Less than ten years ago, BMW diesels were a rarity in the U.S., the 335d and X5 xDrive35d were the only two bangers sold. In 2015, BMW sells six diesel-powered models, including the flagship 7 Series. The 740Ld is only offered in the long-wheelbase configuration and with the xDrive system.
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Before the F01/F02 generation takes a bow, we had the chance to sample the diesel limousine over the course of a week and what better place to do so than the lovely City of Chicago and its famous potholes, the perfect test bed for the luxurious, spacious and stylish 7er.
While we wish it had the triple-turbos found in the European 750d, the 740Ld uses a 3.0 liter inline-six TwinPower Turbo technology, essentially the fancy word for a single turbo with two scrolls – the exhaust housing of the twin-scroll turbo is split in two. The engine is mated to the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, the smooth gearbox that it’s found in many other BMWs. Compared to the European 740d, the U.S. version received an exhaust treatment, which consists of an NOx storage catalyst, a particulate filter, and a selective catalyst reduction system with urea injection.
The potent six-banger makes 255 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 413 lb-ft of torque lathered across the rev range, with peak twist available between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm. Official figures say that the BMW 740Ld xDrive will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds for a governed top speed of 130 mph. More than enough for the U.S. roads and their highly-restricted speeds.
At nearly 4,700 pounds, the BMW 740Ld xDrive is quite efficient; BMW rates it at 26 mpg combined (31 mpg highway driving and 23 mpg in the city), but our real-world testing delivered a fuel economy of 30 mpg, with a 60-40 split in favor of the highway driving.
Torque, so much torque
As with many other diesel engines, the relatively low horsepower output can be deceiving. For a car of this size, on paper, the 255 ponies seem extremely low, but in every day’s traffic, the torque is what matters most. Put your foot down on the throttle and the engine will deliver smoothly its power, the diesel clatter is almost non-existent and the smooth-shifting eight-speed does the job well of moving the car quickly through its gears. The diesel really shines at around 70 mph where the engine sound is beautifully hidden inside the cabin and it’s as smooth as a diesel can get.
For the first time in years, we refrained as much as possible from using the Sport or Sport Plus settings. As with other BMWs, the 740Ld xDrive comes with driving dynamics control that offers five options for adjusting your ride quality, and being outnumbered by the Chicago potholes, we relied for the first time on the calm and smooth Comfort setting. There is also an Eco Pro setting, but we found it to be too soft and slow for the heavy 7er. The limousine has done a great job walking over the highly imperfect Chicago roads, thanks to the $2,500 Adaptive Drive system with Active Roll Stabilization which ironed out bumps beautifully while keeping the car planted on the road. It certainly feels more at home on the highway than in the stop-and-go city traffic, but that’s normal for any large-size cars.
We still prefer the shorter wheelbase 7 Series – for its agility and sportiness – but with the long-wheelbase 7 Series becoming the U.S. standard with the new generation, we can see why BMW is choosing a bit more luxury and space over spirited driving.
BMW has fitted the 740Ld xDrive with Goodyear 19-inch wheels wrapped by run-flat tires; 20 inch wheels are optional. 13.7-inch ventilated disk brakes up front and 13.6-inch disk brakes in the rear help with the stopping distance of 126 feet; an impressive number considering the heavy weight.
Ready to retire, but still looks good
With seven years under its belt, the 7 Series has had a rough life since the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class came to market. Inevitably, all the reviews were referencing the new, shinier and more luxurious S-Class as having the upper hand, yet we don’t believe it looks particularly dated inside or out. It often comes down to your personal preference and what you look for in a limousine. Some may choose the S-Class for the cutting edge tech, while other buyers will still buy the F01/F02 7er even when the new BMW flagship comes to market this Fall.
Inside, the 740Ld xDrive offers impressive legroom for rear passengers, thanks to the 5.5 inches extra in length when compared to the short-wheelbase. As part of the Cold Weather Package, the rear seats are heated, a nice feature in those cold regions. Changes to the roofline of long-wheelbase 7 series create nearly half an inch of extra headroom in the rear. BMW says that additional insulation materials in the B and C-pillars, skirts and trunk area team up with revised seals around the window frames and exterior mirrors are providing a nearly sound-free cabin.
The $4,800 Executive Package aims to deliver more luxury items, such as automatic door closing, driver and front passenger seat front seat ventilated, wood and leather trim, and a premium hi-fi system. The $750 powered sunshades are there just in case you need to block any unwanted rays of sun or paparazzi’s’ cameras.
BMW’s M Sport Package is the icing on the cake by providing that sporty look inside and outside the car, starting with the aggressive front bumper and sport suspension, and continuing with the M steering wheels and shift paddles.
The MSRP for the 2014 BMW 740Ld xDrive starts at $82,500 and since it was the M Sport Edition, it combined the $4,800 Executive Package, $4,600 M Sport Package for just $4,000. With all the other options, the price as tested was $92,650, a figure that is likely to drop as we approach the launch of the G11/G12 7 Series.
Mercedes’ new S-Class is currently the car that looks better and driver better, so a direct comparison with the previous generation 7 Series would be unfair, but if you’re not looking for the shiniest and newest toy, the F01/F02 generation is a solid car with a beautifully engineered diesel engine and premium features that are more than enough for many customers. Therefore, we advice you to shop around for a car sitting on the dealer’s lot ready to be moved before the new sheriff is in town.