BMW 745Le: First drive review

BMW’s first plug-in hybrid for the country gives us a glimpse in to the brand’s electric future
 First drive review
First drive reviewBMW 745Le

The BMW 745Le is a significant car, not just for BMW, but for India. This is the first plug-in hybrid car to be launched in the country, and it is a format of car that could potentially be a bridge between today and a fully electrified future. We have already driven the 730d variant of this generation car, and the exterior and interior updates are pretty much the same here. Except the socket above the left-front wheel arch, of course, and a couple of tweaks to the interiors. We’ll get to them in a bit, but first let’s talk about the drivetrain, the likes of which we have never seen in India before.Under the bootWhat makes these plug-in hybrids stand out is the size of their batteries. They are larger than what hybrids like a Toyota Camry have, but are smaller than full blown electric car batteries. The BMW 745Le gets a 12kWh battery positioned under the rear seats, that drives a motor integrated in to the 8-speed transmission. The engine itself is an in-line six-cylinder petrol engine that puts out 238bhp and 450Nm on its own. The motor manages 111bhp and 265Nm in isolation, but combined peak system output is 394bhp and 600Nm. All of this adds weight, yes, but performance is still brisk and the 745Le manages to hit 100kmph from a standstill in just 5.1 seconds. Mind you, this is a rear- wheel drive car – the xDrive variant of the 745Le is not on sale in India.

Driving in EV modeSilence. The fact that the 745Le has such a large battery (quarter the size of an MG ZS EV) means it can run in fully-electric mode for over 50km. That means, you can probably do your daily commute without burning a drop of fuel! And you don’t have to be pottering about at a snail’s pace either – it will do up to 110kmph in this mode, before the engine kicks in. In the electric drive mode, it limits you to EV power only and doesn’t allow the car to accelerate beyond 110kmph. However, in Hybrid mode, it prioritises the electric drivetrain and feeds in power from the IC engine only when hard acceleration is demanded, the battery level falls to lower than 30 per cent or you cross 110kmph. There is a Sport mode too, and here the engine is always running and the battery is supplementing power when necessary. If driven well, the car can return anywhere from 38 to 47kmpl, which is staggering for a car this size. The battery can be regenerated in a number of ways. This is a plug-in hybrid, and it can be hooked up to a wall socket, an AC charger or even a public DC fast charger. The car will also charge itself – the motor can act as a generator and refill the battery under normal driving conditions. The 745Le gets a Battery Control button which puts charge back into the battery (from 30 and 100 per cent) and you can lock it in petrol mode, to save charge for later.

As for the driving dynamics, it is pretty much the same as the 730d we drove not too long ago. It is extremely comfortable, but manages to be a bit sportier than an S-Class. Around corners, the 7 actually hides its size rather competently. Noise isolation is brilliant, and the fact that you can run it in a full-EV mode a lot of the time means you are actually driving in proper silence.

VerdictThe BMW 745Le is priced at Rs 1.65 crore, making it the most expensive variant of the 7 Series and making it fairly more expensive that its IC-engined rivals. But the 745Le isn’t like its conventional rivals at all. It is a car that is far more evolved and futuristic. It has green credentials, along with performance and comfort and remains a unique proposition in the country today.Vishal Joshi ( @vishallatajoshi )

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