2009 BMW 730d Review & Road Test
Good things come in sevens
By Karl Peskett
There was an interesting attempt at salving someone's conscience recently. You see, a Rolls Royce Phantom was spotted running around New York sporting a set of new additions.
Now when you think about the environment, a Phantom isn't exactly the pin-up hero car that will save the planet. Yet, to appease the dreadlocked, egg throwing, green movement we sometimes come up against, the driver of this particular Phantom had a set of "Hybrid" stickers made.
I know it's a fake because a Rolls Royce spokesperson from Singapore assured me the decals were not real. But if you are a luxury car driver, there is a way to not feel so bad about traipsing your car around with the massive CO2 output we've come to know from the large, luxury segment.
BMW has set out to change the "have big car, use big fuel" mindset that's around, with its brilliant new 730d. However, taking a six-cylinder, 3.0-litre oil-burner and slotting it into a flagship model may not seem like the best idea.
I mean, that's like taking a pair of Piloti driving shoes and whacking wooden soles on them, isn't it?
Well, no. With advances in common-rail direct injection technology, this engine is so quiet, it would be a shame for the 7 Series to miss out on it. It really is one of the sweetest diesel engines on sale today.
I'm a huge fan of diesel, I really am, and with engines like that in the Volkswagen R50 going around, I didn't think you could go much better, but not only is this quieter, it's smoother, too.
If you've ever thought about Audi/VW's 3.0-litre TDI V6 being the best diesel on offer, think again. The 3.0-litre straight six in the Beemer sounds better and comes on song sooner, too.
Putting the boot in at around 1500rpm sees a little lag, but the torque starts swelling from 1800rpm. It keeps building until its crescendo at just under 4000rpm where it starts to peter off, but until then it hauls the big beast along with very little effort.
You can ease your conscience, too, with the big 7 Series bringing the CO2 emissions down to just 192g/km, which is better than just about every car in this segment - including some hybrids (Rolls Royce Phantoms are not counted).
What is strange is the automatic calibration in the different driving modes.
Comfort is a relaxed, early shifting program with soft damping. Normal is the default setting with, um, normal damping and gear changes. Sport and Sport+ have more aggresive changes, with stiff damping and earlier kickdown (Sport+ backs off the stability control a bit).
The problem comes with how long the auto holds onto the gears. While accelerating in Comfort mode, it shifts up often and early, to conserve fuel and not over rev. In contrast, Sport tends to kick down quickly (a good thing) but lets it rev all the way to the redline, and hangs on before it changes (a bad thing).
That may be fine in petrol engine models, which have instant throttle response, but when you've got the inherent turbo lag in a diesel (no matter how good it is), then it needs to change earlier, keeping it on boost.
The solution would be to leave the auto calibration in Comfort mode for all suspension settings - just change how far you put the boot in to control the acceleration.
That said, most owners will probably leave it in Normal and be done with it. If they do, you couldn't have a happier driver.
Matt Brogan said in his review of the 740i that this is the kind of car you'd be driven in. I disagree, and most BMW owners I've spoken to proudly boast of the fact that they are car fanatics, and have gone for the only German manufacturer to truly give a rewarding drive. Well, in this case, they will have made the right choice.
The involvement is typical BMW, with good weight and excellent feel through the steering rack. You know exactly what your run flat tyres are up to, and the road holding for a 5.1m long, 1900kg luxo-barge is brilliant.
The ride is also quite good, especially in Comfort mode, although those run-flats still lack the minute initial flex of regular tyres, meaning a very slight jiggle every now and then.
Still, it means no spare, which means the boot space is better than it would have been with a full-sized spare wheel, although it is deep but not overly tall.
The space all round is quite good, but I do agree with Matt's assessment that rear seat passengers do suffer with the front seats all the way back.
For what's supposed to be BMW's biggest car, that's an unforgivable sin. Really, you may as well just up-spec a 5 Series, and you'd be just as happy.
The difference in the 7 Series is all the toys come with the car. For example, it's a no cost option for metallic paint, to change the leather is also free, you can have your choice of wood grains, and the sunroof is thrown in.
Add to that the soft close automatic doors, an electrically operated boot (both opening and closing), the world's clearest LCD screen, digital TV, reversing camera with distance markers, four zone climate control and other goodies, and you'd be hard pressed to say the 730d isn't well equipped.
The best part, though, is the fuel usage. With 7.2-litres for every 100km travelled, you can see that this car sips like a bird.
However, that doesn't mean it's slow, and it matches its fuel use with the same figure, in seconds, for its 0-100km/h time. So it's a 7 Series that uses fuel around seven-something and accelerates to 100 in seven-something.
See? Good things do come in sevens.
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