What is it?
It’s a mid-range variant of BMW’s flagship luxury limousine that caters to the growing demand for petrol-powered cars. Until now, you could have your 7-series with either a 265hp, 3.0-litre diesel (730Ld) or a 450hp, 4.4-litre V8 petrol (750Li), but this new 740Li is powered by a 3.0-litre inline-six petrol. This makes it a great choice for the ever-growing number of people who don’t want a diesel, but at the same time, don’t want to splurge on the full-fat V8 petrol. And it would be quite a splurge; since this is a CKD (Completely Knocked Down unit) assembled in India, its price is a more reasonable Rs 1.28 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) as opposed to the Rs 1.57 crore of the imported 750Li.
The 740Li is only available in one specification – Design Pure Excellence Signature – which, like the engine, is the mid-level offering in the range. It gets a bit more kit than the starting variant and uses a classier, more chrome-heavy look than the racier, more expensive M Sport top trim offered with the other two engines.
What’s it like on the inside?
We’ve said in past reviews of the car that the new 7-series’ interior is leagues ahead of its predecessor’s in terms of craftsmanship and the kinds of materials used. There’s softer leather, contrast stitching, lighter-coloured wood grain and loads of brushed metal all over the place. The design, however, is still a bit too business-like, especially compared to the dramatic dashboards of the Mercedes S-class and Jaguar XJ.
It does pack in loads of tech though, with BMW’s latest and greatest iDrive onboard computer now operable by not just the click wheel and touchpad, but also a touchscreen and even a handful of gesture controls, the last of which work with varying degrees of effectiveness. The back seat is ridiculously spacious, and this DPE Signature trim gets a bench seat that’s made of two reclining chairs with an armrest that folds down in the centre, housing the seat controls and a Samsung tablet that lets you operate just about everything, from the air-con, the ambient lighting and infotainment, to the seat heating, cooling and massage, the sun blinds and the sunroof.
Strangely, however, while the rear seats and driver’s seat are lavishly equipped, the front passenger seat isn’t. It only has basic electric adjustment (no lumbar and side bolster adjustment, and you can’t even adjust the headrest), and it lacks the massage function. It seems its main purpose is folding forward to liberate even more room for the rear-left passenger and releasing the footrest that’s fixed onto the back of it. Another disappointing omission is paddle shifters; yes this is a limousine, and it’s not the M Sport version (which does get them), but it’s still a BMW, and as you’ll see in the next section, owners might be quite inclined to take the wheel from time to time.
What’s it like to drive?
First things first, the new motor. The 740Li uses a 2,998cc, twin-scroll-turbocharged straight-six that produces 326hp and 450Nm of torque. It’s paired, as ever, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, sourced from ZF. Initial refinement is just superb, as it murmurs and shimmies to life and then settles down into a calm idle. You can hear it a bit once you open it up past, say, 3,500rpm (on its way to a near-7,000rpm redline) but it’s a good noise; a bit hushed by the turbo whoosh and the cabin insulation, but underneath is that classic BMW straight-six mechanical rasp. What’s more audible at speed is a bit of tyre noise, and that’s not ideal in a car of this sort. Acceleration is creamy smooth and really reminds you just how special a Bavarian petrol straight-six used to feel (this and the X5 are the only two mainstream models to currently offer a six-cylinder petrol in India). You really don’t mind extending it to the redline from time to time, because power delivery is really strong, and the gearbox makes sure it continues unabated between ratios. While the 750Li gets to 100kph in a M5-rivalling 4.7sec, you have to admit that this 740Li’s claimed 5.6sec time is far from shabby. That’s partly because, despite being a 5.2m-long limousine, it still weighs less than 1.8 tonnes, thanks to the lightweight construction, including carbon-fibre components in key areas.
Drive modes dictate the way the engine, gearbox, steering and suspension behave, and you get a choice of Eco Pro, Comfort, Comfort Plus and Sport, the first and last of which get their own ‘individual’ settings to let you customise your drive. Four-corner air suspension (the previous 7-series had air springs only at the rear) has an inherently soft and pillowy ride quality, and in Comfort Plus, it’s simply too bouncy. Comfort is good for everyday use, while Sport mode keeps body movements in check and is still comfortable enough. Still, while it is super comfortable, it lacks that all-conquering quality you’ll find in an S-class. Some sharper bumps can still be felt through the seat of your pants; fine by most standards, but in this segment, all too noticeable.
And though this is no sportscar, Sport mode does a much better job of tightening the car up, should you want to give Jeeves the day off and head for the hill station. Yes, you’ll be aware of its size, but with quick, sharp steering, surprisingly good body control and that rev-happy engine, you might occasionally forget.
Should I buy one?
It’s good that BMW has given buyers this mid-range engine option as petrol cars are becoming more popular. As Jaguar currently only offers a four-cylinder petrol XJ and Audi only V8 and W12 petrols for the A8, this car’s only real rival is the Mercedes-Benz S 400. It’s good to see very little of the luxury has been left out on this locally assembled Design Pure Excellence Signature trim (the other two engines can be made-to-order as full imports, should you desire), and that really shows how well BMW has upped its game on the luxury front, compared to the previous-generation car. The motor doesn’t for a second make you feel like you’ve skimped for the ‘lower variant’, with great refinement and smooth power delivery; it really deserves a spot in the pantheon of great BMW engines. All that keeps it from being the class leader are refinement and ride quality, which are but a hair’s breadth below the lofty class standard. But alas, that’s what matters most in this segment. While the super-capable 730Ld will likely still remain the most popular variant, we do anticipate seeing a lot of 740Li badges popping up on our streets too.