We pick Transport Minister Simon Bridges' new Government car - the luxurious BMW 740e
As the Department of Internal Affairs determines whether a BMW 7 Series plug-in hybrid is good enough for our Government high-flyers and visiting VIPs, we put a 740e through diplomatic training this week.
The department will be considering whether an electric vehicle could become part of the the Crown VIP Transport fleet, so for the next six months it is testing a 740Le around New Zealand in different situations to assess its suitability to work as a limousine.
The trial supports the Government's programme to double the numbers of electric vehicles in New Zealand every year to reach approximately 64,000 by the end of 2021 - a programme pushed by Transport Minister Simon Bridges.
I've teased Bridges that he should swap out a petrol BMW 7 Series Government car for an electric version, and the advent of the 740e is a chance for him to do that (although he does have a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in Tauranga).
The 740e joins BMW NZ's lineup alongside the 740d xDrive diesel and 750i petrol -- and a M760Li xDrive is coming soon -- while the Government has long-wheel-based limo versions.
The 740e also sits under the company's EV banner called iPerformance with the i3 and i8 plus 330e and X540e.
BMW NZ is adding more plug-in hybrids to its line-up, so the 740e is an important model as it pushing into the premium large sedan segment.
For BMW NZ's head of corporate communications, Paul Sherley, the 740e plug-in hybrid gives you the "best of both worlds".
"The car's sporty driving characteristics and high levels of comfort are accompanied by extraordinarily low fuel consumption and emissions. Additionally, the BMW 7 Series is a leading example of technology transfer from BMW i, both in terms of carbon fibre technology and electric powertrains," he says.
"In New Zealand, BMW is committed to introducing more electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as they come to market, not only offering the widest range of EV and PHEV models in the market, but also supporting the Government initiative to further increase the number of EVs on our country's roads."
The 740e has a 2-litre, 4-cylinder twin turbo petrol engine paired with an electric motor to produce 240kW of power and 500Nm of torque and featuring a pure electric driving mode with a range of around 43km.
The iDrive control includes that maximum electric power, the ability to save battery charge for later, and an Auto eDrive mode that works out how best to balance battery and petrol propulsion.
The infotainment screen also shows you how economically you're driving and your electric battery usage. For fun, you can plant your foot and watch the boost model as the petrol and electric models work together to give you maximum torque.
The pure electric driving mode helps with a low fuel consumption figure of 2.2litres/100km but during my test of the 740e, I averaged around 7 litres, because I do like to speed off at the traffic lights and on to motorways, rather than being slow and economic.
On VIP limo duties there will be times when the chauffeur needs to get his or her passengers to meetings quick smart, so it was good to know that, for a large car, it has power available when needed.
An added benefit for the limo duties of the 740e is how quiet the car is. That will help with those hush-hush VIP phone calls in the luxuriously fitted-out rear seats.
When you sit behind the wheel of the 740e and hit the starter button, there is no noise. Silence is golden -- though in car parks and pedestrian-heavy areas you'll have to be alert as people won't hear the sedan coming.
The starting price of the 740e is $199,000, with Driven's test model priced up to $218,950 thanks to the inclusion of 20in light alloy wheels, fancy Nappa leather, heated front and rear seats, BMW laser lights, ambient air package (an aroma canister), extended infotainment system and touch command.
Standard equipment includes dynamic damper control, land departure warning, active cruise control (with the ability to take your hands off the wheel for up to 20 seconds at speed) and my new favourite BMW function, gesture control.
I had already trialled it in the 5 Series, where you can control the volume by turning your "pointing" finger clockwise or anticlockwise under the rear view mirror, change stations by making the V-sign horizontally at the infotainment screen, accept a phone call by pointing at the screen, and swiping to move infotainment functions.
After using gesture control for a wheel, turning a volume dial is so last year.
For my Auckland city driving, I easily used up the battery life as I was driving it throughout the day, rather than only taking it to work and home again.
That meant I did rely on the petrol engine and instead charged it overnight at home (taking about five hours or if you have a BMW iWallbox, about 2 hours).
But for limo duties, the driver will be able to "top up" the electric engine's battery while the VIPs are in meetings. Nifty.
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol, electric engine