But if you so choose, you just pay your lower price, tax and VRT and carry on as if it were a petrol car and not bother charging.

There is, however, a sting in the tail for long wheelbase all-wheel-drive versions of the 740e, called 740Le xDrive (I drove and was driven in recently). It doesn't qualify for the €5,000 grant because its emissions are 54g/km - just 4g/km over the 'limit'. Normal wheelbase models scrape in at 49g/km and 50g/km: a few grammes make €5,000 of a difference.

Against that we are talking just €170 road tax. It doesn't matter that the official fuel consumption figures are way off real-world returns. They are the basis for VRT and road tax.

The big car was quiet and smooth and we didn't find it slow to react despite it having just a 2-litre petrol. And I had so much room in the back it was ridiculous.

The engine and electric motor (integrated into the 8spd automatic gearbox) worked well in tandem or separately depending on demand.

Cabin space is not affected by the battery pack but the boot is reduced to a still-decent 420 litres.

Prices for long-wheel base versions start at €105,260 on the road.

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