This story was originally published on WhatCar, additional text by Tein Hee Seow
The BMW 7 Series doesn’t only have rivals such as the Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 to worry about – it must also fend off cars such as Land Rover’s Range Rover, too. In a bid to do just that, BMW has opted to construct parts of its 7 Series from carbonfibre, keeping the car’s weight down and therefore improving efficiency and agility.
It's impressively clean and frugal, and one that is better to drive down a twisting B-road than many of its rivals. Inside, the quality is top notch and there’s lots of standard equipment including the latest infotainment and safety tech. However, as with many luxury cars, the options list is extremely long and features some even more intriguing technology.
It has more than enough space for five adults and the boot is comparable with rivals and big enough for two or three large suitcases.
So, the 7 Series is powerful yet frugal, good to drive, luxurious and loaded with tech but where it doesn’t quite match the class-leading Mercedes S-Class is in its ride quality. At high speeds it lopes along without much fuss, but at low speeds over broken roads it’s a tad busier for those on board.
The 7 Series has self-levelling air springs front and rear, twinned with adaptive dampers. At higher speeds, things remain reasonably well settled, and large bumps such as sleeping policemen are nicely absorbed, but on broken roads at low speeds it fidgets noticeably. This is despite switching the car’s drive mode to its most comfortable and our version being fitted with BMW’s Executive Drive Pro option.
Like Mercedes' Magic Ride system, this studies the road ahead and makes constant adjustments to the suspension as the surface changes. The BMW’s more agreeable high-speed ride, its hushed cabin and good engine refinement mean the 740Li s is a highly adept and quiet, long-distance cruiser.
Switching the drive mode to Sport stiffens the suspension, adds weight to the steering and brings more urgency from the throttle and gearbox. The result is good balance and body control, and plenty of grip, but it remains detached in the way it steers and handles, even in the sportiest of its drive modes.
Cruising down the road is a dream. Alas, not one that you can fulfill in an urban city like Malaysia. Road congestions during peak hours will force you to start and stop the car frequently, which isn't a huge concern since the 740Li puts itself into neutral while it's at a standstill.
But don't expect an efficient fuel consumption in this 3l luxury saloon. On average, two days of driving gets us around 15.5l/100km. With an approximate 78l tank, that gives you maybe 500km to run with before you need a refuel at a nearby petrol station.
It’s good news here, too, for the driver, because there’s electronic driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustment as standard, making it easy to create the perfect driving position.
With front and rear parking sensors as standard, you needn’t worry about the 740Li's large proportions but even so, the view out in all directions is very good.
An updated iDrive system incorporates a touchscreen for the first time, and can even be made to recognise hand gestures. The latter might be gimmicky, but at least it's responsive enough to be impressive, and the new display ought to appeal to those still befuddled by BMW’s dial-style controller.
BMW’s optional rear entertainment screens are a nice touch, and together with the car's standard Wi-Fi preparation (data packages are sold as an extra), you can be working on your laptop or streaming a film, which can in turn be mirrored on the rear screens.
Admittedly, we still relied mostly on the dial control to do most of the navigation in iDrive, though quick gesture controls such as a circling movement to adjust the volume comes in useful while we drive. Picking up calls is also quite straightforward with one simple swipe in the air.
Other small little gestures like USB charging ports and controlling the sunroof and blinds to shield your eyes from the glaring sun are worth every cent.
There's no lack of space in the 740Li, regardless if it's passenger or boot space you're talking about. There is room for three in the back, but because the huge armrest can incorporate a 7.0in multi-function tablet and the properly adjustable (not to mention, supple) seats are limited to two, it’s doubtful the middle seat will be used much.
There’s plenty of leg- and head room, while the boot can comfortably accept a collection of suitcases.
The new cabin is plush and trimmed in Nappa leather with extensive use of wood veneers and metallic surrounds. The dash and centre console are familiar BMW, albeit with a smattering of smarter-looking switchgear to indicate the car’s status.
While you're really holding onto to one controller, it's essentially two keys, one of which features a 2.2in screen that also displays information about the car. On top of that, this key also lets you start the in-car to start ventilating, an essential feature for the hot, dry weather here. Schedule this accordingly and you won't be stepping into an oven.
Charging the remote every day is advised but if you do forget to juice it up, the secondary key still functions to unlock the car. You can probably leave without the display information but if you need to, just plug it into the USB charging ports within the car.
It's not in the league of smart cars (yet), but the 740Li has a few smarts to keep it close to the competition. Think of it as a car that intelligently warns you when you're getting too close for comfort to the next car, popping up a notification.
Or a heads-up display that helpfully shows you your speed and directions from the built-in GPS system without you taking your eyes off the road.
But most importantly, parking assistance is immensely helpful. Even with years of driving experience, the fear of scratching the lengthy 740Li is enough for us to rely heavily on the parking assistance, stopping whenever we see even the slightest chance of lightly bumping an object.
There's no mistaking, the BMW 740Li is as luxurious as it gets when it comes to making you feel comfortable, whether you're driving or being driven around. The ride is exceptionally smooth and quiet though there are moments when your heart will skip a few beats as you see the proximity warning going off.
Which, honestly, can't be helped given that you are looking at a car that's really a 150% upsized model of your normal BMW sports saloon. For urban driving, it's comfortable enough that you can get to point A to B without literally breaking a sweat here.
But like all luxury, this doesn't come cheap. The premium price it commands in the market is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, if money is no object, then you can't go wrong with a luxurious ride like this.