The stretched BMW 7 Series sedan is a very much a niche buy, but its stately ride and extravagant cabin provides plenty of appeal for well-heeled drivers and their passengers. But, limousine services aside, does it still make sense to choose a big luxury sedan over a premium SUV for the daily drive? David Bonnici donned the chauffer hat to find out.
David is the empty nester of the WhichCar team, and while his kids are now old enough to drive themselves he still prefers to look at cars for their practicality and comfort, but is more than happy for performance to create a perfect-world trifecta.
WHAT IS IT?
The BMW 740Li is a stretched version of the German car-maker’s large luxury sedan, with a 3.26m wheelbase that’s 140mm longer than the standard car. The 'short' version isn't exactly lacking for space.
The 2019 7 Series has been extensively updated, receiving an all-new look dominated by the bigger-and-bolder ‘kidney grille’; refreshed interior, and the latest infotainment and driver assistance technology.
As well as a myriad of standard features, our test car was also equipped with a no-cost optional M Sport Package which includes 20-inch M light alloy wheels, M Aerodynamics Package, and aesthetic highlights. Extra-cost features included Comfort Seats rear ($6500), quilted leather ($500), M Sport brakes ($800) and Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint ($2400) which took the $229,900 base-retail price to $236,400.
The BMW 740Li’s paddock-like bonnet shelters a 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol engine that’s coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE
This is a car that’s very much about passenger comfort, but the driver is well looked after with multi-adjustable Nappa leather front seats that can be manipulated to feel like they’ve been moulded to fit your body.
The spacious cabin is virtually identical to the gargantuan X7 SUV, which has received glowing praise for its comfort, ergonomics and aesthetics. All buttons and controllers are well placed, and there’s voice command to help you quickly access certain functions without having to cycle through touchscreen menus.
Displays are fully digital, with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a large 10.3-inch Control Display that includes media, navigation and vehicle settings. There’s also a head-up display that shows speed and active cruise control status and, with the push of a steering wheel button, the current track being played through the magnificent Harman/Kardon 16-speaker surround sound system.
Other creature comforts include front-seat, armrest and steering wheel heating, front-seat cooling, four-zone climate control air-conditioning, ambient ionized air with up to eight different scents, and ambient internal lighting with six light-design options.
All this made for a very pleasant experience in the driver’s seat before I even started the engine.
Press the start button and the turbo six-cylinder engine purrs into life doing little to intrude on the cabin ambience – BMW has further improved the 7 Series’ noise levels by with additional sound-insulation throughout the chassis, thicker 5.1mm glass, which only lets the engine noise cut through with a reassuring growl when you stomp the foot down.
But don’t let the silence fool you. The big straight-six can propel the 740Li’s 1.7-tonne mass from 0-100kmh in just 5.6 seconds. It’s great to have such potent performance up your sleeve, but I never felt compelled to use it. Instead, I found myself wanting to drive the big sedan to its luxurious strengths, expressing my inner chauffer with smooth pedal inputs and feeling incredibly relaxed in the process.
That Zen was aided by the silky smooth transmission, adaptive suspension that ironed out most road imperfections, even on the wide 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tyres, BMW’s precise adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, which is also effective in bumper to bumper traffic.
With 5.26 metres between number plates, parking the 740Li can be a challenge. It overhangs some supermarket parking spots and is even longer than my inner-city single-fronted house is wide. But there are plenty of tools to help negotiate your way in and out of tight spots, including: the surround-view camera display; Reversing Assistant, which steers you back out of tight spaces; and even Remote Parking that lets you control the car with your phone so you can manoeuvre it in and out of tight spaces without having to squeeze through the door.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH
The beauty of the 740Li is that it spoils the passengers as much as the driver. I spent the weekend alone up front with my wife opting for the plush rear seats – it was quite a sight when she got out of her chauffer driven BMW in the ALDI carpark with shopping bags in hand.
You couldn’t blame her though. The sofa-like rear seats have enough legroom to fit a suitcase between your knees and the front backrest, with the $6500 Comfort Seat package adding electrical adjustability to the 42.4-degree reclining backrest and the soft, velvety Alcantara headrests
The seats can be controlled via analogue buttons or a tablet screen mounted in the centre armrest that also controls the entertainment system – this can be removed so you can still use it should you have to flip the centre console up to accommodate a middle passenger.
There are also buttons on door armrests to operate the panoramic sunroof and power-operated rear-door and back window sunshades.
While it’s a huge car, it’s at its best as a four seater, but a fifth person in place of the centre armrest will be comfortable enough, particularly when it comes to leg and shoulder room.
The doors open wide for elegant entry and egress, and the powered boot lid opens to a 515-litre boot space that will hold four suitcases.
The 740Li’s exterior exudes bold sophistication thanks to daring styling touches, M Sport Package and enlarged kidney grille. The new grille treatment is proving decisive among the BMW faithful, but I reckon it enhances its flagship sedan’s presence.
If you can afford the 740Li you’re probably not too worried about fuel prices, though limousine operators would be pleased to know it has a relatively modest official combined fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km. In the week I drove I averaged about 10.5L/100km, though the bulk of this was city driving.
The BMW 7 Series comes with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY?
This is a lot of car and so it should be for $229,000 before options, and on-road costs of which $55,215 is made up of GST and Luxury Car Tax. Just $700 separates it from its main long-wheelbase luxury rival, the Mercedes-Benz S450 L ($230,600) and you’ll get about $10,000 change by opting for the Audi A8 L 55 quattro ($210,000).
All are similarly powered and equipped, and offer the same levels of comfort and prestige, so if your preference is for the BMW badge the decision is a simple one.
It’s only when you enter the BMW showroom that you might end up having second thoughts, with the striking 3.0-litre turbodiesel powered X7 30d SUV (which is essentially a high-riding 7 Series) priced from just $119,000. Spec it up with the M-Sport pack and other options to bring it closer to the 740Li’s standard kit and it will cost about $143,050, which brings a hell of a lot of metal, glass and leather and enough change to buy a BMW 330i sedan with options.
PROS: Cabin space and comfort; technology; interior fit and finish; gutsy twin-turbo six-cylinder engine
CONS: Awkward in car parks; cost compared to premium SUVs
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