W opossible everything has already been written about the huge pair of kidneys of the new luxury BMW. Just not from everyone. Maybe the non-European customers actually like it, we don't know. But in everyday German traffic it gives the refreshed sevens a somewhat intrusive attitude that tradition-conscious BMW customers may be less comfortable with. In contrast, the Mercedes looks pleasantly Mercedes-like, a majestic radiator with a self-confident star on top. That may also be said.
40 km electric range
But actually we are here for something completely different: To test which of the two German premium luxury liners is the better plug-in hybrid is offered. After all, such a plug-in is a nice thing, because under certain conditions the car is given an E-license plate. This not only guarantees free travel in all possible environmental zones, it also signals that the occupants are also at home with the zeitgeist. The hurdles for the E on the license plate are of course not too high for plug-in hybrids in Germany: at least 40 kilometers of electric range or less than 50 g CO2 /km, says the registration regulations. The two test candidates just fit in there.
Both sedans recently underwent a facelift. In the case of the BMW, they were more extensive. In addition to the giant kidneys, the plug-in seven received a new engine. Instead of the four-cylinder used in the predecessor, an in-line six-cylinder now provides the combustion engine part in the hybrid drive train.
The Mercedes kept theThe facelift of its three-liter V6, however, now has a battery with more capacity and a more powerful electric motor: 367 hp petrol engine plus 90 kW electric motor result in 476 hp system output. The BMW countered with 394 hp system output, 83 kW contributed by the electric motor, the in-line six contributed a maximum of 286 hp - similar performance data, especially since the Mercedes weighs a few pounds more. The plug-in version is only available with a long wheelbase, so it is 13.5 centimeters longer than the BMW and 266 kg heavier. According to the price list, the 745e is also available with a long wheelbase, but at the time of testing there was only a short copy.
The long version would be 14 centimeters longer and 5,400 euros more expensive - a small advantage for the BMW, which is clearly evident cheaper test car is - of course, with 101,000 euros in the almost six-digit range. It was probably not surprising that Mercedes built the slightly more expensive cars as early as the 1970s when the W 116 was competing with the BMW E23. Just as little that the S-Class comes across as a little more statesmanship than the - well - a little sportier sevens, the current W 222 and G11 /12 series make no difference. Nevertheless, many a state minister-president chooses the alternative from Bavaria, for example the one from North Rhine-Westphalia, who is currently chauffeured in the 745e Lang.
Of course we want to be behind the wheel ourselves. And there is another thing in common: Both of them apply the instrument landscapes of their smaller brand brothers. Displays and steering wheels largely correspond to those in the E-Class, Fünfer, X5 or X7. It was a little different with previous generations. The S-Class, for example, had the luxury of an independent steering wheel. Small things, one might say, in times of highly developed infotainment systems and complex steering wheel user interfaces, there is no other way. Still, it's a shame. Especially since not every progress is actually one. The central display in the BMW is remarkably confusing and not very tidy - not only because the tachometer rotates counterclockwise. Important displays are outsourced to the edge of the display, it is really only very individually configurable.
Easier in the BMW
It works better with the Mercedes, because the displays in the wide instrument display can be more precise adapt to the driver's wishes. However, the operation proves to be not that simple and clear again.
The handling of the two buttons in the steering wheel spokes is still a fiddly job, and the responsibilities of the central and middle control unit are not always clear and logically distributed. After all, the S-Class still has the rotary push button in the center console, which can be used to quickly and safely command many functions. BMW invented it, even in the sevens it is in the current oneBMW operating system 7.0 still has a central human-machine interface, although a few more have been added - not always to the advantage of simpler usability, for example with gesture control.
So we lounge in leather-covered and air-conditioned seats of the two luxury sedans and philosophize about preferences in the operation of complex driving systems. We wanted to drive for a long time.
Drivers only have to deal with hybrid systems if they absolutely want to. Both offer you the option of choosing between different hybrid configurations, such as charging the batteries with increased combustion operation for a purely electric drive. But they don't have to.
The batteries are full, both promise an electric WLTP range of around 50 km, in real life and in test consumption it turns out to be around 40 - at least acceptable, as many everyday drives can be purely electric done.
The Mercedes can be fully charged more quickly, the battery on the 11 kW wallbox is charged to 100 percent in two phases thanks to the water-cooled on-board charger. That takes a little longer with the BMW, around three and a half hours. We leave the drives in normal, i.e. hybrid mode.
About five seconds, the factory specifications promise, on the measuring section they are tied, after 5.2 seconds they reach 100 km /h each time. It doesn't feel like economically powered. Not even in the BMW. The change from four to six cylinders as well as an increase in system performance by 68 hp (740e: 326 hp) is noticeable with significantly better driving performance and, more importantly, increased sovereignty. And the 745e is one step ahead when it comes to all-electric acceleration. Since it sprints to 50 km /h in 4.7 seconds, the S 560 e takes almost a second more time for the same exercise.
Nevertheless, the overall more powerful Mercedes is a bit faster, especially in regionsbeyond the recommended motorway speed. Petitessen, in real life the S 560 e cannot drive away from the 745e, also because both regulate very precisely at 250 km /h. Most customers are much more interested in the smooth running of the drives than in the performance. They do not have to fear compromises because of the complex hybrid technology, on the contrary.
Only when the load is high can the two luxury limousines even notice that gasoline engines provide most of the drive energy here. Of course, the BMW hums a bit louder and sounds a bit more strenuous than the Mercedes V6. There are no noticeable shifting maneuvers, the automatic transmissions operate largely smoothly and smoothly.
Hardly any major differences
Which brings us to the question that not only the tenants of our regular petrol station at the end of the Test drive provides. What do they need now? The answer to this is as tricky and varied as the drive trains of the two hybrids. On the test consumption round specially designed for plug-ins, BMW and Mercedes are close together: around two liters of Super and 22.2 kWh (Mercedes: 19.5 kWh) of electrical energy are required to keep the two 100 km running.
There are hardly any really practical differences. The Mercedes can charge a little faster and then drive a little further with its battery before the six-cylinder has to intervene. It also makes it a little easier for the driver to handle the energy balance in the Li-ion battery carefully. The Eco-Assistant uses the data collected by the sensors of the driver assistance systems and the navigation information to help the driver to drive as economically as possible by means of a display and pressure point on the accelerator pedal. The corresponding mode at BMW is called Hybrid Eco Pro and can be called up by double-pressing the driving mode button. Both offer targeted variation of the degree of recuperationnot, you have to trust the electronics.
After the test round and refueling, the testers advise: Which one would you choose? The cheaper BMW or the long version of the S-Class? The answer: the BMW 745e to drive, the Mercedes to enjoy.