The BMW 7 Series has been boosted with V8 and V12 options galore since it launched in 2015, but there's been no hybrid variant to cater for oligarchs with an environmental conscience. That hole in the market has now been plugged with the 740e iPerformance, a limousine with claimed economy figures to rival three-cylinder hatchbacks.
When we say economy to match little hatchbacks, we don't mean an average hatch. In official testing, the 240-kW (326-hp) 740e iPerformance returned between 2.0 and 2.5 L/100km (113 and 141.2 mpg). The discrepancy, for those wondering, is down to whether the car is long or short wheelbase, and if xDrive all-wheel drive is specced.
Of course, whether or not you'll actually achieve these figures is another thing altogether, but managing to make a five-meter long limousine sip like a VW Polo BlueMotion under any conditions is mightily impressive.
This parsimonious character comes courtesy of the plug-in hybrid system, which is capable of covering up to 48 km (30 mi) with no local emissions. That's 18 km (11 mi) more than you'll manage in this car's closest competitor, the Mercedes S500 Plug-In Hybrid. The BMW also uses between 0.5 and 0.8 L/100 km less than the S-Class, although it's still slightly thirstier than the smaller, lighter 330e.
In electric-only mode, the driver has access to 83 kW (113 hp) of power, and there's 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque on tap from standstill. Depending on which mode you're in, the electric drive system's 9.2-kWh battery is charged with a regenerative braking system, otherwise owners can use the charging cable stored in the boot.
Even when the car isn't locked into Max eDrive mode, the car's onboard computers will default to electric mode at low speed, before bringing the 2.0-liter gasoline engine into play at around 80 km/h (50 mph). The engine will also kick in under heavy throttle, which is something you don't see much of in the stop/start traffic where electric cars excel.
Total system output is 240 kW (328 hp) of power and 500 Nm (369 lb.ft) of torque, which is enough for a 100 km/h (62 mph) dash in 5.4 seconds in the sDrive model and 5.3 seconds in the xDrive model. Considering the car's size, it's an impressive time, with the instant torque of BMW's electric motors combining with the 190-kW (258-hp) four-cylinder engine to give the 7 Series a decent shove down the road.
Impressive as these systems are, BMW has done lots of work to make sure they blend into the background. This is a luxury car and there's nothing less luxurious than systems awkwardly cutting in and out, ruining the magic-carpet illusion you get from great limousines.
It's an illusion passed off by the high-luxury interior, which has been hit with a technology barrage. From widescreen iDrive to the touchscreen key, the plug-in hybrid 7 Series is kitted out with enough toys to keep even the most discerning buyers entertained for years, provided they're actually the ones who are driving.
On the outside, there are no major differences between iPerformance models and the rest of the 7 Series range. Sure, there's a few badges and an extra flap for the charging plug, but you'd have to be a trainspotter to notice them. That's no bad thing, though, because we think the standard car is the best looking of all the German super-saloons doing the rounds at the moment.
Thus far, there's no word on pricing from BMW. Regular and long-wheelbase models will be offered, with xDrive all-wheel drive an option on the LWB variant.