Back in 2013, when BMW launched the BMW i3 — its first ever production electric car — it chose to do so under the BMW i sub-brand. A new vehicle badge devoted to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the BMW i sub-brand marked a commitment from BMW to produce cutting edge vehicles that not only embodied its core values and delivered a stunning driving experience but also emphasised low-emission drivetrains and the use of environmentally-friendly, energy-saving next-generation construction materials such as carbon-fiber reinforced plastic.
The BMW i3 electric car, BMW i3 REx range-extended electric car and BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car are all examples of that commitment.
Over the past few years, BMW has slowly introduced aspects of its BMW i-brand vehicle technology into its mainstream models, launching cars like the 2015 BMW X5 Xdrive 40e plug-in hybrid crossover with limited-range all-electric operation and lower fuel consumption than its gasoline and diesel-powered models.
In press releases accompany such launches, BMW has been careful to credit its i-brand with helping to develop the technology that makes its mainstream plug-in hybrids possible, but next month at the Geneva Motor Show the German automaker will go one step further, introducing the first BMW model to proudly display the i-brand heritage in its name.
As it detailed in an official press release at the end of last week, BMW will begin using the iPerformance suffix to all of its mainstream BMW plug-in hybrid models from July 2016, emphasising not only the additional torque and power that a plug-in hybrid drivetrain can offer over a conventional gasoline engine but also leveraging the success of the i-brand in BMW’s mainstream lineup.
The first vehicle to earn the new badge will be the first-ever 7-series plug-in hybrid produced by BMW. Called the BMW 740e iPerformance, it will use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower Turbocharged gasoline engine producing around 258 horsepower. In turn, that engine will be mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. inside the bellhousing of which will live a liquid-cooled 70 kilowatt electric motor that pushes total system output to 240 kilowatts (326 horsepower).
Driving that electric motor both in combined Auto e-Drive (Hybrid) mode and in MAX e-Drive (Electric only) mode is a 9.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located underneath the rear seat. Like the BMW X5 xdrive 40e and the rest of BMW’s ‘mainstream’ plug-in hybrid offerings, the BMW 740e iPerformance can be charged from a compatible 240-volt Level 2 charging station from empty to full in around 2.75 hours. Charging with a lower-voltage 110-volt emergency charging unit takes around twice as long.
While official EPA figures have yet to be released, BMW says the 740e iPerformance should manage an all-electric range of around 40 kilometers (25 miles) on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle. Based on what we know of both it and the EPA test cycle, we’re predicting an EPA-rating of between 15 and 20 miles per charge.
As with the BMW i-3, i8 and the rest of BMW’s plug-in hybrid models, the BMW 740e iPerformance will come with BMW’s ConnectedDrive telematics system, allowing owners the chance to remotely monitor their car’s state of charge, find nearby charging stations and set climate preconditioning.
While BMW has yet to confirm a price for the full-size plug-in hybrid, we’re guessing customers will find very little change from $80,000 — which is enough to buy an entry-level Tesla Model S 70D. While that particular Tesla Model S doesn’t have the tire-shredding performance of the Tesla Model S P90DL, we’re guessing it will still give more than enough performance to satisfy all but the most adrenaline-driven of customers.
Then again, we’re not predicting the BMW 740e iPerformance will necessarily be a large-seller for the German automaker. Those who are more interested on the sweet torque and high-end power of an electric motor will likely jump ship to Tesla if they want a full-size electric sedan, while those hardened BMW fans who don’t care for plug-in vehicles will hanker after another 7-series variant due to be unveiled in Geneva: the BMW M760Li xDrive, complete with TwinPower Turbo V-12 gasoline engine, 3.9-second 0-62 mph time and more than 600 horsepower at the wheels.
Which brings us to the question we’d like to ask our readers. Should BMW use the i- name on a limited-range mainstream vehicle like the 740e iPerformance, or should it focus on bringing an all-electric car to market that could truly compete with Tesla?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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