2016 BMW 740e xDrive: Toe-to-Toe with the Mercedes-Benz S550 PHEV

Written By: EightySix

2016 BMW 740e Plug-In Hybrid

BMW has a new plug in the family. A big one, too. It just announced the 2016 7 Series which, at 206.6 inches, is the longest sedan BMW has ever built. The rear legroom is 44.4 inches. If that's not enough, ask your chauffeur to fold forward the front passenger seat so you can use the pop-out footrest. Sometimes the wealthiest car buyers sit in the back, so you need to offer a Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package.

Along with a 3.0 V6 and a 4.4 V8, you can get the PHEV with a 2.0 turbo four-cylinder and electric help. The 740e shares a power train with the X5 xDrive 40e, which delivers 309 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. The electric-only range will be about 23 miles.

Technology from the i3 and i8 has trickled down to the 7 Series. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic, aluminum and ultra-high-tensile steel create a Carbon Core frame that is 190 pounds lighter than the previous 7 Series. Exact specifications are not out yet, but the 2015 740 xDrive weighed in at 4350 pounds.

Heads Up, S550

The 740 will launch as direct competition to the Mercedes-Benz S550e. They're both big solid German PHEVs. The 2015 S550 is only one-tenth of an inch shorter. It weighs a heftier 4729 pounds, but that's due to a bigger engine.

The S550 is powered by a 3.0 V6 which combines with the electric motor to deliver 436 horsepower. Zero becomes sixty in 5.2 seconds. 740e performance statistics have not been released, but the Mercedes is likely quicker than the BMW.

The driving experience should be quite different. The lighter BMW is all-wheel drive. The xDrive system is not a "through the road" AWD set-up, with electric powering one axle and gas the other. Both motors connect through the eight-speed transmission.

The S550 is rear-wheel drive. It will muscle around like a familiar jumbo sedan, while the BMW will be more nimble and sticky.

Both vehicles should be for sale in early 2016 for a bit over $100,000.

Competition is Good

The 740e brings BMW's electric count to five including the 330e, X5 PHEV, i3 and i8. Mercedes sells the B-Class EV along with the S550 and C350e. It's good to see both companies getting serious.

Mercedes is yet to top the way-out factor of the i8. The scissor-winged piece of sci-fi is like nothing BMW has ever built. The B-Class and i3 are a very polarizing pair of compact SUVs. The Mercedes is a solid box of electric front-wheel drive torque. The i3 is a carbon-fiber and eucalyptus curiosity with nimble rear-wheel propulsion. All three of these vehicles show the traditionally conservative automakers thinking bold.

Competition will be good for all of us. BMW and Mercedes have been dueling for decades. Now they're fighting for electric supremacy. It's a world where Tesla has struck with greatest impact, Nissan with greatest numbers and Audi with admirable ingenuity. Everyone needs to give this their best shot. Worrying that the next guy is outdoing you is central to innovation.

Now every executive has two strong and comfortable German plug-in sedans to stretch out in. When they come out in 2016, let's hope the hybrid performance is enough to impress regular BMW and Mercedes buyers. May they both be awesome enough to send designers back to the drawing board for 2017 with fire in them.