BMW used the Geneva Motor Show to double down on its commitment to electrification. Its redesigned 7-series flagship sedan showed off the company’s latest plug-in hybrid powertrain technology, which uses a six-cylinder engine for the first time. BMW also debuted a new X3 plug-in and touted improved versions of other PHEV models.
Previous BMW plug-ins have mostly followed the same design, combining turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines with electric motors and relatively small battery packs, and were limited to about 14 miles of pure-electric range. The new 7-series, however, boasts a more powerful turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, a stronger electric motor, and a 30-percent larger battery pack. A similar configuration will also be found in a new plug-in version of the X5 SUV.
Combined output of the 745e xDrive is 389 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the previous generation 7-series PHEV, the new model makes 67 more horsepower and 73 more lb-ft of torque. More important, the new PHEV 7-series should see improved all-electric range due to an increase in battery capacity from 9.2 to 12 kWh. BMW has not announced the EPA-rated range of the new model, but in European regulatory tests the bigger battery pack was good for between 50-58 km (31-36 miles) of gasoline-free driving. These range estimates are notoriously optimistic, so when the 740e xDrive goes on sale here later this spring, expect its electric range to be somewhat less, but more than 20 miles.
Buyers will have to wait a bit longer for the X3 xDrive30e, which doesn’t go into production until late this year and won’t be on sale here until 2020. When the X3 plug-in does arrive, North American versions will be slightly different from those sold in Europe, using gasoline engines that meet U.S. SULEV emissions requirements. (The forthcoming X5 PHEV will also have a SULEV-rated gas engine.) Otherwise, the X3 PHEV should hew relatively closely to the European version, which makes 252 horsepower by combining an electric motor and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four. At full throttle, the electric motor can briefly produce its maximum output, boosting power by 41 horses to 293. A similar powertrain will go into the recently redesigned 3-series sedan, also due next year.
All of BMW’s PHEV models will benefit from improved battery technology. BMW says that it has been able to increase capacity without expanding the size of the pack itself; such improvements are slated for the 5-series sedan and a version of the 2-series that is not sold in the U.S.
BMW reported global sales of more than 140,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids last year, which it claims makes it the most successful European manufacturer of electric vehicles. In the U.S., the company sold more than 25,000 electrified vehicles across its BMW and Mini brands.