BMW 740 (1996)

At the start of the recession it was luxury car buyers who tightened belts first as they foresaw the dip to come and now, as we come out of recession, it is this market sector where growth is most rapid as those buyers take a long view on the economy and invest their money in the finest automotive products available.

Into this rapidly growing market comes the new BMW 7 series, a subtle re-styling of it’s forebear at first glance but, in fact, a virtually all new car with much improved cabin space and sporting the wonderful V8s seen in the last of the earlier 7s.

At risk of repeating a statement that I have made before, with their 3 and 4 litre V8s BMW can probably lay claim to having produced the best production petrol engines in the world and installed in the new 7 series flagships these 2 fine engines seem to have met their spiritual match for the cars are the equal of the engines.

The 4 litre V8 powered 740 that I drove recently is quite simply a stunner, a new sleeker body, many exciting new features and powered by a wonderful engine, driving through a superb automatic gearbox, the 7’s are outfitted to a degree of opulence which cossets and invigorates the lucky owner, the 740 must surely be one of the best sporting saloons in the world. Clothed in a timeless shape with fine aerodynamics, the new 7 series looks sleeker, more stylish and powerful than ever, a truly well crafted example of the motor maker’s arts.

A quietly sumptuous passenger cabin makes long distance travel a real pleasure from the sepulchral hush to the richly leather clad seats and the widespread use of tasteful walnut trim. The shapely body surrounds a true driving heaven, a spacious cabin which contains one of the best work places for any keen driver, a rake and reach adjustable wheel and electronically adjustable, sumptuously leather clothed, seats facing a curvy dash which is an ergonomic masterpiece, both clarity of instruments and easily reached controls. The 740 has a prodigious list of standard equipment, more electronic goodies than a flight simulator, ABS, cruise control, power steering, windows, mirrors, roof and seat controls including a new upper seat rotation for extra shoulder support, a longitudinally split aircon system, a very complex but easily used trip computer, twin airbags, a sensational 10 speaker radio/cassette/CD hi-fi system with controls on the steering wheel, an alarm and immobiliser system, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, the list is enormous, a real tour de force.

But the real star of this show, despite the excellence of all of the other parts of this mechanical equation, has to be that engine. The light and compact 32 valve V8 breathes new life into the 7 series and knocks all other power plants into the proverbial cocked hat, it’s superbly smooth and quiet and develops a massive 286 bhp from its 3928 cc along with masses of torque across a very broad range all of which makes for effortless long distance cruising, at 70 mph barely 2000 rpm showing.

A swift prod of kickdown is like awakening a slumbering giant as the normally almost inaudible power plant spins up from an angry, low, rumble to an all action, fire breathing, V8 bellow to propel what is a fairly large car very rapidly towards the horizon.

The massive power and torque is harnessed by one of the best automatic gearboxes available, a 5 speed, multi range box which tailors itself to your driving style and responds to it. The AGS feature of this superb gearbox is an adaptive memory, quite simply it learns your style of driving and adjusts throttle openings and upshift points accordingly.

From the crisp, well weighted, power steering to the inherent grip, stability and poise of the suspension the handling of the 740 is a real thrill, it makes a fairly large car very chuckable on the twisty bits, with fine grip from the low pressure Michelin tyres, yet provides as soft a ride as any limousine when desired and is backed up by very powerful and progressive braking with ABS.

The BMW 740 is as fine an example of the car making arts as can be found anywhere in the world, it’s incredibly well crafted, a sheer pleasure to drive, very stable and a car that can easily, and effortlessly, eat up continents. The BMW “ultimate driving machine” slogan was never more aptly applied.

First Published 1996 – Article © Graham Benge 2007

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