Taking on the chauffeur car market – and winning – the BMW 7 Series 740Ld with xDrive is way too good to let someone else have all the driving fun. Behind the wheel of the all-new 7-Series
Taking the BMW 7 Series 740Ld with xDrive for a spin was always going to be an interesting proposition. For starters, this limousine version of the popular 7 Series is directed at high-flying CEOs looking for extra legroom and all mod cons in the rear seats. Put it this way: owners of this version of the popular 7 Series are rarely going to be driving it themselves. So, in this road test, I’ll be looking at both sides of the equation.
Speaking of algebra, this BMW comes with a lot of numbers and letters in its name, but, basically, you’re looking at a three-litre, six-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 255bhp and 413lb-ft of torque perched atop a long wheelbase. Records suggest the extra power boost will propel the 740Ld 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds – not too shabby for a vehicle that weighs 4,715lb.
First things first: what does it look like? I’ve found BMW styling a bit hit and miss in the past, but I have to say, I really like the look of the new 7 Series. Despite its limousine status, the lines move away from your average boxy chauffeur car, offering something that's altogether sleeker. At the front, the slanting headlights and double grille give the car a leonine aspect, suggesting smooth grace and power in a nod to the 740Ld’s turbo-charged engine.
In the driver’s seat, it’s like stepping into the cockpit of a futuristic spaceship. Everything in the car can be controlled from the driver’s seat (a necessary function for a vehicle most commonly used to chauffeur busy executives from place to place), from ambient temperature and massage functions to the sliding sunscreens on the back windows and rear windscreen.
While it may be marketed as the perfect chauffeur vehicle, the 740Ld could easily work just as well as a family car
Despite this, the control systems are functional and easy to use. The sat nav is pleasantly painless and fiddling with the myriad seat and steering wheel adjusters leaves me with one of the most comfortable driving positions I’ve ever experienced (and that’s before I engage the massage function).
The 740Ld is a beast; but even winding through London’s busy streets the car is far from unwieldy. On the contrary; it’s well adapted to life on the capital’s congested roads. I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘nippy’, but that’s to be expected in a car designed to offer the smoothest of rides.
This is where the xDrive (BMW’s four-wheel drive system) comes into play. The extra grip means the car hugs the road steadily whatever the weather conditions; but it’s also the reason the 740Ld handles like a car half its size, despite its more lengthy dimensions. Driving this BMW is just plain fun, and has me seriously considering a new career as a chauffeur.
Out on the motorway, this car is in its element. The suspension really is excellent, absorbing all the little lumps and bumps and taking the endlessly changing surfaces of the M4 in its stride. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is well-tuned, blessedly avoiding the awkward hesitations between gears that you sometimes find in larger saloon cars. And with plenty of gadgets to play with, you won’t be bored even when you inevitably find yourself mired in the London exodus traffic.
From a passenger point of view, the two sculpted back seats of the 740Ld are exactly what you’d expect, and want, from a limousine motor. I asked several friends and family members to test the space, and, from 5ft3in to 6ft4in, everybody seemed impressed with the headroom and the amount of room they had to stretch out. Naturally though, it was the rear passenger entertainment screens that caused the most excitement – coupled with the car’s WiFi hotspot and wireless charging function.
While it may be marketed as the perfect chauffeur vehicle, the 740Ld could easily work just as well as a family car. The extra space in the back means there’ll be fewer squabbles, and the entertainment system should keep them quiet long enough to fall asleep in the plush, comfortable seats.
If you’re regularly driving long distances, trust me when I tell you that you want this car. It is supremely comfortable – after a four-hour stint on the M4, I emerged completely un-crumpled. Also essential for those long-distance drivers is the mileage numbers: 54.3mpg for the biggest production car BMW has ever made.
On a practical level though, if you haven’t purchased the 740Ld purely for your chauffeur to hover outside your office to collect you, parking it can be a bit of an issue. Forget tightly packed car parks; your typical three-point-turn becomes more of a 57-point-turn thanks to the long wheelbase, though the 360° cameras mean at least you’ve got a full picture of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into. This car is perfectly suited to gliding smoothly up to and away from pavements but completely out of its depth in the average multi-storey. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
One down side to all the car’s technology is the futuristic key. It’s very clever, but I found it a bit fiddly – and forgetful types will frequently require a chap from BMW to come and save them when they’ve forgotten to charge it up. No power = no car. I found myself constantly checking the key’s battery indicator to see if we would be stranded in the forest somewhere south of Gloucester.
Perhaps most importantly for a limousine-style vehicle, the 740Ld looks the part. I took it to a very swanky hotel in the Cotswolds and the BMW appeared right at home parked next to the Aston Martins and Bentleys, despite coming in at half the price.
If you’re in the market for a comfortable, spacious saloon car, the BMW would be a good shout. Forget relaxing in the back seat; the driving experience behind the wheel of the 740Ld is so soothing you’ll want to ditch your chauffeur and don
the cap yourself.