2013 BMW 740Li xDrive quick spin
Six goes smoothly into 7
What is it?
It's not so much downsizing as a sign of the times: 2013 saw the return of the six-cylinder engine to the flagship luxury car sector in a big way. Joining Porsche's V6 Panamera are Jaguar and Audi with supercharged V6 versions of the XJ and A8. BMW too is joining the six-cylinder fray, but its 7 Series is going a different route, using a turbocharged inline-six which sits below the V8 750i and V12-motored 760i. The six-cylinder 740i is only offered in one configuration: long-wheelbase, with all-wheel drive.
While the 7 Series may not look different very different, it was thoroughly upgraded for model-year 2013 with numerous changes that make it a comprehensively improved car. In addition to new bumpers and reworked headlamps, it also features a revised suspension setup, an upgraded eight-speed automatic, plus the latest version of iDrive that is notably faster in operation and has stunning graphics. Depending on what sort of smartphone is attached to your hip, you can also integrate new phone-based apps, and compose short e-mails on the move using Nuance voice recognition software.
What is it like to drive?
Put your fears to rest: the 740Li is not slow. Its displacement may be small-sounding at three litres even, but it carries a big stick thanks to a lag-free twin-scroll turbocharger. Put your foot down, and the big sedan moves forward with authority, its 332 lb.-ft. of torque crashing down into action from just 1,300 rpm to 4,500 rpm. With a 0-100 km/h time of less than six seconds, and with the smoothness that only a perfectly balanced inline-six can deliver, you won't be missing a V8 engine. Arguably it's this silkiness that makes it stand out amongst its gruffer vee-configured rivals, particularly at higher revs.
Most 740s will waft about at low speeds, but this is a car you could easily drive with gusto down your favourite backroad. Lighter than the all-aluminum A8 L despite being made from steel, it steers fluidly, and the size of the car seems to shrink when it's hustled due in part to active anti-roll bars that keep the ride flat, and a finely balanced chassis. The 7 has always been the segment's lithe player; lopping a pair of cylinders at the nose end has only made it better.
Compared to last year's 7 Series, the 2013's standard-fit rear air suspension, re-tuned dampers, and softer bushings, make for a notably smoother ride. It's a step forward for comfort, but it still remains a bit on the jiggly side because of stiff-sidewall runflat tires. There's also a smidge more wind-noise than key rivals at speeds above 110 km/h. Nevertheless, this is a truly soothing vehicle to pilot.
What about fuel economy? We doubt most buyers will care, but the 740iL wins big points for returning 10.1 L/100 km after a week of mixed urban and highway use. The use of Eco Pro mode furthered our gains; when selected the 7 coasts when you let off the throttle to save fuel by letting the engine speed drop to idle. Consider it icing on an already tasty cake.
Should you buy one?
Yes, unless you've got an inferiority complex, and even then, we'd simply suggest removing the badge from the decklid as is so common in Europe. This engine not only distinguishes the 740 from other rivals with its refinement and power, it also makes it the most sensible choice within the 7 Series family. Every luxury feature and option is on offer here — everything from night vision with pedestrian detection and radar cruise control with stop-and-go traffic abilities, to rear seats that are heated, cooled, and massaging, BMW's ritzy Individual Collection exterior trims ($12,200), and a $6,900 Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Swift, smooth, powerful, and comfortable. That's hardly what you'd call downsizing, is it?
2013 BMW 740Li xDrive
Price (base/as-tested): $106,600/$122,050
Type of vehicle: AWD full-size luxury sedan
Engine: 3.0-litre, 24V, DOHC, I6 turbocharged
Horsepower/Torque: 315 hp/332 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100 km/h (est.): 5.9 seconds
Fuel consumption (city/hwy/as-tested): 10.9 / 7.3 / 10.1 L/100 km
Competition: Audi A8 L 3.0T, Jaguar XJ 3.0 S/C AWD, Lexus LS 460 AWD, Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec 4Matic
QUICK SPIN SUMMARY
Excellent fuel economy
Handling and road manners
No trunk pass-thru / folding rear seats
$10,000 more expensive than rivals from Jaguar or Audi