2015 740 New Car Test Drive
BMW's biggest sedan got a number of changes for 2013, led by improvements in horsepower and efficiency to the two most popular engines: the inline-6 and V8. An 8-speed automatic transmission also debuted.
For 2014, new features are added to BMW's suite of connectivity/convenience services, including Assist eCall, TeleServices, advanced real-time traffic information, and enhanced USB/Bluetooth. All 2014 BMW 7 Series models except the Active Hybrid and Alpina gain a Dynamic Digital Instrument Cluster, which permits a customized view based on Driving Dynamics Control settings. Navigation includes an iDrive touchpad controller, and the Comfort Access keyless entry adds a smart-closing feature for 2014.
The 2014 BMW 7 Series comes with two wheelbases, four engines, and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Prices range from about $74,000 to nearly twice that.
In addition to the inline-6 and V8 engines, there's a V12 and a hybrid powertrain, all of them turbocharged. The six-cylinder and the V8 come with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Active Hybrid 7 (which mates with an inline-6) and V12 sedans only come in long-wheelbase versions.
The 2014 BMW 740i is our choice because its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 is so sweet, and it delivers quick acceleration with 315 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque from 1300 to 4500 rpm.
The 2014 BMW 750i contains a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, delivering 445 horsepower. The V12 makes 535 horsepower, allowing the BMW 750Li to drive around in a sensational silky rocket world of its own.
The 2014 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 uses a lithium-ion battery in the trunk powering a 55-hp electric motor, and it makes more horsepower (350) than the base 740i. The ActiveHybrid 7 is rated 22/30 mpg by the EPA, which is not so great for a hybrid.
After a few hundred miles in a BMW 750Li, we concluded that the 8-speed transmission is quick, smooth and smart. It offers a manual-shifting feature.
As for the 7 Series ride, you won't find flaws there, either. You can tune it yourself, using the Dynamic Driving knob with four settings: Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. They control the damper stiffness, throttle response, steering response, transmission response, and stability control.
There's also an Eco Pro mode, which we used for casual driving. We were never inconvenienced by the dialed-back power, and were astounded by the fuel mileage: 19.4 miles per gallon in this 445-horsepower V8 that weighs 4660 pounds, while driven over mountain roads as well as around town.
The only bad part about driving the 7 Series was the bewildering electronics and hysterical safety warnings. We'd say they drove us crazy, except we were already half-crazy from the others, including Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.
From a dynamic standpoint, the 7 Series is a satisfying machine to operate: superbly comfortable and quiet, and quick and agile for a sedan of its size and weight. Naturally, the V12 is swifter than the inline-6, but the six-cylinder is quick enough.
From a non-dynamic perspective, however, driving can be frustrating, because engineers and designers attempted to re-invent and BMW-ize so many things. They made some items, such as the gimmicky gear selector and rearview camera, problematic when they're in fact simple.
The BMW 7 Series interior offers the best that contemporary automobile craftsmanship and technology have to offer. Each 7 Series model delivers the luxurious feeling that cars in this class are supposed to create. Comfort is superb in the front or rear seat, especially in an Li model with its longer wheelbase and 4.4 more inches of rear legroom. The 740i and 750i models with the standard wheelbase still have good legroom (38.9 inches): enough for adults up to six feet tall without cramping.
Also new for 2014 is a long-wheelbase, all-wheel-drive 740Ld xDrive sedan with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six-cylinder engine that develops 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque.
The 2014 BMW 740i ($74,000) comes with the turbocharged 315-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with Automatic Start/Stop. It comes standard with leather upholstery; power tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; four-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; hard-drive-based navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic information and space for music storage; BMW Assist telematics service; heated power front seats with memory for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel; power windows and locks; power retractable auto-dimming side mirrors with tilt-down backup aid; remote keyless entry; moonroof; rearview camera; 12-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD/SiriusXM stereo; auxiliary input jack; Bluetooth cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; rain-sensing wipers; front/rear park distance control; automatic adaptive xenon headlights; LED foglights; rear air suspension; theft-deterrent system; iPod/USB adapter; and P245/50R18 run-flat tires on alloy wheels.
The 740Li ($78,000) stretches the wheelbase by 5.5 inches, translating to an increase of more than four inches in rear-seat legroom. It adds illuminated rear visor mirrors and is otherwise similarly equipped to the 740i.
The 740Li xDrive ($81,000) adds all-wheel drive.
The ActiveHybrid7 ($84,300) has a 350-hp version of the six-cylinder engine, working with an electric motor and battery pack, plus a hybrid-specific 8-speed automatic transmission. The forthcoming 740Ld xDrive ($82,500) contains a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine.
The BMW 750i ($87,300), 750i xDrive ($90,300), 750Li ($91,000), and 750Li xDrive ($94,000) are powered by a 445-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with the 8-speed automatic transmission. The 750 models are upgraded with heated 20-way power adjustable front bucket seats; Nappa leather upholstery; power soft-closing doors and trunk lid; 245/45R19 run-flat all-season tires; concierge services; and a 600-watt, 16-speaker surround sound stereo. The xDrive models come with all-wheel drive.
The BMW 760Li ($141,200) gets V12 power and the 8-speed automatic with manual shift capability; Active Blind Spot Detection; heated steering wheel; rearview camera including side and top views; massaging and ventilated front seats; power adjustable heated and ventilated rear seats with center armrest; 6-DVD changer; climate-control glass; head-up display; self-dimming LED headlights; burled walnut wood interior trim; Active Roll Stabilization suspension; Integral Active Steering; and P245/45R19 tires. Automatic Start/Stop is not included.
The Alpina B7 is offered in another four versions: short wheelbase ($128,300), long wheelbase ($132,200), short-wheelbase xDrive ($131,300), and long-wheelbase xDrive ($135,200). Prepared by German tuner Alpina, the B7 is essentially a high-performance M version of the 750. It uses a 540-horsepower version of the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, Active Roll Stabilization, and P245/35R21 front and P285/30R21 rear tires. Luxury amenities include a massaging driver's seat, ventilated front seats, ski sack, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and the head-up display. The long-wheelbase version also gets a power rear sunshade, manual side sunshades, illuminated rear visor mirrors, and the load-leveling suspension.
Options are numerous. Among them: an M Sport Package that includes a lift-reducing aerodynamic kit, Shadowline exterior trim, performance run-flat tires (245/45R19 front and 275/40R19 rear), Anthracite headliner, and M Sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters. The M Sport Package also comes with 20-inch wheels and tires. Twenty-inch wheels ($1,300) are available separately, too, with 245/40R20 front and 275/35R20 rear tires. A Luxury Rear Seating Package for long-wheelbase models ($3,700) adds ventilated, massaging rear comfort seats. A Driver Assistance Plus Package ($1,900) adds a Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Warning, and top- and side-view cameras; it's also offered with active cruise control ($3,100). A dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system with a 6-disc DVD changer is available ($2,800). Also available: Active Roll Stabilization ($2,500), and infrared Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection ($2,600). The Executive Package ($4,800) for 740i includes ventilated front seats, head-up display, concierge service, Harman Kardon audio, a power trunk lid, and soft-close doors.
BMW's Advanced Safety System comes on all 7 Series models, including multi-stage front airbags with occupant sensors, front knee airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and front and rear side curtain head-protection airbags. Active safety features include Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Brake Control, featuring Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, Brake Assist, and Active Brake Lights. Also standard are front and rear park assist, a tire-pressure monitor, and active front head restraints. Optional all-wheel drive can improve handling balance in slippery conditions.