What is it?
A BMW 7 Series, here in the grandiose specification of 740Ld xDrive. That collection of numbers and letters means it’s a twin-turbo version of the 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine (hence 740, rather than 730), in long-wheelbase format (Ld, as opposed to just ‘d’) and with power going to all four wheels (xDrive).
But while you might think that puts it near the top of the 7 Series tree, there are in fact three other models (750i, 750d and M760Li) which all surpass it. However, that doesn’t hide the fact that our test car, from a starting price of £76,000, was optioned up beyond £100,000 – making this a bona fide high-powered business executive machine.
Why are you driving it?
Because the 740d was not one of the models at the BMW’s 2015 launch, instead following the 730d and 750i into showrooms. It’s designed to be more powerful and plush than the tax-favouring 730d, but not quite as insanely quick as the quad-turbo (yes, four) 750d, which isn’t confirmed for the UK as yet.
But, given there’s a deeply impressive hybrid model called the 740e in existence, is it really worth offering three different diesel variants, all of which use the same 3.0-litre engine as a basis? We guess what we’re trying to say is that the 740Ld could suffer from ‘middle-child syndrome’ as a result.
What do you like about it?
Like any version of the current generation of 7 Series, the 740Ld xDrive is a magnificent car. It is packed to the rafters with the most advanced automotive technology, two of the main show-stoppers being the Gesture Control in the cabin – with which you can alter the volume on the media, answer or reject incoming phone calls, and adjust the views provided by the car’s 360-degree vision external bank of cameras, all by waving your hand underneath the rear-view mirror – or you can even make it slide into and out of tight parking spaces… without even being onboard.
Remote Control Parking uses the Seven’s fancy key to manoeuvre the BMW at low speeds in car parks (or into a narrow garage at home) via simple graphics on the key’s screen. It’s eerie to watch £100,000-worth of metal moving around without anyone being within the cabin.
Other than these technological feats, of course, it’s still a supreme limousine. It has fabulous handling, an unbelievably supple ride on its all-corners air suspension and the drivetrain is a peach, bestowing near-supercar pace on this diesel four-door in all situations. The addition of xDrive also makes it sure-footed no matter what the weather, so by any rational measure the dynamics are pretty much beyond reproach.
We’re not 100% convinced by the exterior styling of the long-wheelbase Seven, preferring the short-wheelbase’s aesthetic in profile. All the additional 140mm of metal that goes into the Ld is added between the wheels, as the idea is to increase the legroom for rear passengers – this is a move targeted at countries like China, where powerful people prefer to be driven rather than to drive themselves.
It’s a fine idea in principle but it does leave the car looking a bit bloated in the midriff as a result, and it’s not as if the ‘regular’ 7 Series is cramped in the back. Furthermore, as impressive as the 740Ld xDrive we tested was, £100,000+ for a diesel BMW saloon seems extortionate – especially as this size of car is particularly prone to depreciation, meaning there’s the potential to lose a lot of money if you do decide to buy one.
What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?
Considering its power and torque, the on-paper economy and CO2 emissions figures make it a surprisingly cheap car to keep, whether you’re running it as a personal set of wheels or a company car. Fuel consumption of 54.3mpg used to be the exclusive preserve of tiny-engined superminis, never mind two-tonne, 5.2-metre long luxury cars with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, so the concomitant 137g/km CO2 figure places the BMW in lowly VED (Band E) and BIK (27 per cent) brackets.
Changes to the road tax law due to come into effect in April, however, mean you should buy one now if you’re interested – you’ll pay £650 in total for five years’ worth of road tax if you register the car before April 1, compared to £1,960 after April 1. That’s a huge hike.
Where does it rank in class right now?
The 7 Series as a whole is the best car of its type at the moment and that is some accolade, because it is up against one of the most crushingly brilliant machines in automotive history: the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which has long been considered the go-to vehicle in this rarefied market segment.
However, the BMW’s blend of agile driving dynamics and unparalleled luxury – both in terms of the cosseting equipment fitted in the cabin, and the elegant way it rides on its air suspension – make it our preferred choice.
However, as fantastic as the 740Ld is, there are better models to choose from elsewhere in the line-up. The 740e plug-in hybrid model offers far greater tax incentives to business users, but more pertinently the 730d model, with its solitary turbocharger, gets the job done almost 99 per cent as well as the 740Ld, only for significantly less cash. So while we love this big Bavarian barge, we wouldn’t particularly recommend the 740Ld xDrive as being the sensible choice for the BMW buyer.
- Model: BMW 740Ld xDrive
- Price: 7 Series range starts from £63,530; 740Ld xDrive from £76,010, car as tested £100,130
- Drivetrain: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder diesel, eight-speed Sport automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
- Economy: 54.3mpg
- CO2 emissions: 137g/km – £130 VED annually, if registered before April 1, 2017/£160 first 12 months, £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter, if registered post-April 1, 2017; 27% benefit in kind
- Top speed: 155mph (limited)
- 0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
- Power: 320hp at 4,000rpm
- Torque: 680Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm