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BMW 730Ld M Sport

Click to view picture gallery“Unless you are a high-ranking
  government minister, royalty,
  a high-flying business executive
  or a chauffeur, chances are you
  will not travel in, let alone drive,
  the new sixth-generation BMW
  7 Series limousine...”


UNDERSCORING BMW'S NEW FLAGSHIP'S high-end executive car status, these 7 Series cars were recently very much in evidence ferrying the likes of Merkel and Cameron to and from the EU/UK negotiations in Brussels.

What is also remarkable is that this new specialist niche model range was one of the seven finalists in the 2016 European Car of the Year awards. The winner, the British-built new Vauxhall Astra, was announced on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show on 29 February from a pool of would-be winners that included the Astra as well as BMW's 7 Series, the Skoda Superb, Audi's A4, Jaguar XE, Volvo XC90, and Mazda's MX-5.

So how did the 7 Series make it to the COTY's penultimate selection? Because it encompasses every piece of new automotive technology BMW can offer now, and will offer in the future in more affordable models. These include its weight-saving carbon composite body construction, and pioneering driving support functions like their new gimmicky Gesture Control instruments.

The entire Luxury
Saloon sector in the UK
accounted for a total of
just 9,061 registrations
last year, so the new
7 Series range will not
sell in huge numbers —
BMW UK are expecting to
sell 1,400 of them in its
first full year on sale...”
The entire Luxury Saloon sector in the UK accounted for a total of just 9,061 registrations in 2015, so the new 7 Series range will not sell in huge numbers BMW UK are expecting to sell 1,400 of them in its first full year on sale. Its principal competitors are the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and the Jaguar XJ long-wheelbase saloon.

Prices for the current 14-variant 7 Series range start at 64,530 and reach 79,970 but that's before the 740e plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and 583bhp 6.6-litre V12 petrol versions join the line-up later this year.

Current engines choices are 3.0-litre 740i (321bhp) and 750i (442bhp) petrol units along with 3.0-litre turbodiesel 730d (261bhp) and 740d (315bhp) versions. There's also the choice of standard or long-wheelbase body styles, M Sport spec, and rear or xDrive all-wheel drive systems. All models come with an automatic transmission as standard. In addition, there's a huge range of enhanced driving systems and personalisation options.

I have just enjoyed a luxurious spell driving the 3.0-litre turbodiesel 730Ld M Sport long-wheelbase version which has an on-the-road price of 72,260. But with lots of extra-cost options added to showcase what is available, its final price was closer to 100K (95,615).

With its new-tech CFRP (carbon-fibre reinforced Carbon Core) body, the new 7 Series is both stronger and up to 130kg lighter than previously. The standard length body is a shade over five-metres; the longer version I drove is 5,248mm, injecting an extra 140mm of rear passenger legroom (plus a 515-litre boot).

This makes the new '7' the largest production car BMW has ever built. The body retains the recognisable long bonnet, short front overhang, long wheelbase and set-back passenger compartment with a roofline that slopes gently to the rear but still gives that all-important executive car headroom despite the fitting of a 1,695 Sky Lounge panoramic glass sunroof.

The new 7 Series will always make a 'grand-entrance' because of its size and the trademark kidney-shaped grille which is a larger Active Air Stream version to improve the blunt nose aerodynamics. Either side of the grille are standard LED headlights (or the optional 2,450 Laserlight system). Flanked by LED foglights, a wide, lower air intake grille emphasises the width of this VIP express.

M Sport cars get an exterior body styling package with unique design side-skirts and front and rear bumpers, 19-inch wheels and illuminated door finishers bearing the 'M' logo.

The 7 Series has self-
levelling air suspension
which can be adjusted
for ride comfort and the
car can be raised by 20mm to overcome rough
road surfaces;
when travelling at high
speed in Sport mode
it lowers automatically
by 10mm.
Sport mode, incidentally,
stiffens the suspension,
gives more weight to the
steering and sharpens
up the throttle and
gearbox responses...”
Inside there's an Anthracite headlining and Fineline black wood interior trim inserts edged with high-gloss metal-effect trim. Luxury Nappa leather upholstery is also standard. For the record, there is absolutely no plastic trim used for the interior it's all leather or wood.

Other kit (some extra-cost options) include Remote Parking, Touch Command, SatNav, four-zone AirCon, electric windows, privacy blinds for the rear windows, Gesture Control, head-up display, and ambient air freshener.

A very useful extra, bearing in mind the size of this saloon, is the 400 Surround View function. This uses the centrally-mounted screen to show real-time camera-generated images of the front, rear and sides.

Software also generates overhead views of the car's position, which is ideal and much-needed when parking in cramped public car parking spaces. For even more sophistication a 4,675 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system was fitted to my test car.

The 730Ld also had two tablet screens for back passengers' use plus a third Samsung tablet centrally-positioned on the rear centre armrest for executives to control various in-car functions whilst enjoying a seat massage.

In the front is the usual BMW iController to access BMW Online Services, real-time traffic information, and an internet connection as well as the various driving modes from ECO PRO through to Sport. Adding to the tech-spec is lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and radar braking.

The 7 Series has self-levelling air suspension which can be adjusted for ride comfort and the car can be raised by 20mm to overcome rough road surfaces; when travelling at high speed in Sport mode it lowers automatically by 10mm. Sport mode, incidentally, stiffens the suspension, gives more weight to the steering and sharpens up the throttle and gearbox responses. Also fitted was Executive Drive Pro (a 2,250 option) which studies the road ahead and adjusts the suspension to smooth the way over larger bumps.

Generally, ride comfort is refined and handling is composed for such a large car. However, poorer road surfaces and sections of tarmac made uneven by heavy lorries did cause the car to tramline, with the large wheels fidgeting in and out of the ruts on motorways this is unsettling for both the driver and passengers. It should glide over these imperfections but British roads just don't allow it. That said, it did make light work of my long journeys.

The 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesel uses the latest BMW TwinPower Turbo technology to generate 261bhp and peak torque of 457lb ft from 2,000rpm. All versions have an eight-speed Steptronic gearbox but it is a Sport unit with closer ratios for the M Sport version which also features Launch Control not really an essential requirement, I would have thought, for a limousine.

Driven in ECO PRO
mode, my two 200-mile
motorway journeys and a
further 100 miles on
country roads plus some
town driving resulted in
an overall average figure
of 40.1mpg...”
Top speed is limited to 155mph and zero to 62mph takes 6.2 seconds. From initial start-up to open road acceleration, mechanical sounds are subdued within the cabin and there is very little wind or road noise intrusion.

Other constructive features include Brake Energy Regeneration and Auto Stop/Start. Also, selecting the ECO PRO mode brings into play a coasting function which decouples the powertrain in overrun phases while travelling at speeds between 31 and 100mph. Talking of fuel economy, officially the Combined Cycle figure for the 3.0-litre 730Ld M Sport version is 56.5mpg.

Driven in ECO PRO mode, my two 200-mile motorway journeys and a further 100 miles on country roads plus some town driving resulted in an overall average figure of 40.1mpg. I was happy with that although far less happy that it was so far away from the official 56.5mpg.

However, the emissions figure for this model is 132g/km so road tax is currently only 130 a year which, when you consider the cost of the car and its size, is minimal. Company car drivers will pay 21% Benefit-in-Kind tax (23% from April 2016). The only niggle was the unsettled handling on poor main road surfaces.

That aside, the all-new 7 Series is very spacious with a sumptuous luxury interior and the latest driving, communications and entertainment technologies make it one of the cleverest luxury cars both to drive and to be driven in. I can see clearly now why it was a finalist in the 2016 Car of the Year competition.
David Miles

BMW 730Ld M Sport | 72,260
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 6.2 seconds | Test Average: 40.1mpg
Power: 261bhp | Torque: 457lb ft | CO2: 132g/km