2009 BMW 740i Review & Road Test
The 7 Series still sets the benchmark in large car luxury
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By - Matt Brogan Pics - Paul Maric.
For more than three decades now the 7 Series has set itself atop the BMW range as the German marque's flagship model.
Today the fifth-generation 7 Series retains this illustrious position while at the same time continuing to prove itself as the benchmark car of its segment in terms of technical innovation, passenger comfort and driveline capability.
The model tested this week, the 740i, comes to us at an important juncture for in the 7 Series in Australia coinciding with the launch last week of the diesel variant, the 730d.
But as far as petrol powered models go, the vehicle as tested is the most economical - and the cheapest - in the current 7 Series line-up, making it an interesting variant to look at when you consider how close the competition is on price.
Stylistically the latest 7 Series is unmistakably BMW with enlarged kidney grilles and halo headlamps fronting a long, streamlined bonnet. An elegant yet subtle side profile with smooth flowing lines and high shoulders sit neatly above that broad, muscular stance that could only be unanimous with a top-shelf German luxury saloon.
But, perhaps strangely, these impressive outward proportions do not entirely justify the internally availed space. Rear leg room is rather tighter than expected when the front seats in their normal position, making the 7 Series iL (or stretched) versions a far more appealing prospect. Similarly boot space is also less than you'd expect in a car this size at a mere 500 litres.
Otherwise the cabin is suitably comfortable, as you'd well expect at this end of the price scale, and offers an incredibly quiet ride that is now also a great deal smoother than its predecessor thanks to a change in the front suspension set-up from MacPherson struts to a double wishbone arrangement.
The rear end features a multi-link arrangement that in conjunction with four driver adjustable settings (comfort-normal-sport-sport plus) can transform the car from a comfortable cruiser to capable tourer in an instant.
From a driver's standpoint this makes the car surprisingly enjoyable, and while perhaps that isn't the specific aim of this car, smooth power delivery and strong torque availed from the twin-turbocharged, 3.0-litre, six-cylinder makes it feel very much more alive than its appearance would have you believe.
The engine's entire 450Nm of torque is available from just 1500rpm and with 240kW on tap from 5800rpm, the car performs well across its entire rev range, a situation bettered by the super sharp ZF six-speed transmission.
An added bonus comes in the form of remarkable fuel economy with this week's return of 11.7 litres per 100km an acceptable one given the car's near two-tonne weight. It's almost two litres more than that claimed in ADR testing, but given the size of the vehicle and the performance on hand, I think you'll agree the balance is very acceptable.
The steering too is delightfully well balanced and very precise with a near perfect level of feedback, but the driving experience isn't all this car is about for inside the 740i lies a wealth of technological achievement and just about every modern convenience available.
Standard options including cruise control, power windows and mirrors, electrically operated seats, self-dimming mirror, electric tilt and slide sunroof, six-stack CD tuner with TV reception, satellite navigation, dusk sensing bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, four-zone climate control and heated leather trim the 740i certainly offers enough standard kit, but in case that's not enough, a vast amount of 'at cost' kit is also available - even if it is quite expensive.
This particular vehicle, as an example, had some $14,250 worth of extras - or roughly a Holden Barina - on top of the $203,000 asking price. Thankfully should the price cause you to have a panic attack during your test drive the 740i also offers a full packet of airbags, ESC, Traction Control, ABS with CBC, EBA & EBD that afford the 7 Series top safety points as well.
In all the 7 Series is an absolutely lovely car to drive, and is with the few exceptions I've noted incredibly hard to fault. However, given that this is more likely a car in which you're driven, rather than one you drive, I'm not sure it has quite hit the mark.
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