When you make it in life, really make it, it’s time to buy a car and flaunt your newfound wealth. But not just any car will do. No, it’s time to step up to the big leagues and get a proper executive limousine.
While common folk buy new cars to drive them, these four wheels are for someone else to drive, as you relax in the lounger rear seat. We’re talking about cars like the stretched Mercedes S-Class, Jaguar XJL or the long-wheelbase BMW 7 Series.
|1. A new turbocharged 3.0L inline-6 makes 315 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.
2. An eight-speed automatic is now standard with an option of AWD on the 740Li.
3. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
4. Priced from $80,600, our test vehicle listed at $97,895.
Available in three turbocharged flavors there’s the V8 750Li and a ludicrously powerful V12 760Li. As the saying goes, the rich didn’t get that way by spending all their money and so for those who want a machine that says “established luxury” but who don’t want to take out a mortgage there’s also the six-cylinder 740Li.
ALL ABOUT THE LEGROOM
Already lengthy in regular wheelbase form, Li models stretch the wheelbase an extra 5.5 inches. Nearly all of this gained length converts to extra leg-room for rear seat passengers, bringing the total to 44.3-inches.
Like any good luxury barge, the 7 Series is styled to conceal its mammoth 205.3-inch length in an elegant, timely design. Despite the elongated rear door, the proportions of this car do not look gangly.
For 2013, the 7 Series has received a mild refresh. Now available on all 7 Series are active and adaptive LED headlights. At first glance the lights may appear to be no different than they did for 2012, but take a closer look and notice the bulb-less, inverted disco ball like reflectors housed inside the trademark dual halo light surrounds. It is these halos that actually perform low-beam lighting duties at night, with the housing inside the halos reflecting an ultra-powerful LED light when high-beam brightness is called for.
NEW ENGINE UNDER THE HOOD
The biggest changes for 2013 however have happened under the skin of the 7 Series. Long-wheelbase versions of the BMW 740 are now available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, while a new 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 produces 315 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque and, for 2013, is now matched to an 8-speed automatic. Previously paired to a 6-speed automatic, the new combination is good for an estimated 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, which is an improvement of 2 mpg city and 3 mpg over the 2012 rear-wheel drive 740Li. During our time with the 7-Series we achieved a respectable 21.6 mpg average.
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A six-cylinder might not seem like much for such a gargantuan car with a 4,500 lb curb weight, but with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph, it’s more than enough. You don’t want to spill your latte on your $5,000 suit if the driver gets a little too frisky with the accelerator pedal, do you?
No matter how much thrust is being put to the road, the engine is muted and quiet; fitting for a vehicle of this caliber. The transmission rarely makes itself noticed as it seamlessly shifts between gears. The 740Li features BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control that allows the driver to adjust throttle response, engine response, power steering weight, and the Dynamic Stability Control thresholds. The vehicle can be cycled through settings that include ECO PRO, COMFORT+, COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ modes; the latter two seem an odd choices for a vehicle that’s primary purpose is shuttling dignitaries.
A SMOOTH OPERATOR
Despite the adjustable suspension’s ability to run the gauntlet from marshmallow soft to firm yet compliant, it’s best to leave it in comfort mode. Since the active dampers seamlessly reduce body roll at any cornering speed regardless of which suspension set-up is selected, the handling trade-off is a moot point compared to the comfort advantage. Remember, it’s the baller in the back that counts in this vehicle.
A self-leveling rear air suspension also helps retain the correct stance no matter how much weight is in the backseat or trunk.
If the paparazzi or a disgruntled business associate are after you, the 7 Series can be hustled around bends. Still, it’s not one to hide its weight very well, which may be a plus when freeway cruising, but becomes a hindrance when cornering hard.
THE BACK SEAT IS WHERE IT’S AT
Since the bank roller of this vehicle will spend most of their time in the backseat, BMW has paid special attention here. The outboard posterior-holders are comfortable with an adjustable headrest offering pillow-like comfort. The massive fold down center armrest contains dual cup holders with plenty of storage space inside. Both rear doors have three controls to operate the rear sunshades; one for the back window and two per door for the rear door windows. Plus there are dual vanity mirrors installed in the roof and moveable carpeted foot rests for each outboard passenger. A fancy idea, they’re little more than upholstered triangles. Pick one up and it feels more like a piece from a supersized set of children’s blocks than something belonging to a six-figure luxury sedan.
More surprising, however, are dual cigarette lighters, an extreme oddity in a modern car.
Our test vehicle was missing optional extras like rear seat adjustability and massage, a rear entertainment package with a rear iDrive controller and fold down chair back trays. Apparently, when ballin’ on a budget, some sacrifices need to be made.
The rest of the 7 Series’ interior has been enhanced for 2013 with a newly redesigned iDrive system and the availability of an optional Bang & Olufsen surround sound system. The car now features Attention Assistant that analyzes steering angle, road speed and other engine parameters. If the BMW see signs that fatigue is starting to build up in the driver, it will “encourage the driver to take a break by displaying a coffee cup symbol.”
In awe over all the interior toys, we were too excited to successfully replicate a half-asleep driver.
Starting at a price of $80,600 and rising all the way to $97,895 for our tester, neither of those numbers is insignificant. Still, that could be half as much as you might spend on a more powerful luxury limousine.
When it comes down to it, this segment is most likely going to be bought on badge appeal alone. Be it Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi or BMW, brand preference will dictate a purchasing decision as much as a vehicle’s individual merits.
For those on the fence looking for a millionaire’s car on a six-figure salary, rest assured that the improved 7 Series gives more reasons to favor the BMW.