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
11 January 2019

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

Month 5Month 4Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a BMW 740Ld: Month 5

Driving the 7er as was not intended - 5th December 2018

Drove the 740Ld to the Bedford Autodrome to do another job. But the devil took me and I did a lap with all the electronics turned off. I can confirm that on a slippery surface, this LWB, all-wheel-drive diesel limo will do the most implausibly splendid drifts. Sadly, no one photographed it, so here’s one I took of it looking all innocent in the pits.

Mileage: 8772

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Life with a BMW 740Ld: Month 4

Now the honeymoon period is over, it’s time to answer some searching questions - 14th November 2018

"It is the only car in which it is possible to apply liquid eye-liner.” As measures of a car’s ride quality go, it was a somewhat left-field contribution, but this prescient observation from my 16-year-old daughter was no less valid for that.

For I guess the single biggest question mark that has been hanging over this BMW 740Ld as the months have passed is whether it really does have what it takes to cut it as a true luxury car. It seemed on first acquaintance to buck the trend of all those also-ran 7 Series that preceded it, but could that initial feeling of well-being it imparted be maintained once the novelty had worn off and familiarity set in?

In the main the answer is yes. But sometimes its looks and interior architecture make the 740Ld feel like a long-wheelbase 5 Series, and although the Five is also at or near the top of its class game, there are times when I wish the Seven was more obviously differentiated than it is, given the considerable additional outlay.

But then I drive it, feel that ride quality and the hushed cabin ambience at a motorway cruise, note that it is also the only car in which the aforementioned daughter reckons she can fall asleep in, and it seems very comfortable in its super-luxury shoes.

So it has an ace ride and is very quiet. But how much BMW still lurks within those imposing walls? The thing with previous-generation 7 Series is that while they’ve not been a patch on the likes of the Mercedes S-Class for lowering your stress levels, wafting you around and making every journey seem shorter than it is, so too have they always been quite special to drive. And for those who liked to have a bit of a pedal once in a while but needed a big car more for its space more than the last crumb of comfort it had to offer, it made some kind of sense. It was a niche crowd, sure, but one I imagine BMW would not choose to forsake.

This Seven is different. Although similar in weight to its predecessor, because its additional feature content and standard four-wheel drive is offset by its lighter, carbon-intensive structure, and identical in wheelbase, it takes another view of the open road.

While its parent was firmer, quicker to react to the steering and most demonstrably sporting in nature, this car appears to have abandoned this territory. At least on first acquaintance. It lollops along in a straight line, and if you just ease your way through some curves, you may conclude that there’s little more of interest to discover here. But you’d be wrong.

Or at least you’d be wrong in this car. It’s fitted with both Integral Active Steering and something called Executive Drive Pro. The former is essentially four-wheel steering, the latter active roll bar control to go with the already electronically controlled dampers. So, and in short, when you want to have fun, the car knows and does its best to oblige.

The rear steer effectively shortens the wheelbase, making it feel more like a 5 Series, while the computer-controlled roll bars actually anticipate corners using info from the nav and cameras, so it doesn’t have to react to steering inputs: the system is already primed and ready. The result? A big barge that nevertheless corners flat, fast and with commendable accuracy.

Only the steering lets the side down a little. There could and should be more feel to the helm than it has. But one question still remains to be answered: is it actually as good or perhaps even better to live with than an S-Class. In short, can it claim one of the most coveted scalps in the entire automotive field? Happily, editor-in-chief Steve Cropley has just such a car at his disposal and he’s as keen to try the BMW as I am to sample the Benz. So we’re going to swap for a bit and report back.

Love it:

Four-wheel steering Makes the car both more stable and more agile, according to the prevailing need.

Loathe it:

Upscaled cabin Interior looks like that of an ultra-plush 5 Series, rather than a breed apart.

Mileage: 8222

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Hosing down the 7 Series - 7th November 2018

I expect most 740Ld owners don’t care how long it takes to wash their car. Either it’s run through the local wash or there’s a chap on the books to do the job. I usually like cleaning my cars – apart from this one. It takes so long it’s like going for a walk. And at this time of year and in this part of the world, it needs doing all over again within a mile.

Mileage: 8002

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Life with a BMW 740Ld: Month 3

Pushing a luxury limo to perform as a driver’s car - 24th October 2018

A dawn run across Wales from southeast where I live, to north-west where the mountains lie. Can this biggest, most luxurious of BMWs still deliver? Thanks to diesel torque and four-wheel steering, yes. No, it was not exactly a hoot but nor did it ever feel out of its depth. Still, I chose the long motorway route home. And it was pretty good at that too…

Mileage: 7071

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It’s all about how you drive it - 3rd October 2018

I continued to be struck by just how little fuel the 740Ld uses until I gave it to a certain Mr Prior of this parish to make a video. As is the nature of such exercises, it spent the day hooning around Welsh mountains. I can get 50mpg if I try, he managed 26mpg. Frugal though it is on the motorways, this is still a big, heavy car and, in the hills, it shows.

Mileage: 6114

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Creature comforts tempt our man towards the easy life - 19th September 2018

For reasons that will become clear to regulars a little while from now, the 740Ld has gained a sadly entirely temporary stablemate, in the form of the little blue thing you see pictured here.

The Alpine A110 might just be my favourite car on sale and the thought I have one at my disposal even for a short period of time makes this grizzled old hack come over all giddy. But that’s not what you’re here to read about.

Even so, I’m writing about it because tomorrow I have to travel to the far reaches of Snowdonia and be there in time for breakfast, which for me means going from the south-east to the north-west of Wales. So the choice is to take the longer but faster opposite and adjacent motorway and dual carriageway route, or the hypotenuse straight through the mountains.

My problem is, and I’ll pause to let you choke back the tears, I don’t know which car to take.

As an Autocar reader, you’ll struggle to see why I wouldn’t just take the A110 on the direct route and normally I’d agree. It has little more than half the mass of the BMW, the most beautifully balanced chassis of any car on sale and a decidedly fizzy powertrain. Only a man with the most misplaced priorities would pass the chance to drive it on such a route. Surely?

Except that when I get there, I’m going to spend the entire day driving two rather old and heavy cars. If I take the Alpine, I’ll probably kick myself – once the photographer finally takes mercy on my poor exhausted soul and releases me – that I passed up the opportunity to waft home in what I now know to be far and away the best luxury car BMW has designed, save, I guess, those that are built near Goodwood.

Because while I like to project an image of myself as someone who’d drive an Ariel Atom to the North Pole in his undies all for the purity of the driving experience, I have another more shameful side: one that likes seats upholstered in the softest leather, with not just heaters but coolers and massage menus too. All of which the 740d has (although I’m still too scared to try the one called ‘pelvic activation’). I like an incredible sound system (check, even though it’s only the mid-range option) and I like a car with such an enormous range that it’s almost a surprise when you have to stop for more fuel.

Either way, I know I’m going to spend one of tomorrow’s journeys kicking myself I’m not in the other car. I expect you’ve rarely felt more sorry for anyone in your life. I know I shall procrastinate and prevaricate answering the question until the alarm goes off tomorrow morning and 10 minutes later I walk outside and turn either left or right. Were I to decide now, I’d take the Alpine, but it’s lunchtime and I’m feeling quite perky. At 4.00am tomorrow morning, I suspect it is into the BMW’s gorgeous, welcoming chairs that I shall gratefully collapse.

Disappointed? Me too.

Love it:

SEATS I usually dislike millions of seat adjustment options because you waste time searching for the ideal one. But the Seven’s are sublime.

Loathe it:

REAR TABLET The tablet in the rear armrest just worries me that someone might try to nick it if I forget to put the armrest up. A cover would be good

Mileage: 4772

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Mind your manners - 5th September 2018

I wonder if BMW realised when providing a personalised driver greeting on the 7 Series what a rich seam of comedy gold it had created for any resident wags living under the same roof to plunder? Being the father of teenagers, I am unusually blessed in this regard, as I hope the above randomly selected sample illustrates to your satisfaction.

Mileage: 4221

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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…

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


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.


19 October 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?


Manicm answered your nonsensical point most aptly. Not entirely sure you will ever be in a position to specify the colour of the leather in anything other than a three piece suite.

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


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



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


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

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion


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