BMW 740d xDrive
The new 7 Series may introduce some fancy tech gizmos but it’s the lightweighting and 4WD of the diesel entry model that intrigue us. We check out BMW’s xDrive 740d.
The new 7 Series may introduce some fancy tech gizmos but it’s the lightweighting and 4WD of the diesel entry model that intrigue us. We check out BMW’s x-Drive 740d
BMW and Mercedes-Benz constantly go head-to-head over which carmaker can build the world’s best sedan. With Maybach models now coming under the Mercedes banner you’d have thought that the battle was won by Stuttgart but those soldiers at Munich never raise the white flag. The latest 7 Series introduces a host of new technology, including self parking which you can watch from the street – this optional party trick becomes available in June – gesture control of some infotainment functions like audio volume, incoming calls and other stuff (the mind boggles), frickin’ laser lights (claimed double the range of LEDs), and lightweighting through the use of CFRP in the chassis (carbon core). It’s not pure carbon of course (aluminium and steel are still used) but is said to strip the 7 of roughly 130kg of surplus weight.
While the new tech is admirable, it wouldn’t be a BMW if it didn’t drive well, and that’s what we’re here to find out. Does the new 7 Series cut the Dijon? And to determine that we got a few days behind the wheel of the $199k 740d x-Drive sedan. There’s no rear drive version of this, and having driven it we’re not likely to lose much sleepy time over that. For with 235kW and 680Nm oozing out of that 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six, four-wheel drive is comfortably the best way to get the grunt to the ground without the traction control system forever going bananas.
The 7 Series has always been the most conservative looking of BMWs and this new one continues in that vein but its blue-hued laser lights and grille shutters imbue it with a high-tech aura from the outset. And while it’s no bigger than the outgoing model you’re in no doubt this is a large luxury car that in some circumstances will be driven by some chap with a silly suit and cap. Probably around Wellington, with a parliamentary type doing official things in the back seat. Perhaps not if it’s the Minister of Transport, who will be driving an EV. Other cabinet members might fancy a steer themselves for the powers that be have chosen to retain the 7 Series (in this case the 730d long wheelbase version) as Crown cars. Apparently it was the best option when whole of life costs were considered. Whatever, the BMW was the best fit.
Regular special people, however, get the bigger diesel, in the 740d. Or more accurately the proper oiler. It’s special for it doesn’t even really sound like one. There’s a solid wedge of stuffing under the hood, and atop the cylinder head, explaining why it seems more like a petrol IL6 in operation. It’s dead quiet, and right quick too. BMW rates its 0-100 time at 5.2sec and they’re right; we managed 5.1sec. That’s more in line with a sprint time that a petrol V8 might produce. That makes it the fastest diesel we’ve ever driven, eclipsing the X3 35d. With so much torque on tap, it feels immensely quick. Being overgeared will also give that impression. The rev counter suggests 100km/h requires just 1200rpm in top gear (eighth) so in the interests of science we wondered what speed it would be doing at 2000rpm. Try 167km/h. When we picked it up and drove it around some, the trip computer suggested an overall fuel use figure of 10.4L/100km. After a reset the first number that flicked up on the motorway was 4.6L/100km. BMW quotes a combined figure of 5.3L/100km, and 4.2 on the open road. The worst we could manage was just into double figures. That’s pretty abstemious, and if most of your travelling is done on the open road, you might exceed 1500km on a tank of fuel. Few MPs would grumble about that. Course they will be as interested in the four zones of air conditioning, the stretch room in the rear and the extraordinary seat comfort afforded to all passengers, especially those up front given the seats are adjustable in just about any direction. A pity so many of the creature comforts one might expect in a luxury car are confined to
the options list, like the heat comfort package, sun glazing and roller blinds. That sort of thing.
Still, the detail aspects appeal, like the complete lack of any hard black plastics in the cabin, the soft-close door function, the surround view that prevents minor dingles when you decide to berth the 740d yourself, the comfort access system, ambient interior lighting, and BMW’s truly smart key, the fob of which has an electronic readout (ready for remote parking). It’s
huge and quite heavy too, yet doesn’t seem an ergonomic disaster when pocketed. The boot lid is powered, but split folding is nowhere to be found. Fortunately doors are large enough to allow big items to sit on the back seat if they don’t fit in the boot (like, for instance, an electric shredder).
That you get all this for under $200k drive away is impressive, but beware a price blowout when perusing the options list. For example, the laser lights add $3k on the 740d. Our $200k car ended up costing north of $235k with all the add-ons, and any theoretical 130kg of weight saving from the carbon core soon went west with the addition of stuff like the Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Sound System ($14k!). At just over two tonnes it’s 40kg heavier than the rear-drive 730d we tested in 2010.
But we digress. The question for some will be whether a big diesel-powered saloon can be an ultimate drive. The fifth-gen model had air springs at the rear but this new model features pneumatic suspenders at all four corners. In comfort mode – there are two,
one sumptuous the other offering better body control – the road seems bowling green smooth, the bumps hoovered out of existence. So we opted for the Sport setting – this immediately tightens the driver’s seat torso adjustment, while the background to the main instruments takes on a racey red hue – which still gives a sensational mix of ride comfort and calm body motion. Setting everything to Sport, the car can be driven in spirited fashion (that’s ministerial speak for ‘balls out’) but it also responds to ordinary inputs nicely, the only rider being you’ll not see top gear unless you select it via the wheel-mounted paddle shifter. Never mind, because the rev counter still registers down around 2000rpm in seventh, and you’re seldom tempted to touch the paddles for any other reason. That’s because the eight-speed auto is simply genius at what it does. Almost as quick shifting as a twin-clutch gearbox, it knows when to downshift or upshift according to what your foot is doing; pushing hard and aggressively or gently and slowly, the shifts arrive accordingly.
The engine is astonishing. With two variable vane turbos, it is on the case quicker than most diesels; from stop and go at the lights there’s minimal delay. The added urge begins from about 1200rpm, and the engine is bullish in the 2000rpm range, a tiger from 3000-4000rpm. Get this though, the big IL6 will rev to 5500rpm, unheard of for a large displacement diesel. But the drivetrain isn’t the only good news about this luxury liner. With its all-paw set-up and near even weight split, it is more dynamic than it has a right to be, given comfort levels. Yes it will understeer eventually if you’re brave but in tight going that can be reversed into oversteer at the prod of the gas pedal. It turns like it has no right to for such a large vehicle, feeling more like a 5 Series to helm.
Typically we’re out of space, but we believe this eclipses the obvious competition around its price point and is quicker even than some of the more expensive models you might care to consider. And that’s before it gets to any corners. Mercedes commented recently that they weren’t too concerned about the effect that the new 7 Series would have on S Class sales. They should be. Lucky ministers.
BELOW - Sun gleams off chrome as 7 Series does what it does best, out-class the opposition for on-road dynamics. Like S-Class some versions can read the road ahead, and adjust suspension settings accordingly.
ABOVE - Lots of high-tech gadgets for the new 7 Series, including laser lights with twice the range of LEDs, and
gesture technology which seems like a because-we-can initiative. Self-parking from a distance is coming; that’s what the oversize
fob is for.