2011 BMW 740Li Review

Fewer cylinders do nothing to diminish BMW’s flagship luxury saloon

2011 BMW 740Li Review

You might not see a lot of 7 Series on your daily commute, but you’re sure to see a lot of them on television, usually driven by someone like an international arms dealer or drug cartel kingpin. One thing their owners all have in common is the desire for pampered luxury and a checkbook to satisfy those desires. And if there is one thing this big Bimmer is does well, it’s luxury.

FAST FACTS

1. The 740i brings back the 6-cylinder 7 Series with two turbos that help put out 315-hp and 330 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Fuel economy rated at 17/25-mpg city/highway.

3. BMW offers the 6-cylinder 740i in a long wheelbase variant with an additional 6-inches of rear seat legroom.

4. Active Steering technology can also steer the rear wheels.

5. Pricing starts at $70,650 for the standard wheelbase and $75,050 for the long wheelbase.

THE 6-CYLINDER 7 SERIES RETURNS

For 2011, the 740Li BMW has gone back to a 6-cylinder engine from V8 only offerings, for the first time since 1992. But despite these austere “green” times, this inline 6 has direct injection and twin turbochargers, which put out 315 horsepower, and 330 ft-lbs of torque starting at a mere 1600 rpm. That means there is always plenty of grunt, with no turbo lag, to motivate this 4,400 lb. luxo-cruiser when you need to escape a rival drug gang. You get the feel and power of a V8, along with some not-too-shabby 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway fuel economy ratings.

A six-speed adaptive automatic puts the power to the rear wheels efficiently, and all shifts, whether in full automatic or manumatic mode, happen quickly and smoothly. And for 2011, the 7 Series uses Brake Energy Regeneration, which means the battery is only recharged when the vehicle is decelerating or braking. BMW’s Electronic E-Shift, which connects the shift “lever” to the transmission electronically rather than mechanically was a bit finicky when moving from park to drive or reverse and back, but the transmission worked fine in manumatic mode.

HIGH-TECH SUSPENSION, SEVERAL DRIVE MODES

The front suspension has been redesigned, so the 7 Series now rides on a double-wishbone setup that offers a more engaging ride with more controlled handling. The Electronic Damping and Driving Dynamics Controls also lets the driver choose and match the driving mode (COMFORT, NORMAL, SPORT, and SPORT+) to the road conditions and whatever mood you’re in. 

The test car had the optional Integral Active Steering, which varies the steering ratio based on vehicle speed and other driving conditions, and incorporates rear wheel steering as well, up to a 3-degree angle. This means that at slow speeds the rear wheels are steered opposite to the front wheels, and depending on vehicle speed, the turning circle can be reduced by up to 27.5-inches – which, combined with the front wheels’ reduced steering ratio, improves maneuverability. At higher speeds, the system steers them in the same direction as the front wheels, which enhances the stability of the car. Another benefit of this setup is that rear seat passengers will feel less body roll.

Also aiding in stability are the numerous functions of BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that include antilock braking (ABS), Automatic Stability Control (ASC), Cornering Brake Control and Dynamic Brake Control;

Other braking enhancements include Brake Fade Compensation, which compensates for loss of braking power (fading) under hard or repeated brake use; Brake Standby, which snugs the brake pads up to the rotors if the driver suddenly removes his foot from the accelerator pedal to reduce the effective lag time in applying the brakes; and Brake Drying, which brings the pads to the rotors periodically during wet-weather driving. 

ADDED SPACE FOR ADDED LUXURY

The L at the end of its moniker doesn’t stand for Luxury, it stands for Long Wheel Base (as opposed to the standard 740i) which gives this car 6 more inches of wheelbase and overall length. That translates into limousine-like legroom for rear seat passengers. In fact, owners will have a hard time deciding whether to drive or be driven. 

The test car was finished in a stunning two-tone leather interior, and equipped with the optional Luxury Seating Packages for the front and rear. In front that means multi-contoured seats that are heated and air-cooled, and Active Front Seats which are always moving up and down and side to side almost imperceptibly to reduce driver fatigue. But should you require more pampering, you’ll have to sit in the back where the rear seats, in addition to the heat and cooling features, will gently massage your aching muscles. By the way, if you live in the north, you can also get the cold weather package, which will include a heated steering wheel, if you don’t like to wear gloves.

If turning your head while driving is a chore, there’s the optional Drivers Assistance Package which features blind spot detection in the side view mirrors to alert you when there is a car driving in your blind spot, and a Lane Departure warning system in case you begin to drift to the edge of your lane. Plus, you can also order Active Cruise Control to automatically keep a safe following distance to the car in front of you without having to manually adjust your speed. And if you don’t like the violence of slamming your doors or trunk lid, you can also order the Convenience Package that will automatically latch the trunk and “soft close” the side doors. 

The 7 series comes with a large screen Navigation System with a back-up rear camera, and the often dreaded iDrive system, which has become much more user friendly over the last couple of years. Power moonroof, 4-zone climate controls, Park Distance Control, Illuminated exterior door handles and ground illumination, a sound system you’d like to have in your home, and a host of other features and goodies that would make some people want to live in this car. 

THE VERDICT

The base 740i is priced at $70,150 with the Long Wheel Base starting at $74,550.  But, as with all BMW’s you’ll never see a base car on a dealer floor. And once you start adding in the option packages, you’ll be flirting with that $100,000 mark. Should you wish to move up to the 750Li, with its 4.4-liter Twin-Turbo V8 and xDrive (all-wheel drive) you’re looking at $88,900 just to start.

Thankfully you don’t have to go there, even if you might want to. The new twin-turbo inline-six is both powerful enough and smooth enough to measure up to the 7 Series badge.

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