From £63,240
Does this 7 Series have that all-important sense of occasion its predecessors lacked?

Our Verdict

BMW 7 Series

New-generation luxury saloon is a technological tour de force, but competing luxury saloons like the Mercedes S-Class and Tesla Model S have set a high bar

Andrew Frankel Autocar
1 October 2018

Why we’re running it: To find out if BMW has finally created a credible alternative to the Merc S-Class

Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a BMW 740LD: Month 2

To Durham, south Ireland and Cornwall, not that you’d notice - 22nd August 2018

It seems odd to be starting this with a line or two about a Mercedes-Benz but a letter from a reader explaining why he gave up on 30 years of three-pointed star ownership to try his luck with a 740d is fascinating.

To quote David Bridge directly: “I decided to look elsewhere for my main car as I don’t like the absence of a ‘traditional’ grille and bonnet star in the versions of the E-Class now offered in the UK.” He then discovered he could buy a 7 Series “for not much more than a well-specified E-Class.”

In the end, after ringing only two dealers, he secured an unregistered 740d that had sat around for a few months for less than £60,000, which should take a lot of the pain out of the first-year depreciation. And he is delighted with it for all the same reasons I am, so much so that when his many and various other cars come up for renewal, it’ll be to BMW that he turns first. And all because of a grille…

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Anyway, ‘my’ 740Ld has been hard at work and, so far, the only note it has dropped belongs to Napster. BMW has an arrangement with the online music giant so that if you have an account, which I do, it should be as easy to use as any one of the other multitudinous entertainment options it places at your disposal.

And often it is: because we live in the middle of nowhere and I have therefore raised a brace of country bumpkins, I can challenge either daughter to name any song ever recorded and, at least eight times out of 10, have it playing within seconds of speaking its name into the BMW’s voice recognition system. But sometimes it just doesn’t work, even when there’s perfect reception. At others, it works so well that when you try to play, say, songs from your iPod, it won’t let you.

In the meantime and it being the holidays, said daughters have been running me ragged, or they would have done were it not for the range, comfort and refinement of Big Seven.

One required collecting from uni in Durham and appeared to have decided to bring most of the city with her. The other rather inconsiderately got selected to row for the Welsh junior team at a regatta in, you guessed it, Cork. Having recovered from that, she then required depositing with some mates at a music festival, which just had to be in Cornwall.

And the most telling thing I can report about these journeys – apart from the traffic in southeast Ireland being never less than horrid while we were there – is that I remember blissfully little about all of them. Because if you’re just sitting there crunching miles and have cause to remember something, it’s rarely for a good reason.

I’d not say the car has amazed me in any particular way, save its range and fuel consumption, but the overall standard it now sets means it really can’t be compared with its previous generations and the positions they occupied relative to rivals at the time.

They were perennial also-rans, but this is super-competitive against the best in the world, as David Bridge is also currently finding.

Love it:

CLEAR INSTRUMENTS BMW still does the best dials and, thanks to the TFT screen, it can project three different sets depending on the drive mode.

Loathe it:

AROMA DISPENSER Does anyone actually ever wake wishing their car had a different smell? Not anyone I’ve met. Good for surprising your kids. That’s it.

Mileage: 3782

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It’ll be all white on the night - 1st August 2018

I’m not convinced by our 740Ld’s white interior. I think I must be oversensitive to this because my wife and children, who are far more fashion-conscious and have much better taste than I do, think it looks fine. I don’t. The spec of our car was determined by BMW itself but, given the choice, I’d choose dark grey or black every time.

Mileage: 3116

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The 7 Series is proving to be a worthy ambassador for both BMW and diesel fuel - 25th July 2018

Part of the reason the idea of running the 740Ld appealed was because I absolutely believe there remains a place for diesel-powered cars in the marketplace and I thought the flagship BMW would make the point rather nicely. But I could scarcely have imagined how right, for once, I would turn out to be.

But let’s first examine exactly what we have here, which is a car that, in basic form, weighs 10kg less than two tonnes. With all the equipment that’s been shovelled into this one, I’d expect its actual mass would be closer to 2.2 tonnes. It’s powered by a 3.0-litre engine pushing out over 100bhp per litre – 316bhp to be precise – and just a fraction more than 500lb ft.

All this is enough to accelerate this colossus to 62mph in 5.4sec; if you wanted to accelerate that fast when I first got into the business, you’d need not just a Ferrari but the flagship model at that. So how much fuel would it use? To help me guess, I looked back at some of the old long-termers to pass this way, not least because some also had 3.0-litre diesel motors and all were driven in approximately the same way on the same roads.

First came the Audi A6 Allroad I ran five years ago. It had a little less power and torque than the 740Ld and was around 90kg lighter, and it did 38.8mpg in my hands, which I considered “impressively economical”.

Then came the Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI Shooting Brake I had in 2014. It weighed the same as the Audi but had a lot less power and torque. Yet it did just 38.9mpg.

And then, of course, there was the old 730Ld, the previous model that I’d run on the Autocar fleet back in 2010. It was nowhere compared with this 740Ld in terms of either power or torque, but it was a substantial 125kg lighter. Its fuel consumption during my time with it was 35.8mpg.

So what would you think the new 740Ld would do with all that extra power, torque and weight? I bet you’d not think it would be over 10mpg better than the old 730Ld and neither did I. But it is: 46.3mpg over the first 2500 miles of its time with me. And no, that’s not taken from the trip computer, but calculated from miles covered and litres added and averaged out over every tankful. Not that there have been many of those.

Another thing I absolutely love about this car is its range. I consider a family car that can’t cover 400 miles between fills as not fit for purpose in this regard. I think 500 is pretty good and 600 exceptional. But the 740Ld managed to put more than 800 miles under its wheels between its first and second fills in my hands, which I regard as little less than staggering.

Indeed, the only thing that annoys me is that despite the car’s phenomenal frugality, the computer still elects to lie to me how much diesel it’s consumed – which, if you allowed yourself to be taken in by it, you’d think was better than 50mpg. It’s good, but it’s not that good. I don’t believe BMW is unable to measure more accurately, so this irritating optimism seems to me to be engineered in.

True, there are many other manufacturers that are no better, but to me that’s no excuse. Otherwise, life with the big BMW is proving as easy and relaxing as any real customer would hope and expect. It is such a capable luxury car that you’d think BMW had been building them like this for years when, in fact, this is the very first 7 Series that deserves to be considered a proper and serious rival for the Mercedes S-Class.

And I’m not alone in thinking that, as a letter from a reader who’s just bought a 740Ld after a series of big Benzs makes clear. More from him next time.

Love it:

FUEL CONSUMPTION Show me a big hybrid that’ll do over 45mpg on a long run and I’ll start to think that diesel has run its course. Until then, it should have a future.

Loathe it:

GESTURE CONTROL I use it all the time but you can’t be very accurate with the volume control and it doesn’t always give you the next track when asked.

Mileage: 2556

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Life with a BMW 740LD: Month 1

Using a limousine for luggage - 4th July 2018

Drove the 740Ld to Durham to collect my daughter from uni and briefly thought the only way I’d get her clobber in was to load the boot, back and front passenger seats and put her on the train. It had to be re-packed twice but, in the end, it all went in, including the daughter. Had it been the standard-wheelbase model, I doubt we’d have done it.

Mileage: 2201

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Welcoming the 740D to our fleet – 27th June 2018

This is not the first time I’ve run a BMW 7 Series on this magazine’s longterm fleet. Nine years ago, I had an early example of the previous generation and, after 12 months at its helm, concluded thus:

“It failed substantially to endear itself to me. It is a car to admire and respect as a machine tool for doing a specific job very well. What it lacks is that sense of occasion that has kept the S-Class Merc on top of successive generations of Sevens for a period measurable in decades.” ’Twas ever thus for BMW’s biggest saloon.

So why repeat the process, especially given the fact that when the test team recently compared the new 7 Series with the latest S-Class and the new Audi A8, the BMW came last?

Nine years ago and flawed as it was, I’d have backed the old Seven at least to be able to put one over an A8. But there were several reasons for this extended test.

First, because it was the narrowest of decisions; second, because testing cars for a day or two is not the same as living with them for a month or six; and, third, because when I first drove this new 7 Series, I liked it more than any of the previous five generations I’d tried.

Most obviously, the single greatest failing of all 7 Series BMWs to date – ride quality – has been eradicated. Make it default to its Comfort Plus setting and the Seven rides ridiculously, almost Rolls-Royce, well.

But there’s something else too: one of the reasons the S-Class has always been the greatest mass-produced luxury car is that as megabytes of data became gigabytes and terabytes, Benz always found a way to ensure it never subjected you to information overload, while BMW took the contrary view, far too happy to blind you with the science. While the resulting complex information interface might have looked impressive, it got in the way. Yet this Seven is far simpler to operate and understand than the last despite the fact that, in data processing terms, the previous Seven is an abacus by comparison.

There’s another purpose to be served here too: I deliberately opted for a high-powered diesel because, in among all the grandstanding from politicians and newspaper editors alike, there lurks within me a more than sneaking suspicion. That for certain people who live their lives a certain way, diesel is so spectacularly preferable to any other source of power provision that even to contemplate its demise is to contemplate a move that seems stupid at best, at worst closer to insane.

Beyond the engine, I had no say in the specification of a car that belongs to BMW and which it will have to sell to someone else once I’m done with it. The people responsible said they wanted a car that had a decent number of useful extras without giving it ‘the full Christmas tree’ but, where I come from, a car whose every seat provides an extensive massage menu, which has rear seat televisions, one of the best sound systems I’ve ever heard in a car (despite it not being BMW’s top-of-the-range system) and which will park itself while you stand outside seems pretty lavishly specified to me.

Combined with many other items detailed below, this is enough to push the price of a car costing £85,255 well into six digits, which is a scary amount to spend on a large saloon, particularly given the well-documented initial depreciation suffered by all such cars.

But all that’s for another time. For now I just need to get used to it, a process helped by it being handed over to me by Sukh Bhamra, BMW GB’s product manager for large cars. It was he who told me, for instance, the difference between the £2420 Driving Assistance Plus package and the £2450 Executive Drive Pro system, which sound to me like they could be one and the same.

Not so: Driving Assistance Plus provides an additional suite of safety systems including active cruise control and traffic jam assistant, which allows the car to drive all but autonomously at low speeds. By contrast, Executive Drive Pro comprises active anti-roll bars that are all but disengaged in a straight line but stiffen not just as the car corners but in anticipation, using data from the satnav and windscreen-mounted road-reading cameras. Yes, really.

The Seven also has Integral Active Steering, which not only varies the steering ratio according to speed but also turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to those at the front at low speed to effectively shorten the wheelbase, and in the same direction at high speed to help promote stability.

So it’s clear from the out that this is an immensely clever car, and early impressions are of an implausible blend of towering performance and unfeasible economy all wrapped up in the most comfortable, best riding BMW ever created.

Over the months to come, we’ll see whether these are novelties that will wear off over time, or if BMW has finally provided an utterly credible and genuinely enticing alternative to what has always been the greatest luxury car in the world.

Second Opinion

The group test referred to above was lost by the BMW because, in M Sport spec, it doesn’t quite offer the ride isolation and pillowy absorption of either of its German rivals. It’d be interesting to find out whether this car, or a Jaguar XJ, had more driver appeal, though. I suspect these days it might.

Matt Saunders

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BMW 740LD Xdrive M Sport specification

Specs: Price New £83,255 Price as tested: £105,875 Options: Advanced Parking package £1100, Premium pack £2100, Rear Seat Comfort package £4815, 20in M double-spoke alloy wheels £1200, M Sport braking system £355, Integral Active Steering £1195, Executive Drive Pro £2450, Sky Lounge panoramic glass sunroof £1695, ceramic controls finish £450, Driving Assistant Plus £2420, front seat ventilation £985, through-load facility £125, adaptive LED headlights £1360, head-up display £1150, Apple CarPlay preparation £235, online entertainment £160, Anthracite Alcantara headlining £825

Test Data: Engine Straight-six, 2993cc, turbocharged, diesel Power 316bhp at 4000rpm Torque 501lb ft at 1750rpm Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.3sec Claimed fuel economy 54.3mpg Test fuel economy 50.2mpg CO2 163g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Join the debate

Comments
28

3 August 2018

 Why Cram Leather?, I know you didn’t spec the a Car but cream Leather shows every blemish it can look really grubby very quickly,ok, if gives a sense of space,but who is fooled by that?

Peter Cavellini.

3 August 2018
Peter Cavellini wrote:

 Why Cram Leather?, I know you didn’t spec the a Car but cream Leather shows every blemish it can look really grubby very quickly,ok, if gives a sense of space,but who is fooled by that?

There are leather cleaners one can purchase. If you’re worried about a beautiful light interior getting dirty, use elbow grease once a fortnight, or buy a Dacia Duster. Life is too dull otherwise.

3 October 2018
There are things that you guys don't know about and you need to go to company here. It will help you to know what is going on in reality.

5 August 2018
Love the abundant toys and gangster style. And the cream interior with touch screen for the rear(!) passengers is PIMPIN'!!!

Shame about the engine but it can be had with ripping turbo V8s or even a mighty twin turbo V12. Yep, that's quite a car.

3 August 2018

Whatever its technical merits,  IMHO this particular car looks terribly dull in black with dark wheels and no brightwork around the DLO.  It's a matter of personal taste, of course,  but I think it looks nondescript, like a giant 3-Series.

3 August 2018
Daniel Joseph wrote:

Whatever its technical merits,  IMHO this particular car looks terribly dull in black with dark wheels and no brightwork around the DLO.  It's a matter of personal taste, of course,  but I think it looks nondescript, like a giant 3-Series.

 

So true, why should a large saloon get dechromed window trims and pretend to be a sports car?

3 August 2018

So true, that dash with a few new trim surrounds could have come straight of a 1 series. Hopefully the interface screen can drop into the dashboard like an A3 otherwise it just looks like a stuck on tablet

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

FMS

3 August 2018
xxxx wrote:

So true, that dash with a few new trim surrounds could have come straight of a 1 series. Hopefully the interface screen can drop into the dashboard like an A3 otherwise it just looks like a stuck on tablet

 

What car have you bought with your own money, that is and must be for you, faultless and so much better than this car with as you put it "that dash with a few trim surrounds could have come straight of a 1 series"?...your usual terribly mangled english, no punctuation, missing words and all that following your baseless, inept, irrelevant ramblings. TWIT

 

xxxx=zzzz

21 August 2018
FMS wrote:

xxxx wrote:

So true, that dash with a few new trim surrounds could have come straight of a 1 series. Hopefully the interface screen can drop into the dashboard like an A3 otherwise it just looks like a stuck on tablet

 

What car have you bought with your own money, that is and must be for you, faultless and so much better than this car with as you put it "that dash with a few trim surrounds could have come straight of a 1 series"?...your usual terribly mangled english, no punctuation, missing words and all that following your baseless, inept, irrelevant ramblings. TWIT

xxxx=zzzz

"?...your usual terribly mangled english, no punctuation" - No punctuation, that's to compensate for your punctuation overuse.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

3 August 2018

I was lucky enough to have a 740e on loan for about 10 days a while back.... Let me add my thoughts!  If you ride in the back, I think the S class cannot be beaten.  If you like to drive, then the 7 series is a great car and worth thinking about.  The hybrid manufracturer "let's make Hybrid's so that everyone knows we care about the environment" is a flawed approach.  The 740e in the real world gives poor performance, poor MPG, a lot of disappointing noise when you accelerate hard and just needs a decent sized engine!  So the 740d would be an ideal choice.  Love the technology but really, do you need 5 ways of changing your media track?  (Steering wheel, buttons on the stereo facia, touchscreen, voice activation and gesture control)!!!!  Gesture control is a great feature in the showroom to show off and is great for a couple of days, then you realise that buttons are far quicker, safer and more reliable.  A great car, and Personally I liked the looks, bit more aggresive with the sport option, but the S class is best overall but a bit common and when you don't want to apply yourself to thinking about a drivers car or are not really "into" cars, The A8 is excellent all round but is Audi still really thought of as an ultimate premium brand (I think it should be but hey, just putting it out there) and the 7 series is the more sporty and driver thought machine.....  So you pay's your money (or your company does) and takes your choice.  Great depreciation bargain though in a few years!!

 

 

Brookers.

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