M760Le about old school power games

The boldest version of BMW’s biggest sedan is now in private sector circulation – but the edition in showrooms is the alter ego of the version being offered Government.


BMW New Zealand’s push to help politicians enjoy a Green drive in their favoured state limo is not being spread to the private sector, with announcement that fat cats there will instead be offered a V12 version that – powertrain-wise - is the polar opposite to the VIP ride.

BMW New Zealand has not explained why the 740Le, a model that heads the Munich make’s iPerformance plug-in petrol-electric hybrid line and meets Government’s EV strategy aims and is being trialled on the VIP fleet alongside its regular turbodiesel models, appears to have been bypassed for private ownership introduction here in preference for the far more expensive M760Li, a lookalike that costs significantly more and appears to be an utter exercise in excess.

Coming on sale in a few weeks, the M760Li is the Munich’s marque’s ultimate edition of its flagship sedan, delivering a higher level of opulence than any previous edition the brand has brought here.

It also comes with an unsurpassed price tag – BMW cites a $347,000 base price.

The 6.6-litre twin turbocharged 12-cylinder creates a cool 448kW and 800Nm and is also used by BMW’s Rolls Royce brand.

Its availability here marks a return to the past: Though BMW has been building V12 Sevens for three decades, the engine type has not been offered here for at least 20 years. The original version of 1987 offered with the big banger but sold poorly. Since then the push has been with petrol and turbodiesel six and eight cylinder engines.

In this generation of the car, BMW has taken a new route – offering the long-wheelbase format with powertrains that cover both ends of the environmental spectrum.

In addition to the option of a 12-cylinder mill, which despite efficiency gains is still the thirstiest engine this car gets, it builds the long- and regular wheelbase models with a petrol-electric powertrain that, conversely, allows economy and emissions counts far better than anything the big car has ever provisioned previously.

The latter is now being trialled by the NZ Government; BMW New Zealand went to the extreme of having a car built and shipped here, apparently at its own expense, for that exercise.

Department of Internal Affairs has signalled eagerness to buy into a variant that blends a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a lithium ion battery-fed electric motor to become a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), to run alongside the 730d cars that are already on the Crown beat and won’t be replaced until 2020.

The trial machine has the same drivetrain as the 740e BMW New Zealand has in the showroom for just under $200,000 and like that car – and unlike the 730d – also has four-wheel-drive. However, it’s in a long-wheelbase format favoured for VIP use.

The 740e, with 190kW and 400Nm of torque, it is the most powerful four-cylinder BMW has ever built but the political favouritism comes from its potential for exceptional economy.

The official factory test cites this car as being capable of a Toyota Prius-like 2.2 litres per 100km and 50g of CO2 per kilometre. That’s one sixth the optimal economy claimed for a 760Le and is a marked improvement on the 730d now in Government use.

The model also meets the political drive toward electric vehicle adoption and signs nicely to BMW NZ’s own EV-promoting mandate, which has not only seen it introduce a variety of pure and partial electric-aided cars here but also to invest heavily in the creation of a EV recharging infrastructure.

However, BMW NZ clearly feels private sector buyers are of a different frame of mind; with desire for purring performance over any sense of parsimony. The M760Le certainly provides punch – the brand says it will wallop out 0-100kmh in just 3.6 seconds, making it a match for all the other more overt M-Division wares sold here and a remarkable feat for a car weighing over 2.2 tonnes and measuring 5238mm stem to stern.

The model also achieves M Division attention on its chasis. The four-wheel-drive system has a rear-drive bias and the variant also the latest Executive Drive Pro Suspension with active roll stabilisation to keep it sitting flat when cornering at higher speeds.

BMW NZ will not discuss the potential take-up rate, but it will likely be miniscule, given the price level and also because big cars of this ilk have been losing ground to luxury SUVs. It says it will continue with the 740d, 740e and 750i editions.