The days of huge cars being lumbering giants are over; at least this is the case with the latest BMW 740Li. Despite its ‘luxury saloon’ image, it can be a really fun car to drive, being surprisingly agile. The standard practice hereto has been one where the company would showcase a powerful V8 version with a huge cubic capacity, one that only a select few would buy, and then market a lesser model with a smaller capacity but with limited power to make up the numbers. This is no longer the case; the new BMW 740 Li comes with a 3.0 litre engine, but along with it comes not one, but two turbo chargers to make it a muscle car in its own right, one that can scoot from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 6.0 seconds and achieve a real top speed that is 250 km/h only because of it is electronically limited, due to a gentlemen’s agreement amongst German manufacturers.
I normally prefer a smaller sized car which would be more nippy in traffic, but for the few days that I had the BMW 740Li, it didn’t seem as though the size was the limitation, but rather the other traffic, which my defensive driving training has taught me to respect in the interests of road safety.
It is actually mind boggling to know that this car, at 1,970 kilograms, can be so pliable in my hands, and can be so stable that at 200 km/h (at places where it was safe to go at such speeds). What the design engineers have done is to dial in three driving modes, and variations within each mode to allow the driver to select the handling behaviour that best suits him or her. At a touch of a button, you select Comfort mode, and the suspension softens up to provide a super comfortable ride, while the engine and gear changes respond in a more relaxed way to your right foot on the accelerator pedal; in this mode the car is also the most economical. With a final drive gear that yields 50 kilometres per hour for every 1,000 revolutions of your engine, you are barely ticking over at 1,600 rpm at 80 km/h. at the highway regulation speed of 110 km/h, your engine is turning at 2,200 rpm, and you would have a good chance of achieving a fuel consumption figure of around 14 litres per 100 kilometres, not that anyone buying this car would even bother.
Then there is Normal mode that gives you a good balance between power, fuel economy, and response to throttle. I spent most of my time in Sports+ mode, wherein the gearbox becomes more anticipative of your driving style, and holds each gear for a few seconds when you lift off, ever ready to put power to the tarmac should you require more. Within this mode there is a Traction mode, which works to make sure you have sure-footed grip on winding roads; this I found to be a boon on the twisty, long sweepers of the Karak highway. Lift off for a corner, and the gearbox shifts down a gear or two, keeping the engine on the boil so allow you to catapult out of a bend with positive traction. More sporty-type drivers can shift to the manual mode by simply pushing the gear lever to the left, and enjoy manual shifting through the 6-speed automatic transmission. With such exciting features, I am sure you would now understand why I felt so good driving the BMW 740 Li.
From the outside, the BMW 740 Li looks huge, as all these large saloons do. It is long, at 5.072 metres from end to end, with a 3.070 wheelbase, and wide too, with a 2.134 metre overall width, but quite sleek with a 1.479 metre overall height. The large 19-inch wheels with 275/40 Series Pirelli P Zero tyres at the rear and 245/45 Series tyres at the front give the car the right proportions, and provide unerring grip at all times. The brakes are huge 374mm diameter, 36mm thick vented discs at the front, and slightly smaller 345mm diameter, 24mm thick vented discs at the rear, much larger than the brakes I had on my most powerful rally car; they literally can stop you on a dime if required to. In the course of my many years of association with the brand, and after speaking to many of the design engineers, I do know for a fact that at BMW, there are very strict standards as to the stopping distances for every conceivable speed that every BMW must achieve, and the 740 Li does not disappoint in this area.
Inside, the BMW 740 Li is everything a luxury BMW should be. Electrically operated seats allow you to tilt the entire seat, adjust the thigh support, reach and rake, including the head restraint height. The driver is further pampered with electrically adjustable tilt and reach for the steering. All controls are within easy reach, and everything is in its place. Instrumentation is analogue, thankfully. Plush, soft leather seats pamper all occupants, and for the towkays, the left rear seat allows some reclining movements, in addition to a remote control at the rear that allows the passengers to adjust some of the controls remotely. To while away the time on long hauls, you can watch DVDs on two screens located behind the driver and front passenger seats; a sunroof is standard equipment. There are actually a host of other creature comfort features that are too many to be listed; suffice to say that this is a true luxury saloon with nothing much else left to be desired. A GPS navigation system, a reverse camera, and side cameras in the front fenders to see around blind junctions, are but a few of the features.
Underneath, you will find generous amount of aluminium used in the body and suspension members to create the renowned 50:50 front rear balance, and keep weight down to a minimum, building strength where is its needed, and reducing weight in non-critical areas. In the area of passive and active safety, the BMW 740 Li is as well equipped as any of the car in its class.
Generally, the BMW 740 Li would be very appealing to an executive who has a passion for sporty driving, but for business purposes, has to maintain a prim and proper appearance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am sure that others will too!