LICENCE GUARDIAN LIMOUSINE
Credit crunch – what’s that? Clearly not something that impacts on those buyers at the top end of the car market who are still capable of finding the £54,000-plus needed to put a brand new BMW 730d on the road. For that price, you’d expect a lavish list of standard kit on the car, and you get it. But there’s one extra I reckon it would be worth adding, even at a hefty £915. That buys the Head-Up Display. Not only does it project your speed onto the windscreen as you drive, it also displays the relevant speed limit for the stretch of road you’re on, delivered via GPS database. It’s a constant handy reminder of any disparity between staying legal and risking your licence, which it is all too easy to do in a sporty limousine of a car with a top speed more than double the UK limit and an acceleration time that propels you all too rapidly towards it.
This is just one example of the veritable feast of features available on this technology-packed flagship BMW, now in its fifth generation. For a mere £290 you can opt for the two tiny side-view cameras, one in each front wing, that give you an early view – displayed on a dashboard monitor – of what’s coming when you’re nosing out of a junction. If you were unlucky enough to have an accident in this car, a crash sensor would automatically activate the hazard warning lights, cut the fuel supply to the engine, release the door locks and switch on the interior lights.
Described by BMW as ‘all-new from the wheels up’, this latest 7-Series has a new chassis and substantial changes throughout. It has undergone an external revamp that includes assertive tweaks to the bodywork that give it a more fluid look, with bigger and more imposing front grille kidneys, and L-shaped rear lights. It’s all targeted at giving the car more presence, although its sheer bulk already does that.
The interior has a slightly more driver-focused centre console, a hooded dash to cut reflection and a black panel that becomes part of the trim until information needs to be displayed. Wisely, the often-criticised iDrive controller has been revised, with four short-cut buttons now added to make the system more intuitive.
The three-litre, six-cylinder engine has a variable vane turbocharger and is lighter, faster and more economical than before, with lower CO2. Power is up 14bhp to 245bhp. Fuel consumption is 10 per cent lower, improved from 35mpg in the old car to 39.2mpg.
All the changes add up to a stunning package. Our test drive began with a brief chauffeured trip in the back seat, demonstrating how roomy and relaxing this car is for passengers. But the 730d really shines when you get behind the wheel. It’s a tough call to make a car this big feel nimble on the road, but BMW has achieved it.
It comes with a choice of three switchable chassis settings: Comfort, Normal or Sport, and they noticeably adjust the car’s driving character. Sport mode sets the car with firmer suspension and minimises body roll on tight corners, giving it great feel and fluidity on a cross-country B road. Comfort gives a softer, silken ride on motorways. Normal is a softish compromise between the two. In its latest guise the 7-Series is better looking, an improved package, remarkably high-tech and seriously good to drive. BMW should be proud of it. How many buyers they’ll find for this technological wonder in the current economic climate remains to be seen.
RIVALS: Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro SE, Jaguar XJ 2.7 V6 Diesel Sovereign, Mercedes -Benz S 320 CDI
- Engine: 2993cc, 6-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Max Power: 245bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 398lb ft at 1,750-3,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,100kg
- Combined Consumption: 39.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 192g/km (F)
- 0-62mph: 7.2secs
- Max speed: 153mph
- Insurance Group: 19