When it first came stateside in 1978, choosing a BMW 7 Series was a simple process. With one engine and one wheelbase, you could just pick what color you want and be on your merry way. Today there are ten different models, forcing drivers to choose among four engines (plus a hybrid), rear- or all-wheel-drive, and two different wheelbase lengths.
As if this isn’t tricky enough, the options list has more custom choices than the Taco Bell app. Do you want standard paint and upholstery, or something from the pricey BMW Individual collection? What about the headlights: Do you want LEDs, or are the standard xenons just fine? Need a head-up display? Night vision? Adaptive dampers? The list goes on and on.
After a week with a new version of BMW’s flagship sedan, we’ve sorted out which model you actually want, although it’s still up to you whether or not to order a ceramic-glazed iDrive knob. Our favorite 7 Series is now the 740Ld Xdrive, a conclusion we came to after a week at the helm of the smooth, torquey land yacht.
- When the diesel 7 first arrived at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, its engine was already familiar to American consumers. It’s the same 3.0-liter, turbodiesel inline-six found in everything from the E90 3 Series to the past two generations of X5, as well as the current 5 Series. A robust 413 pound-feet of torque lathered across the rev range, with peak twist available between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm, and the corresponding horsepower tops out at 255.
- 0–60 happens in a sedate 6.1 seconds, and for those with autobahn dreams the top speed is a modest 130 mph. While those figures aren’t terribly impressive, as is often the case with diesels, the real-world application of the engine’s power is far more dramatic. Even small throttle inputs produce a smooth surge of acceleration, making the 740Ld feel a lot quicker than the performance metrics might indicate.
- Even with the current cheap price of gas, the superior fuel efficiency of a diesel engine is worth noting, especially as this model only costs $1500 more than a 740Li xDrive. The diesel tips the scales at nearly 4,700 pounds, yet it boasts a 31-mile-per-gallon highway rating. It’s rated at 23 mpg in the city, while our real-world testing saw returns in the mid-to-high 20s.
- Simple anecdotes about acceleration and fuel economy figures only convey a small part of the 740Ld’s goodness. This engine comes into its own on the freeway, where the standard eight-speed automatic keeps the revs as low as possible. A 70-mph cruising speed produces nary a whisper from under the hood, while a small toe’s worth of throttle elicits a nearly imperceptible swapping of cogs and a smooth, quiet wave of torque. This is a vehicle that delights in being driven with a soft foot and a gentle hand, befitting its large luxury status.
- Despite the BMW badge on the nose and all six cylinders arranged in a straight line, this car is very clearly diesel powered. It sounds neither smooth nor particularly refined when pushed.
- It’s not just the quiet engine and telepathic transmission that do the 740Ld good. Our tester car’s $2,500 Adaptive Drive system with Active Roll Stabilization ironed out bumps beautifully while keeping the car planted and composed through every bend and in turn.
- We have to salute BMW’s restraint in fitting 19-inch wheels to the M Sport Package on our car, although 20s are still offered as an option. And even with run-flat tires, road noise was remarkably well managed. That’s doubly impressive when you remember that the engine is too quiet to drown out any racket from the pavement.
- The 740Ld xDrive only comes in one body style and drivetrain – that’s long wheelbase and all-wheel-drive if you’re unfamiliar with BMW’s nomenclature – and prices start at $82,500. Our test car included the M Sport Edition line, a bargain that combines the $4,800 Executive Package and the $4,600 M Sport Package for just $4,000. The other options were Adaptive Drive System for $2,500, $750 powered sunshades, $650 ceramic controls (an easy pick, if you ask us), $800 Cold Weather Package and an enhanced Bluetooth system and smartphone integration for $500. Throw in a $950 destination charge, and you come to our as-tested price in Alpine White of $92,650.
- One more thing– the 7 Series is old. It’s not Lexus LS-old, but with a birthday way back in 2008, the 7 precedes the Jaguar XJ, Audi A8, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It’s that last one that really dooms the 7 Series.
The S-Class drives better, looks better, and the interior feels better. It is arguably one of the best cars you can buy today. The Mercedes may not offer a diesel, but it’s still a better overall package than the aging BMW, and it starts just under $2,000 more than the 7 Series you see above. When you consider that, the toughest decision to make about buying a 7 Series doesn’t come down to options or wheelbases or colors – it’s choosing to ignore the shiny new S550 at the dealership next door.