The new BMW 7-Series remains the choice for driver-focused luxury sedans and the 730d might be the smartest choice in the range.
The 2016 BMW 730d is something of an anomaly in the luxury limousine segment – in fact any diesel-powered sedan is when you get right down to it. Not so long ago, the words ‘diesel’ and ‘refinement’ were hardly ever used in the same sentence, but such is the rate of development, and buyers of luxury sedans are starting to opt for diesel power in record numbers.
The BMW 730d might very well be right at the top of that refinement list too. Gone are the days of stinky, clattery, smoke-chugging oilers, replaced instead by quiet, smooth, powerful and fuel-efficient platforms that work just as well in the high-end limo segment as they do under the bonnet of a workhorse. BMW might not offer a dual-cab ute (yet) but you can just imagine how refined it would be if it was powered by an effortless big diesel engine like the one that powers the 730d.
Paul recently tested the 750i and 750Li variants in addition to spending time behind the wheel of the 730d. He reckons the efficiency of the 730d makes it a winner for anyone who needs to cover distance regularly, and that would include hire car drivers. There’s a lot to like about a powerful V8 petrol engine, but the diesel’s efficiency is hard to beat.
Read more on our 7 Series pricing and specification story here.
Read more from our 7 Series international launch review.
Read more from our 7 Series Australian launch review.
So, what’s it cost? Fair question. Our 730d test vehicle doesn’t come cheap, but technological flagships rarely do. List pricing starts from $217,500 plus the usual on-road costs, meaning you need to have fairly deep pockets to play at this end of the large-sedan spectrum.
Added to that entry pricing for our test model are the following – not inexpensive – options: BMW Laserlight ($5100), ceramic control surrounds ($1100), climate comfort laminated glass ($2100), Executive Drive Pro ($5500), massage function for driver and front passenger ($2000), tyre pressure monitor ($700), and TV function ($2800). That brings the starting price to a grand total of $236,800 plus on-road costs.
Now, you could argue the toss about anything being an option at this end of the pricing spectrum, but consider this: affording buyers the option means those who don’t want all that functionality can get into a 7 Series at the base price, whereas if BMW offered all this gear as standard from the factory, it would push up its manufacturing costs and that would be reflected in a higher RRP for the 730d. I’m the last person to argue the case for manufacturers and the price of their options, but in this instance at least, it seems to make a little sense.
There’s a raft of standard feature highlights including, but not limited to: adaptive LED headlights, ambient lighting with mood lighting, BMW display key, gesture control, Real Time Traffic Information, comfort seats for driver and passenger, electric glass sunroof, Harman Kardon surround sound, Navigation System Professional, surround view and voice control.
You could argue that some of these features sound better than they actually are in the real world, with gesture control being one I’d highlight as a little naff. It works, but sitting at the lights, gesticulating little reverse circles in the general direction of the audio system to drop the audio volume, doesn't seem any more sensible to me than simply adjusting the volume in a conventional sense. Rotary dial? Steering wheel-mounted button? Either works for us.
The BMW display key is the current standard-setter for café table wankery, and will ensure your tech-savvy friends go into wild raptures of jealousy. It actually works too, and displays some useful information, but do you really need another device that requires charging? I certainly don’t, but unlike some CarAdvice employees, I don’t even wear an Apple watch.
The key does actually display some genuinely useful information too via its easily-read LCD screen. It lets you know whether you’ve locked the 7 Series or not, how much fuel range you have remaining, and it also allows you to set the ventilation system to pre cool or heat the cabin before you settle in. Charging the key is as simple as plugging it into the console-mounted cable, but you’ll need to remember to do that of course. Let the battery run flat, and it reverts to a conventional key, only locking and unlocking the car.
Backed by an exceptional eight-speed automatic, the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine generates 195kW and 620Nm, while consuming an ADR-claimed 4.9L/100km. Negotiating largely stop/start traffic, we saw an indicated return of 9.0L/100km during our testing. A solid highway run would obviously drop that number right down, much closer to the claim but we didn't leave the city confines for long. A 0-100km/h dash in 6.1 seconds shows just what the diesel engine is capable of when you bury the right pedal.
We’ve documented the luxurious confines of the 7 Series’ interior before, so we won’t bore you with the details again here. Suffice it to say, the back seat is the place to be, ensconced in comfort and plush luxury. You can easily imagine being chauffeured around in the second row of the 7 Series even if most Australian buyers would opt to drive themselves around.
The comfort of the passenger’s seats mask the 7 Series’ most potent weapon – it’s genuinely engaging to drive. Before you get comfortable in the driver’s seat, you’d never believe a heavyweight luxury sedan of this scale would ever be as much fun to drive as this 7 Series proves to be in the real world. The 7 Series is very much the driver’s car. Every input and resultant feedback is sharp and precise, and the handling ability is well beyond what you’d expect, despite the comfortable ride and the outright performance. You’re hardly going to be driving like an F1 pilot with passengers on board, but the 7 Series delivers on the core BMW promise of driver-focused dynamics.
Suspension that effectively reads the road ahead ensures you get the very best possible balance between ride compliance and handling based on the speed you’re doing. Despite its ability to handle when pushed toward its limits, the 7 Series manages to insulate passengers beautifully from the road surface below, no matter how poor it is.
The engine and gearbox combination is near flawless for this style of platform. Almost silent at any speed, it urges the big sedan along with a sense of unruffled ease, regardless of how hard you’re leaning on it. The eight-speed’s ratios are beautifully spaced, such that the engine never needs to work hard for any given task. Roll-on overtaking is dispatched with ridiculous ease, right up to freeway speeds, at which point the 730d will simply cruise along in muted elegance.
Ownership is an interesting perspective, depending on how you look at it. Sure, the 7 Series is no bargain basement cruiser, but the first three years of servicing are free. You don’t even need to think about its service intervals either, because the 7 Series will tell you when it needs the work done. BMW also includes free roadside assistance for the first three years.
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