COAL Update: 2018 BMW 740e

2018 BMW 740e viewed from the side

I’m laid up for a couple of weeks recovering from a minor surgery. To kill some time, I thought I would write a brief update of my COALs from 2020. That would be a 2018 BMW 740e, a 2015 smart ForTwo, and a 2000 GMC Sierra. They are all still with us, so let’s see how they have fared!

First up, the 740e. This has been my primary car since I purchased it in September, 2020 at 10, 895 miles. From our home base in North Carolina, it has gone as far south as Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and as far north as Mystic, Connecticut. It hasn’t ventured far off the Eastern Seaboard; I think we took it to Nashville one weekend.

We are now rolling up on 39,000 miles as I write this. I truly love the car. I think it’s about my favorite car I have ever owned. It certainly is the quietest (with the new tires, see below), with absolutely no wind or road noise at interstate speeds. It is very comfortable, being a large car with an air suspension and massaging front seats. But, it can hustle and take on a curvy mountain road when it wants to, with the sport damping mode selected.

2018 BMW trunk floor

The movable trunk floor in the “up” position. There is storage underneath in this configuration.

The trunk could be larger, as the battery pack sits partially under the trunk floor. The trunk is not as deep as you would expect without a spare tire under the floor, because that’s where the battery is. It’ll hold four hard sided carry-on cases, four backpacks, and four adults for a trip to the airport just fine though.

2018 BMW trunk floor storage

The trunk floor in the “down” position. You can stow larger/taller items this way.

With an articulating trunk floor, you have a hidden storage area, or, you can “drop” the floor a little. Used this way, the 5 gallon water jugs I exchange at the store will stand upright in the abbreviated trunk space, too.

2018 BMW 7 Series rear seat

Rear cabin, note the vertical lights at the “B” pillar area. I haven’t figured out what these are supposed to accomplish. There are other reading lights, as well as rear lighted vanity mirrors in the headliner. They can be dimmed or turned off by the rear occupants.

The cabin space is wonderful. All 740e’s are the long wheelbase version of the 7. My sons are both 6’4″ and love the back seat. Even if they are in the front seats for a trip, my 5’10” self has way more legroom in the back than I need.

I had a clear adhesive bra applied to the front bumper. We have still picked up stone chips here and there, but the “road rash” that can be so apparent on a darker car has not shown up yet. The clear bra does not keep you from scraping the chin spoiler on curbs and entrance dips, of course, so we have lots of that going on underneath the lowered M bumper (my own driveway apron is one of the worst offenders unless you go slow). I skipped the clear bra on the hood, because they seem to weather so poorly over time.

The tires are 245/45/19, so they have a decent amount of sidewall. They can also be rotated since they are not staggered sizes on an all wheel drive vehicle.

At 28,000 miles, the original Michelin run-flats were not completely down to the wear bars, but acting decidedly squirrely in heavy rain. I was anxious to try something quieter, and with a more compliant ride. I settled on the Pirelli P Zero All Season, which is not a run flat, and were about half the price of the run flat Michelins. They were a huge improvement in ride and quiet.

BMW Mobility Tire Inflator

Tire kit, with gloves of course!

For $120 on Amazon, I picked up a genuine BMW flat tire inflator kit that plugs into the cigarette lighter, and tossed it into the trunk.

BMW mobility kit

The underside of the tire kit has rubber grippers so it doesn’t slide around.

It’s about the size of a shoe box. As it inflates the tire, it pumps in a built-in can of sealant solution. I also have “Good Sam” roadside assistance for the RV and all the cars which will bring a new tire to you if it comes to that, so I’m happier without the run flats.

The cockpit is superb. Even the iDrive controller is intuitive after a short time. The center dash screen is a touch screen, but I use the controller now that I’m used to it. You can set the screen to go to the relevant menu item when you touch something.

BMW seat position screen

For example, if you touch the driver or passenger seat controls, the center screen asks if you want to make a new memory position.

BMW seat heating screen

If you turn on a front seat heater, the center screen asks if you want heat directed to your bum, your back, or equal heating.

The Bowers & Wilkins sound system, $3,400.00 when new, is very good from the driver seat. In the rear seat, though, it has a breathtaking “you are there at the concert” sensation you don’t get in the front seats. The optional Harmon/Kardon system in our 2015 BMW 328i GT COAL was just a few hundred dollars when new, I think, and honestly sounds about the same in the driver’s seat to me. The 2022 7 Series build page does not list any optional sound systems, so I guess B&W has been dropped.

There is a “gesture control”, which allows you to conduct certain functions by pointing, or making pinching and waving gestures with your hand. I couldn’t get the hang of it and kept causing unintended things to happen, so I turned it off.

The heads up display is smaller than some of the newest offerings out there, but shows more information than the Suburban or Land Rover HUD’s. The wireless CarPlay works well. Telephone audio through the speakers is wonderful, way better than the Suburban (bad) or Lexus (not great).

The wireless charging pad under the center console lid is inconvenient to access, feeble, and can’t keep up with the drain on the phone battery when simultaneously using Google maps and streaming Spotify on a long trip. I keep a charging cord in the center console USB port as a backup.

The rear passengers don’t have USB outlets at all, but do have four lighter outlets (two in the rear of the center console, and one in each rear door ashtray). I keep an Apple lightning cord with a cigarette lighter plug in the rear armrest storage, for anyone who needs it.

There are additional lighter outlets in the front center console, the front drinkholder area, the passenger footwell, and in the trunk. So that’s eight in total. You can do a lot of smoking or charging, take your pick.

We have had three problems addressed under the warranty. Shortly after the first COAL appeared, I started hearing a faint popping or clicking from the front end, when steering at parking lot speeds. Pulling into a parking space would be the best time to hear it.

I took it to the dealer, who replaced the front hubs. There was a service campaign on the front bearings due to the exact same noise. The sound persisted, though, and the advisor told me he wanted to keep working on it.

With the car on a rack, one tech steered side to side and another tech underneath traced it to the electric power steering rack. This was initially denied as a warranty repair, since the racks were said to “never fail” (they are also quite expensive, and swapping one is a lot of labor, which I am sure had something to do with the denial). To their credit, the dealer went higher up, had a BMW zone rep examine the car, and got a new rack approved. Some dealers might have pulled the “they all do that” story on me.

2021 BMW 5 Series

I should have been more disappointed they kept my nearly new car for two weeks, but I had a new (700 miles) 2021 jet black 5 Series loaner to drive the whole time. Tough break!

That indeed fixed the noise, which has not returned. The next issue was an occasional “passenger air bag not available” on the center screen. I called the dealer, who told me it was usually from leaving a purse, briefcase or water bottle on the passenger seat. Sure enough, that’s where I usually threw my keys, wallet and water bottle while driving.

After modifying my habits, the message returned a few times. The dealer computer implicated a defective occupant sensor mat, which was replaced under warranty.

Last week, we went to the dealer for a power trunk opener/closer which will refuse to do either at times. You can still open and close the trunk manually, and if it was not under warranty, I would not have cared. But since we are under warranty until January, I wanted to get it looked at.

Of course, it started working fine as the appointment date approached, and the dealer could not replicate this issue. But, they cleaned and lubricated everything, and reprogrammed the stop limits on the mechanism. They also typed a “goodwill” warranty for 12 months into the service receipt, meaning they’ll stand behind it working until October 2022, or nine months past the factory warranty expiring.

BMW oil change kit

While I was there I had them perform an oil and filter change. It was a little early, but I would be back in about 2,500 miles for that anyway. The computer was calling for oil changes every 11,000 miles.

It had a fresh service when I bought it, and I had rolled in a little early at 20,000 and 30,000 miles.

2018 BMW 7 Series service interval

The dealer also performed a software update/campaign on the vehicle, which dropped the “Distance to Next Service” message upon startup to 10,000 miles, interestingly enough. BMW decided 11,000 was not often enough, I guess, but why? With a 6.5 quart capacity and about 25% of each service interval being “electric” miles, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the two.

The engine doesn’t have a dipstick either, which I am still not comfortable with. My 2000 S500 was the first such car I owned, but I still wonder about the sensor going bad. It should tell you if it needs oil on the dash, of course. You can also manually request a reading with the engine running, hot, and in “P”, such as at a gas station.

2021 BMW X3

I was given an 8,000 mile 2021 X3 as a loaner, a very pleasant driving SUV that’s quite roomy inside. It was a nice metallic white which I don’t recall seeing on a BMW before.

This dealer charges $89.99 for a oil and filter change, which is pretty reasonable. They also send you a video of them inspecting the underside for damage or leaks, and checking the brake pad thickness, which I appreciate. I know they are looking for things to upsell you on, but it’s nice to know they are actually looking it over. The underside was dry, undamaged, and the pads were described as “almost new”.

Their lot was pretty much devoid of new or used BMW’s, with just a smattering of other makes. The service advisor told me they have 120 service loaners on hand and they were starting to sell those, but had been promised new BMW’s were sitting in the ports, and on the way from the SUV factory about 2 hours down the road in Spartanburg, S.C.

2018 BMW 7 Series hybrid charging port

The charging port is on the driver front fender. The car will not start until the cable is removed and “filler flap” is closed. The port lights up white when you open the flap, then blue while charging and green when finished. The cable is locked in place when the car is locked.

Friends and neighbors usually ask me what kind of mileage it gets, and that’s not always an easy answer. This is a plug-in electric hybrid, but it’s primarily a gas car. It would operate just fine as a traditional hybrid without ever plugging it in, but you would use more gas.

The electric-only range is around 18 miles, and the exact figure when fully charged depends on the weather, and whether the climate control is working hard or turned off, etc., as the HVAC runs off the high voltage battery. The newer versions of the BMW PHEV’s have more range, but I haven’t researched the specifics. My car has been replaced by the 745e, which uses a turbo gas 6 cylinder engine.

When viewed as a gas car, I think it does great. Over the past 27,000 miles I have averaged out to the equivalent of 39 miles per gallon. On a 1700 mile round trip this summer (so all gas, no electric except for “regeneration”), it returned 34 miles per gallon. Not bad for a 4,740 pound luxury car with all wheel drive. My front wheel drive ES350 that weighed 1,100 pounds less, did no better on similar trips.

The 255 horsepower turbo gas 4 cylinder is more than adequate for the way I drive. Even when the electric range shows “zero”, there is an electric reserve for passing on a two lane road, etc. If you floor the car to the kickdown switch, the 111 horsepower motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission assists, and you have 366 horsepower for a bit. How long I don’t know, but it’s always lasted as long as I needed it to.

Siemens electric car charger

When viewed as an electric, it does pretty well for the mutt it is. It’s not a Tesla of course, and you will use gas most days. Around town with regular use of the 220v Siemens charger (about $300 on Amazon), getting low 50’s out of a tank is pretty easy. The Siemens will fully charge it in 75 minutes, so I can drive 15 miles each way to the office and back using a little gas. Plug in, and then go out to dinner later using no gas. I have seen 750 miles on a 12 gallon tank of gas a few times.

Since the HVAC runs off the high voltage battery, there is apparently always a “secret reserve” in said battery. The car cuts off at all stoplights and “creeping” situations, and you don’t lose air conditioning. Unlike most gas cars, you cannot override or defeat the stop/start mode.

If you are sitting in a parking lot waiting for your spouse to do a bit of shopping (as in me, at an outlet mall, with my wife shopping for an hour or more), the gas engine will come on for about 60 seconds every so often to top off the high voltage system, but otherwise you have air conditioning off electric for the duration, even when the electric range shows “0”.

I’ll report again in a year or so, and we’ll check in with the smart and the Sierra soon!