Originally published on AutoNationDrive.com by Chris Chin, reedited for updates for 2015 republishing on egmCarTech.
The BMW 7-Series is as much of a staple in the automobile industry as IBM/Lenovo is to the world of the laptop. When it comes to sitting down and laying out one’s options on the table for a full-size executive sedan, the 7-Series is always one of the top choices to be considered, if not recommended, much like the Lenovo is for anyone looking for a commendable Windows laptop for business and/or productivity.
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It was first introduced as the E23 generation in 1977 as a direct competitor and alternative to the established, tried, tested, and true Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ. It has endured over five generations with the current model being the F01/F02 generation chassis, the F01 being the short-wheelbase model and the F02 being the long-wheelbase. Roundel fans would note this fifth generation 7-Series is the first model to adopt the “F” chassis naming theme, a controversial change from the “E” theme–a common and highly-relied method of identifying specific generations of BMW.
The current F01/F02 7-Series was first introduced in 2008 as a 2009 model and accounted for many firsts for BMW’s flagship model. It was the first 7-Series to be powered entirely by turbocharged engines, the first to feature a hybrid powertrain in the form of the ActiveHybrid7, the first to use an eight-speed automatic, and also the first 7 to be offered with optional xDrive all-wheel drive. It’s also the first generation to ever be offered with a diesel engine in the US.
Although the 7-Series has been classified as the equivalent to a luxury land yacht on wheels, it’s always been the performance driver’s choice for full-size executive sedans, the equivalent to saying that an esteemed member of weight watchers is the most ideal candidate to performing a four-minute mile. But BMW thoroughly proved to be a manipulator of physics and demonstrated to the world that performance and luxury can truly coexist in a rather unassuming package, no matter the size.
Despite the fact that even over time, the 7-Series grew larger and fatter than its original engineers ever intended, the 7-Series always managed to feel like a 5-Series than the actual size indicated. But recently, many an enthusiast and critic duly noted the growth had finally caught up and there was only so much the engineers in Munich could accomplish. So, as the current 7-Series turns five years old, representing the leviathan’s soon-to-be departure into the sixth generation, does it still remain to be a top choice for the driving enthusiast in this segment?
2015 BMW 740Ld xDrive Individual
|Body Style:||Full-Size Luxury Executive Sedan|
|Seating Capacity:||Five Passengers|
|Price As Tested:||$120,150|
|Engine:||3.0L TwinPower Turbo Inline-Six N57D30 – 255hp and 413 lb-ft of torque|
|Transmission:||ZF-Sourced Eight-Speed Automatic|
|Top Speed:||130 mph (electronically limited)|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway):||23 / 31 w/ 21.1 gal. tank|
The Subdued Seven
Since the fourth generation 7-Series was introduced with controversial styling in 2002, thanks to the work of BMW’s former chief of design, Chris Bangle, BMW entered a new era of what we often refer to as the “Bangle Butt.” It’s defined by a design cue voluminously used by BMW on its sedans and coupes, consisting of a protruding trunk with enough junk to put Kim Kardashian’s to shame. However, despite being controversially styled, the E65 fourth generation 7-Series ended up being the best-selling generation of BMW 7-Series ever to date. As a result, BMW sought to keep the overall profile of the controversial, but loved E65 generation, except at much more subdued levels. At over 17.1 feet long, the latest BMW 7-Series, particularly in long-wheelbase form for discussion, remains to be pretty much larger than life, like anything else in this segment.
And the beauty about the large proportions of the full-size executive sedan is every time one pulls up curbside, you expect a group of mafiosos to egress from the Seven with Andrea Bocelli blasting on the Bang & Olufsen. The Seven remains to be thoroughly BMW with a very upright front end complemented by kidney grills large enough to create their own vacuum–and this is all thanks to the inspiration set forth by the gorgeous Concept CS from 2007. The sides feature a crease to break up the previous model’s flat and featureless doors while the “Bangle Butt” itself is more shaped to contour better with the rest of the body–and no longer does it stick out like a Brazilian butt-lift augmentation gone wrong. While the overall profile remains to be similar, this latest iteration of 7-Series is much more pleasing and easier on the eye than the last generation model.
Stepping into this particular 2015 740Ld Individual, one’s greeted by plenty of soft, high-quality Opal White Full Merino Leather–as BMW calls it–with enough real Walnut Honey Wood trim to build a Riva Aquavira. These are all apart of the Individual Composition package, providing buyers with more exclusive color and trimming options for the most luxurious appointments possible. If there were any concerns about the first iterations of this generation 7-Series over interiors not meeting expectations in build quality, the latest 7-Series does away with those doubts–especially with said Individual package. The result is as expected–sitting inside the 2015 BMW 740Ld Individual would give anyone the impression of a first-class ticket to the French Riviera. Even the rear occupants don’t get a shortage of amenities to fend off boredom as this particular example of Seven also came with the optional Rear Seat Entertainment Package, providing a secondary iDrive controller where one could fall asleep to Gone with the Wind.
Though, while the Opal Merino Leather looks absolutely spectacular, we can’t imagine it to wear very well, unless one took meticulous care of the hides with a serious regiment of leather shampoos and moisturizers–but if one were to own a BMW 740Ld Individual, a quick call to Alfred would help deal with the process.
America’s First Diesel Seven
Ok, while it’s nice to sit everywhere in the latest 7-Series, the best seat usually is behind the steering wheel because, well, BMW is notorious for the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” The biggest highlight of this particular 2015 740Ld Individual would be what lies under the hood. If you can tell already by the “d” in the model name, this indicates the 7-Series’ inaugural use of a compression-combustion mill for North America. Never before has the Seven been offered with a diesel in America until now.
That compression ignition mill is of the inline-six type, displacing 3.0L with induction assistance provided by a single variable geometry turbo snail to produce 255hp and a generous 413 lb-ft of torque. Those 255 horses might not seem like much on paper for the magazine racers to brag about, but with diesels, you have to remember that it’s all about them torques.
With all those torques being sent to the ground through a rear-wheel drive-biased xDrive all-wheel system and a typical ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, whisking this 4,700lbs leviathan from a standstill to 60 takes just 6.1 seconds for a top sprint limited to 130 mph. That does make it the slowest Seven of the lineup, but there is a silver lining to this arrangement–fuel economy.
Diesels rev considerably slower than their gasoline counterparts and because so much torque is produced, the engines requires less effort to keep the vehicle in motion. The final tallies result in 23 city and 31 mpg highway by factory ratings, and that significantly bests the gasoline turbo six-cylinder 740Li at 19 city and 28 highway, especially on the average combined cycle and in real-world use. And while there’s no twin-turbo setup to deal with the fear of turbo lag, especially on a lazy diesel motor, there wasn’t any remotely observable, thanks to the inherit design of the inline-six providing robust low-end power for a smooth transition as the snail kicks in to deliver all 255 horses and 413 torques.
The Seven Without the Sins
But does it handle like a 7-Series should? Despite being a boat in proportions, the 7-Series always remained to be the best handler in its segment, giving the impression that the Seven would shrink whenever pushed. This notion virtually carries over, but not to the levels at which a BMW enthusiast and traditionalist would recognize. BMWs as of recent have been noted by many to feel more cumbersome and less like the rewarding “Ultimate Driving Machine” in the automaker’s grave efforts to become more competitive and luxurious.
The latest Seven, even in long-wheelbase form, does remain to feel agile and balanced for its class, but those looking for something more aggressive would be better off looking at the Jaguar XJ–though its catch is a more jittery ride. The latest F01/F02 just doesn’t drive as sharply as the last E65 generation of Seven and that’s a little bit disappointing. The steering is lightly weighted, yet accurate like anything else in this segment, if not just minutely void of feel–again, a seeming characteristic of the electrification of steering.
Take these nitpicks with a grain of salt however–having driven older generations of Seven like I stole them, this latest 7-Series feels like a pig in comparison. And that’s because, well, it is. But typical buyers would find themselves in something sportier than ought to be by size and they’ll definitely get the impression of BMW’s reputation of being the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” It also does everything that a luxury car should. And with a base price of $82,500 without the destination and handling fee, it’s definitely priced like one. But should you want to get the exact model seen here in this review, that would require well in excess of $100,000–$120,150 to be exact.
– By: Chris Chin
All Photos Copyright © C Squared Photography for AutoNation and egmCarTech.