• BMW to Go All PHEV at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show

No new i models in sight but BMW proves it’s still very serious about its electric future

LISTEN 11:36

BMW, like any major automaker, will deploy a whole bunch of electric cars at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. This isn’t surprising us at all, but what’s interesting is that the Bavarian brand chooses to concentrate on its hybrid and electric offerings, like the highly-anticipated 330e, the 745e, and the X5 xDrive45e that will share the drivetrain with the facelifted PHEV 7er.

Is the writing on the wall for gas-powered cars? The answer may still be no, but it’s clear that every big player in the automotive world wants to prove to its customers, as well as its peers and the environmental agencies, that hybrid models and all-out electric cars represent an increasing share of its offering. BMW is a leading example, not only with its i family of electric cars but also with its growing variety of hybrids. However, for those who aren’t excited about electric motors and the like, BMW will also display the tasteful M850i Individual Night Sky model under the limelight at Geneva.

Expect More and More Silent Cars from BMW in Coming Years

BMW to Go All PHEV at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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The 2019 Geneva Auto Show, that kicks off on March 7th, is one of the biggest shows in Europe alongside the Paris and Frankfurt Auto Shows. Last year saw 200 exhibitors from 30 countries, as well as 130 car and product premieres and over 600,000 people came to see them all. 12 months later, we’re expecting more of the same although we’re curious as to how the big fish in the auto world will try to present to us their eco-friendly image via their electric and hybrid car offering.

BMW is one of the first big fish to make its plans (at least partially) official and, glancing over the press release, you can’t help but notice the emphasis the Germans are putting on their new PHEVs in particular. Of course, we know that the BMW i4 is currently out testing in the great wide open but, until that model drops as a step above the quirky i3, let’s discuss the hybrid novelties that will fill the 3 Series range, the 7 Series range, and the X5 range too.

BMW to Go All PHEV at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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First off, the BMW 330e part of the newly launched G20 generation. This version has been on the lips of Bimmer fans for a while now given their expectations for it to surpass the outgoing 330e F30. For the record, the old 330e was powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-pot with a combined output of 248 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 310 pound-feet of torque available up until 2,500 rpm.

The electric motor (good for 87 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque) is placed in between the engine and the automatic 8-speed transmission.

The 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is incorporated into the floor which helps in lowering the center of gravity. According to BMW, its all-electric range doesn’t exceed 14-15 miles, and you also mustn’t surpass 75 mph or else the combustion engine kicks in.

The G20-generation 330e is obviously benefitting from all the clever stuff incorporated in the new 3 Series. The chassis is better with lift-related dampers and new steering setup, to name just a few things. Then there’s the engine. As with the F30, the gas-powered one has a capacity of 2.0-liters and the cylinder count again stops at four. There’s also a turbocharger in place and it develops 184 horsepower, four more than the F30 330e. In combination with the electric motor, the output somehow only goes up by that four extra horsepower of the combustion engine (from 248 to 252) but the torque rating is the same as before, 310 pound-feet. Where things do improve visibly is in the range department. More specifically, the G20 330 can be driven in all-electric mode for up to 37 miles, over 50% more than the F30.

BMW to Go All PHEV at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Now, I’m guessing some of you are still displeased with the lack of extra power and the fact that the car still takes 6.0 seconds to reach 60 mph. Well, BMW made it possible to access 40 bonus horsepower thanks to the standard XtraBoost function. According to BMW Blog, this feature "can be engaged and used up until the battery reaches its minimum battery charge status." On top of that, "it also functions as the car’s “kick down” while in the gear selectors ’M/S’ mode." Oh, and you can also drive it in all-electric mode at speeds up to 120 mph.

That's great, but you must also consider that the old 330e had an MSRP of about $45,000 that could sound like a lot already but the G20 is bound to start at about $42,000 so expect the 330e to cost at least $50,000 given a base F30 320i is about $34,500.

Up next, let’s talk land yachts. BMW says it’ll bring not one, not two, but three PHEV versions of its freshly restyled 7 Series full-size luxury sedan. They are the 745e, 745Le, and 745Le xDrive. They are all powered by the same 3.0-liter, straight-six engine that you can get under the hood of a gas-only 740i. The combustion engine on its own develops 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Add the electric motor and the power figure goes up to 388 horsepower and 110 more pound-feet of torque. In spite of what is a hefty curb weight - about 4,900 pounds - these cars can sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in between 5.1 and 5.3 seconds depending on the version.

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The 745e sits on the SWB chassis while the 745Le and the 7456Le X-Drive are the long-wheelbase models, the latter also featuring AWD. We already know how much BMW will charge you for one 745e - $96,545. That’s little over $9,000 more than the MSRP of a base 740i.

Even with AWD, the price of the 740i still is $6,000 down compared to that of the hybrid.

What do you get for the extra money? Well, the 745e boasts a 33-mile to 36-mile range on electric power only. The 745Le and 745Le X-Drive offer a slightly reduced range, between 34 and 31 miles.

These figures are actually impressive when you think about it. I mean, the 330e, a much more compact car, offers 37 miles of EV range, just three more than the 745e. And when you browse through the specs of over PHEVs, you realize really what BMW has achieved with these behemoths. Let me throw some numbers at you: the A3 Sportback e-Tron, one of the most fuel-efficient hybrids with an 83 mpg mileage with the electric engine also doing some of the work, only allows you to cover 16 miles in EV mode. The Kia Optima PHEV boasts 29 miles in EV mode, same as the Hyundai Ioniq while the Kia Niro comes forth with just 26 miles of range with the combustion engine turned off. Even the Toyota Prius Prime, with its mighty 133 mpg combined mileage, can’t keep going more than 25 miles if you don’t let the combustion engine kick into gear. All of these cars, obviously, as much as three times cheaper than the luxurious BMW but they’re also smaller and lighter.

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As a matter of fact, if the rumors are true, it will all go uphill from here in the case of the 7er as far as fuel economy and the EV range goes. That’s because, as BMW Blog reports, the German automaker is currently evaluating the possibility to sideline the gas-guzzling 750i and M760i models - the latter which comes with a $1,700 gas guzzler tax - in a bid to electrify the whole lineup. Not only will we not see the V-12 make a return, but the V-8 might also be gone for good.

All of these changes have to be decided upon quite quickly, though, as the G11/G12 generation is already four years old and a new generation should come in about two or three years tops.

According to BMW Blog, "most cars will use the B58 engine" in various guises, and the "combined power outputs could reach over 560 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque." That’s more than what the current 750i brings to the table with its 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque V-8.

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To appease to the eco-conscious SUV clientele, BMW will also bring the X5 xDrive45e to the Geneva Auto Show. The hybrid version of the G05-generation model packs the same 3-liter, straight six engine as the 7 Series models. However, the SUV will benefit from more power, 394 horsepower to be exact. All those ponies will help the hybrid X5 sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds, faster than the 330e but slightly slower than the X5 xDrive40i and the X5 xDrive50i. It will also have a bigger EV mileage of 50 miles thanks to the bigger battery package in the floor. The gearbox that will channel the power to all four wheels is the same eight-speed automatic that’s on all the other X5 variants.

BMW will definitely push to increase the market share of the X5, the mid-size luxury SUV selling some 50,000 in the U.S. just a couple of years back.

Yes, the X5 won’t match the performance figures of the Cayenne Hybrid, but Porsche’s sporty SUV also is worse on fuel consumption and can only carry you for 25 miles in EV mode and the same goes for the Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV. We’ll have, though, to wait for the full spec sheet and the prices to be able to accurately compare the Bimmer to its German and British rivals.

If you still aren’t part of the hybrid/EV crowd, there will be many ’old school’ cars that BMW hopes you’ll like at its Geneva stand. The best example is the BMW Individual M850i Night Sky. This is a special version of BMW’s replacement for the 6 Series that has actual meteoric rock on its center console and is painted in a special pearlescent black with shades of blue/purple. The car is unique, so you won’t see another one like it... unless BMW changes its mind and decided to put out more.

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We’ll have to wait and see how well these models are received by customers, but what’s clear is that BMW isn’t going to stop here. The Munich-based brand sold over 140,000 electrified vehicles last year and, currently, its biggest market is the European one but, as the variety of cars grows and given the importance of the American market, be sure to see BMW trying to get closer to the heart of the American consumers, maybe even steal some loyal Tesla folks along the way. BMW said that "by 2025, the BMW Group will have at least 25 electrified vehicles in our line-up, at least 12 of which will be fully electric."

Further reading

2017 BMW 330e iPerformance High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2017 BMW 330e iPerformance.

BMW to Go All PHEV at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW X5 xDrive45e iPerformance.

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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