What is it?
We’ve already driven the petrol-powered version of the latest ‘G12’ 7-series, the 750Li, and we came away mighty impressed. Not only was it finally a match for the S-class, XJ and A8 in terms of luxury and comfort, it also moved the game far ahead when it came to performance and technology. However, we ended that review on a sort of ‘to be continued’ note, because it is important to factor this car – the 730Ld – the diesel version, into the equation. There are a number of reasons for this, one being that this 730Ld M Sport is assembled in India, rather than the 750Li, which is a CBU import (you can get a more expensive CBU diesel, but that’s only if you want to customise it to suit your tastes). This means, while the 750Li M Sport costs Rs 1.55 crore (ex-showroom, all-India), the 730Ld M Sport costs a far more reasonable Rs 1.19 crore.
More than that, though, the simple fact is diesel is still the more popular choice for luxury cars (except in Delhi NCR for obvious reasons) and this makes the 730Ld the more important model for BMW in India. Because it’s a CKD (completely knocked-down) car available in only two pre-set trim levels, has local assembly dumbed down the luxury and the goodies in the cabin? And what’s the diesel engine like? Read on to find out.
What’s it like on the inside?
I made no mention of the exterior design, because since this is the M Sport trim, and like the 750Li we drove earlier, it remains exactly the same – extremely long, rather aggressive and with some design details that are a bit polarising. The only difference is the 19-inch wheels instead of the 20-inchers on the petrol car, and these too are optional; 18 inches is the default size. I’d also still like to spend some time with the less-sporty ‘Design Pure Excellence’ trim, which uses different ‘Dakota’ leather for the interior, has a more palatable exterior design and is Rs 8 lakh cheaper too.
The locally assembled 730Ld is feels just like one built in Germany. The excellent new standard of cabin quality is all still there, from the laser-precise bits of aluminium and solid metal switchgear to the thick, textured strips of wood and the skin-soft, double-stitched leather. For a sensation of comfort and luxury, it’s right up there with the S-class, but the design of the cabin isn’t mould-breaking like the Merc’s was and feels a bit too straightforward for a luxury car.
Space? Do you even need to ask? The 7-series is huge and it’s all gone to the back seat. Still, a few things are missing back here, like a foot rest behind the front passenger seat, tray tables (the old car had them) and seat heating/cooling (you do get it in the front though). The seats themselves are incredibly comfortable and adjustable in a multitude of ways. As per modern segment standards, though, the electric back seats recline, massage you and have their own memory function; you get a separate rear sunroof, there are entertainment screens and the cabin can be bathed in a cool (or warm) coloured glow. A really cool feature on the 7-series is a Samsung tablet that acts as the remote control for just about everything in the back seat.
Speaking of the gadgetry, there’s an astonishing amount of it. BMW’s iDrive is better than it’s ever been, capable of inputs via click-wheel, touchpad, touchscreen and, even hand gestures! The interface is crisp and smooth and the new functionality – apart from the gestures, which are a little clunky in their infancy – is superb.
What’s it like to drive?
BMW’s 2,993cc in-line six diesel has been cranked up to make 265hp and 620Nm, which is a jump of 7hp and 60Nm, and while that outdoes some rivals, it’s still a little short of the Jaguar XJ’s mighty 300hp and 700Nm. Still, as the previous 730Ld will testify, in the real world, the performance is much stronger than the numbers suggest. It may also be down to the 7-series’ relatively light kerb weight, and it’s even lower this time around at 1,795kg, thanks partly to the use of carbonfibre-reinforced plastic in its chassis.
While we haven’t had the chance to fix our VBOX testing gear to the new 7 diesel yet, we can tell you it’s seriously quick. In fact, BMW’s 6.2sec claim for 0-100kph seems a bit conservative, honestly. BMW has now narrowed its drive modes down to three – Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport – which alter steering, suspension, engine, gearbox and air-con performance. Sport mode even clasps the seat bolsters tighter around your midriff.
Eco Pro mode, predictably, saps power and the weak responses low down takes a little getting used to; best to leave it for the chauffeur. Comfort mode is the one you’d likely spend most of your time in, and here the motor is in a nice place for casual driving. It might leave you wanting if you want to go flat out, but then that’s what Sport mode is for. Put it in this mode and the digital dials glow red, and the motor is always on edge – perhaps a little too sharp for stop and go traffic. The good news is that there’s a clear distinction between all three modes, something you can’t say about many such systems. You also hear a lot less of the motor in the cabin, and that could be down to a more refined engine and/or better insulation.
Where the 7-series previously only used air suspension on the rear axle, now it’s fit to all four wheels, and this has made a huge difference to the ride quality. It no longer feels clunky and inconsistent over sharper bumps, and instead feels pillow-soft in Comfort mode, ironing out bumps well. In fact, there is also a ‘Comfort Plus’ setting, but all that seems to do is add more float over undulations. It’s impressive how much more tied down the car feels in Sport mode, but this does come at a cost – you feel a lot more up-and-down movement inside the cabin here. Overall, it’s a commendable improvement over the previous car, but the constant movement doesn’t quite give you that perfect sense of calm and isolation that a car in this segment should.
The 7-series has always managed to belie its mammoth proportions with good-old-fashioned chassis, steering and suspension tuning and perfect weight distribution. Trouble is, with the last car, that compromised the comfort and ease of use. That’s changed now, with a steering that’s much lighter yet still as accurate, and a much faster-reacting air suspension system. So while you miss some of that heft from the previous car, it’s still incredibly sharp around corners, and once again proves that BMW can turn anything into a fine-handling machine. The upshot is it’s also better at being a luxury limousine in the process.
Should I buy one?
In the last few years of its life cycle, it was hard to recommend the previous 7-series over its newer, more accomplished rivals. The only reason left to buy one was the throway prices they were offered at in the run-out phase. The new 7-series, however, puts BMW back in the super luxury game with its superbly appointed cabin, truckload of tech and a new level of interior quality. Its chassis too is now better geared to a luxurious experience than ever before, and though the ride perhaps lacks that last degree of finesse of an S-class, it is still great. The new 730Ld is a far improved limousine to be chauffeured in, and in case you occasionally happen to drive it yourself, it’s still a lot of fun too.