BMW 7 Series

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BMW 730d

Road Test

BMW 7 Series 730d

Driven January 2009

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It’s called ‘list-bottom’ optioning, and there’s a certain section of society that’s rich enough to do it, even if the rest of us are forced into eating pets and heating our houses by squishing aged relatives into a domestic wood-burner. Basically, ignore the more affordable stuff at the top of the list, scroll down straight to the biggest engine and most eye-bulging price-tag and you’re set.

“I’ll have the most expensive/fastest version with everything on it” is how it goes. Except they rarely say “please”. In BMW’s case, they’ve had customers making sure that there won’t be a range-topping V12 7-Series before they commit to ‘only’ a 750i with its bi-turbo 4.4-litre V8.

Well, I’m here to say that there is bugger all point in having any kind of petrol engine in a new Seven, no matter how big it is, when the 730d exists. Let me explain. The new 730d contains the 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel that must rate as one of the world’s greatest motors. Recently reworked to be smoother and more sorted, it propels the 1,865kg Seven from 0–62mph in just over 7.0secs and can hit 153mph. And that’s with the standard six-speed auto.

Better than that, it can hit 100mph in just 17.7 seconds, thanks to that entirely healthy 242bhp and 398lb ft. To put that into sprinting limo perspective, that’s as fast as any hot hatch you care to mention. Now take into account 192g/km and the fact that on test, I averaged 43mpg, and you have a strong case for not bothering with any other engine. You might get to places faster, but you’ll have to stop – and that’s without taking into account the fact that you’re unlikely to be able to reasonably deploy any of that extra power in the UK without being put in prison with paedophiles.

So I love the engine and transmission, because it does exactly what we expect of a BMW Seven; it makes everything easy to justify. I like the looks, because it’s easy to like a conservative car – even though there’s a vague notion that this isn’t really pushing any boundaries, given that this is an entirely new model. But there are concerns here – and they are definitely not what you might expect from BMW.

The new Seven doesn’t seem to have the driving talent of the old one. The steering has a weird bobble to it on rough roads that doesn’t suit a big, soft cruiser, and the suspension seems to be a little misjudged. The old Seven felt big until you went fast, then it shrank to 5-Series size. This one has the dynamic ability, but then it isn’t a very good cruiser the other 95 per cent of the time. A rare miss from BMW, and a miss that stops the 730d from getting a very high score.

Tom Ford

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