On the Road Review: BMW 740Ld X-Drive Sedan

An October 2014 study released by the Fuels Institute, an independent group that studies fuel inventories and consumption worldwide, stated that diesel demand in our domestic driving fleet will triple by 2030. Consumer surveys further declare that 4 out of 10 new vehicle buyers would consider purchasing a diesel-powered vehicle.

Why are American drivers, finally, looking more to diesel-powered cars and trucks? Engineering advances have eliminated many of the former nuisances associated with diesel — the engine clatter, the exhaust smell, the balky cold-weather performance. Today’s diesel cars and trucks are very quiet, they run as clean or cleaner emissions than their gasoline counterparts, turbo-diesel engines produce more power with less displacement, they get better fuel economy with greater range than gas engines, plus diesel engines have shed the nasty exhaust fumes that too many buyers associate with compression stroke engines. With today’s low-sulfur diesel fuel delivering 15 percent more energy content than a comparable gallon of gasoline, diesel should be high on every driver’s shopping list.

The lone remaining caveat is the retail price of diesel, as street prices vary widely across the country. Closely associated with heating fuel in the Northeast, diesel prices are higher in these markets than in the South or West. The feds and the states also tax diesel fuel more than gasoline, a discrepancy that shows signs of widening even as diesel-powered vehicles overtake hybrid-powered cars as a percentage of new car sales in the domestic market. With diesel-engine options often less expensive than similar hybrid powertrains, diesel-powered cars, trucks and SUVs are expected to expand faster than hybrids in America.

Thanks to the German automakers, diesel-powered cars are more readily available than at any other time in our history. Mercedes, BMW, Audi and VW have long sold diesel-powered vehicles here, and their list of offerings expands each year. Land Rover and Jaguar will soon offer diesels here (diesels account for over 50 percent of overseas sales in many markets) while Mazda, Subaru and maybe Honda weigh adding diesel-powered cars to the vehicles sold here by GM and Chrysler/Fiat now.

If these new products are half as good as this week’s turbo-diesel BMW 740Ld full-size luxury sedan, then we have a lot to look forward too.

The 7-series is currently BMW’s large car, shown here in stretched wheelbase trim, hence the ‘L’ designation. Under the hood rests a 3.0-liter straight-six DOHC, 24-valve turbo-diesel using direct injection and variable geometry turbos to produce 255 hp and 413 pound/feet of peak torque. An eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters directs output to a full-time X-drive all-wheel-drive system that retains BMW’s traditional rear-driving feel.

Equipped with M-sport trim and Adaptive Drive suspension — items such as multi-contour sport seats, 19-inch wheels and tires, exterior aerodynamic kit, plus the five-setting adjustable suspension — the stretched 7-series holds true to the principles of BMW, The Ultimate Driving Machine.

Click out of standard comfort or comfort+ mode to Eco-mode and the car’s suspension and engine operation settle into a more relaxed tone. The ride becomes softer still, the engine shift points are low, and the diesel works with the stop/start technology to maximize fuel economy. Gauges on the electronic panel go to blue shading, calming you and the machine down.

Yet, click the console button to Sport or Sport+ and you can feel the BMW’s suspension get stiffer and some heft comes into the steering wheel. The engine’s shift points rise on the tachometer, the gauges go to red, while a digital speedometer replaces the analog display. In Sport +, traction control is deactivated. Your boulevard cruiser now becomes a backroad bruiser.

The turbodiesel does not disappoint when pressed either. The constant flow of robust torque, a fluid, lineal line of power that never seems to cease, pushes the big BMW to velocities that your passengers are best left unexposed to. Supremely confident, assuredly competent on every surface, the 740 produces the ride and handling that many of today’s drivers expect from a German automobile. Even in one this large.

The EPA says the diesel powertrain in the full-size BMW, an engine used in several other smaller BMWs as well, is rated at 23/31/26 mpg. During the 740’s 900-mile stay, the trip computer never dipped below 30 mpg and our eight-day average came to an actual 33.5 mpg. Once refilled, the trip computer reports a range of 700 miles per tank, more than double most passenger cars, meaning you can drive from Ellsworth to Tampa on just two tanks of fuel.

One element of fun during the BMW’s visit was to take passengers for a ride in the roomy rear cabin, or even let them drive the supple BMW. After 15-20 minutes, it would become necessary to ask each visitor if they knew they were in a diesel-powered BMW. No one knew, and everyone was simply amazed at how responsive, quiet and smooth the 740Ld was.

Other pluses include the perfect sport seats, with power adjustments for the thigh extenders and the side bolsters as well as the headrests, the heated power tilting and telescoping steering wheel and the oversized navigation screen high atop the dash that also displays your I-drive functionality. BMW has refined the I-drive controller — one of the first such systems in all cars — to become more intuitive, more user-friendly. The console-mounted mouse is simpler than rivals’ offerings, and vastly easier to use than Cadillac’s CUE or Ford’s MyFord Touch.

The heads-up display at the base of the windshield is an excellent driver’s aid, as are the superb Xenon and LED adaptive headlamps that turn Bambi’s nocturnal game of hide-and-seek into relative child’s play. Park assist, huge rear camera, heated and cooled front seats and Sirius radio are included.

The only negative is that the 740Ld arrived shortly after a Mercedes S550 visit. While the BMW reigns supreme as a driver’s car, the Mercedes’ opulent interior demonstrates a higher regard for the comfort of passengers. Packed with more features and luxury at every turn of the eye, the S-class continues as the benchmark for this class when style and chauffeured-comfort are high atop the buyer’s list. Moreover, with a stout V-8 engine under the hood, the S550 could make your heart go aflutter.

Rest assured that BMW has similar models of the 7-series to stimulate your heart. There is a 445-hp V-8 7-series, plus a 535-hp V-12 turbo-model and a twin-turbo V-8 that spins out 540 hp. BMW also makes a conventional gas-powered 3.0-liter model, 315-hp, as well as a hybrid 3.0-liter with 350 hp.

Seven-series pricing starts at $74,000, $20,000 less than a Mercedes S-class, hence the degree of separation in the two car’s luxury appointments. Our 2015 740Ld starts at $82,500 with the diesel engine and standard X-drive. As shown, with several option packages, the list price zoomed to $98,250.

In the pantheon of large luxury cars in the U.S. market, the luster of Cadillac and Lincoln has been greatly diminished by Lexus initially, and now BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Cadillac has a new CT6 large car headed for this market and China, where full-size luxury sedans are more popular than here, while Lincoln has shown us there may be life at Ford’s luxury division with the announcement that the Continental will return next year.

Until these cars arrive, the Germans own the large luxury sedan market. The BMW 740 is a perfect illustration of why.



Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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