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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

You could bank on the 7 Series scoring well with its engines. The 730d’s is in a class-leading position in all kinds of ways. Quiet, powerful, flexible and efficient, it lends the car the distinguishing air of assuredness you expect from something so large and expensive – but often fail to get in entry-level mechanical spec.

BMW’s ‘near-source’ NVH control measures certainly do the trick. At idle, you’d hardly know that the straight six was even running, with engine noise registering just 40dB on our noise meter. And when the car gets under way, the engine’s relative smoothness and good manners continue to impress. There’s very little thrash or grumble in evidence at all – just a soft-edged and industrious thrum in the audible background.

Flexible diesel engine revs beyond 5000rpm and surges up steep inclines with ease

BMW has always intended for the 7 Series to occupy a pseudo-sporting position in the limousine market, making the car faster and more interesting to drive than the luxury norm without compromising comfort levels adversely.

It has enjoyed mixed success with that approach over the years, for reasons we’ll get to. But, for the owner-drivers who may care, this new version remains fleet-footed enough still to justify that billing.

Our test car came with BMW’s ‘sport automatic’ transmission fitted and also, we were surprised to find, standard launch control. Subjected to extremes of throttle and braking, the 730Ld kept decent control of its mass, gripping hard and generally responding well – and shunning the extremes of squat and dive you see in other comfort-orientated saloons. The 60mph mark came up from rest in 6.4sec – almost a full second quicker than a like-for-like S-Class – while it also stopped from 70mph more quickly than the Benz.

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Of much greater importance to most owners will be the car’s demeanour on more discreet, gentle throttle openings, of course. And in that mode, the powertrain serves the car just as well, always operating quietly, shifting imperceptibly, responding precisely to small pedal adjustments and offering lots of torque to keep the car’s mass effortlessly motivated.

The quantity of tyre noise produced and conducted by the suspension is the only bugbear – a minor one, but nonetheless a demerit for a luxury saloon. We recorded 63dB of road roar at a 50mph cruise, whereas an S-Class produces just 57dB. It is a result upon which BMW should seek to improve.