Out on a limo

Here’s how to keep up with the Jone­ses in grand style

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

in­spired R8 su­per­car and Mercedes-Benz will stroke it­self over the ex­otic SL and SLS se­ries. Yet the range­top­per for the brand that bangs on about ‘‘ sheer driv­ing plea­sure’’ is a mas­sive sedan that is of­ten chauf­feur-driven.

Still, if you hap­pen to want a $210K-plus four-door and you smile rather than wince when the road goes all curvy, here’s the limo you’re prob­a­bly look­ing for.

VALUE

Not for the first time when ap­proach­ing this part of the Cars­guide tem­plate does it strike one that the no­tion of ‘‘ value’’ is rel­a­tive.

The re­vised 7 gets more stan­dard kit and ac­cess to a few smart op­tions, a new and en­tirely ir­rel­e­vant hy­brid vari­ant, an up-gunned petrol V8, stan­dard eight-speed auto across the range, Start/Stop and econ­omy mode (ex­cept on the 760Li), rear self-lev­el­ling air sus­pen­sion and tarted up sat­nav and op­tional Bang and Olufsen au­dio. Prices start at $204,600 for the diesel 730d (and, really, this is all the 7 Se­ries you’d need). The ‘‘ vol­ume’’ 740i and long­wheel­base 740Li are $211,500 and $226,500 re­spec­tively. The new Ac­tiveHy­brid 7 and Ac­tiveHy­brid 7L (with the pow­er­train of the re­cently re­viewed Ac­tiveHy­brid 3) are $222,000 and $237,000.

Get­ting a bit silly now, the V8 750i and 750Li are $281,100 and $297,800— and the sheik’s spe­cial V12 760Li is all of $391,500.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Given the rear oc­cu­pants are likely to be con­trol­ling in­ter­na­tional fi­nance, sud­den un­timely jolts could have grave con­se­quences for the Dow or the Nikkei. The now stan­dard self-lev­el­ling air sus­pen­sion could there­fore pre­vent an­other GFC.

All models get the Con­nect­edDrive driver as­sis­tance, safety, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­ve­nience package. In­evitably there’s a sense of stay­ing abreast of the Jone­ses about this up­date, hence the op­tional park­ing as­sis­tant that all but parks the mas­sive beast, your in­puts con­fined to se­lect­ing re­verse and spot of ac­cel­er­a­tor pres­sure while get­ting an all-round view from above on the 10-inch mul­ti­me­dia screen.

The Jones mo­tif con­tin­ues with the ad­di­tion of au­to­matic boot open­ing func­tion. When your chauf­feur is stand­ing be­hind the car with the key fob still in this pocket, it takes the wave of a foot un­der the rear bumper sen­sor to open the lid.

Nor is Jeeves likely to go crook about the ap­pre­cia­bly en­hanced per­for­mance. In­evitably all en­gines are claimed to be both more po­tent and ef­fi­cient, with Auto Start/ Stop shov­ing its nose in and the ad­di­tion of the Eco Pro mode for the Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence Con­trol. The new coast­ing mode de­cou­ples the en­gine when it is over­run­ning at speeds be­tween 50 and (fan­ci­fully for us) 160km/h, so you free­wheel along with min­i­mum juice use.

The hy­brid drive sys­tem works with the 235kW 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo six for a com­bined out­put of 260kW/ 500Nm. That means 0-100km/h in just 5.7sec­onds and fuel econ­omy of 6.8L/100km. Yet the in­line six turbo diesel 730d does bet­ter, re­turn­ing 5.6L— from a 1900kg limo.

The 740Li gets the po­tent 3.0-litre turbo petrol that does as­ton­ish­ing ser­vice in theM 135i coupe and hatch. With some half a tonne more to haul, the 235kW/450Nm en­gine still sparkles with a 5.7-sec­ond sprint time and thirst of 7.9L, bet­ter­ing a Mazda3 Neo.

Sig­nif­i­cant fet­tling has ren­dered the most im­pres­sive pow­er­plant even more so. Fuel use of the turbo 4.4 V8 has been re­duced by a quar­ter to 8.6L de­spite putting out 330kW/650Nm to achieve a 4.8-sec­ond sprint time. Not a whole lot of point then in the range-top­per’s V12, which is barely faster but mas­sively thirstier. But it is the last of its breed— BMWs are now al­most all tur­bocharged.

DE­SIGN

Brighter and clev­erer lights fore and aft (which mean you won’t be taken for an Audi), a few more colours (don’t panic, only monochromes and a deep blue), tarted up in­te­ri­ors (re­as­sur­ingly faux wood trimmed as ever) and . . . that’s about it. We’re talk­ing about a mus­cled-up ver­sion of the in­stantly recog­nis­able cur­ren­tBMW­paradigm.

The two heavy hit­ters in back have plenty of el­bow room and ac­cess to in­ter­net or tele­vi­sion via tonal screens. Miss­ing, sub­jec­tively, is the ex­tra de­gree of op­u­lence that makes Audi’s A8 the car to sit in.

SAFETY

A saga in it­self, the ac­tive and pas­sive safety kit proves again that while law­mak­ers and politi­cians preen them­selves on re­duc­ing the road toll, it is the car mak­ers that have made it nigh on im­pos­si­ble to kill your­self in a car. Yet in sev­eral states P-platers con­tinue to be for­bid­den to drive the safest cars on the planet.

Most li­cens­ing au­thor­i­ties would know noth­ing of the re­newed 7’s safety kit. The Ac­tive Pro­tec­tion Safety package in­cludes At­ten­tive­ness As­sis­tant, which analy­ses driv­ing be­hav­iour on the ba­sis of var­i­ous sig­nals such as steer­ing an­gle and road speed. De­tect­ing signs of fa­tigue, it

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