My colleague Kelly Murphy and I both live out in the country and frequently make use of the high beams on test cars. Like him, I was very impressed by the candlepower that the 7-series headlights throw out onto the road. BMW has done brilliant headlights for years, but, wow, these are really amazing. The German car companies REALLY know how to make good headlights; the ones in a Porsche Panamera that I drove recently were also superb.
I took Val, the Romanian dude and car nut who is fixing the stonework on the chimney at Chez DeMatio, for a ride in the 740i, which was clearly the highlight of his day, and he was amazed by how it handled. As I explained to him, this six-cylinder engine is all this car really needs and easily exceeds the output of the V-8 engines that used to be the entry-level powertrains for the 7-series in America. For such a big car, the 7-series chassis handles the corners and bumps incredibly well. He was impressed; this is very much an object for him to aspire to, even though he’s not exactly suffering in a fully loaded Toyota Tundra Limited. At the conclusion of our drive, he mainly wanted to know whether he should be setting his sights on a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW. “Hard to say,” I told him. “But don’t worry. When you’re ready to move up to a hot German car, both Mercedes and BMW will have plenty of stuff for you to choose from.” [He’s only 25 years old, so he probably has a lot of stone to lay before he’s going to have a BMW or a Benz, but I found it interesting that the BMW brand clearly captivates his fancy.]
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Whenever I drive any BMW 7-Series, it reminds me how good of a relative deal the 740i is. After all, the 740i costs $13K less than a base 750i and has almost all the same luxury features. BMW doesn’t sell any underpowered cars in the United States, and that goes for the 740i as well. You could tell the average driver that the 740i has a V-8 and they’d believe you — especially if they had their ears plugged and felt the surge of acceleration from the car’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight six.
Although the 740i is a good deal compared with the rest of the 7-series lineup, it’s only a couple grand cheaper than a base Jaguar XJ, and I’d choose the Jag’s style over this BMW any day. In this class, I also really love the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but its price of entry is a full $20K more than that of the aforementioned two.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I’ve driven BMW’s current 7-series in virtually every available guise, including the rare-as-hen-teeth Alpina B7. But my favorite variant may well be the new six-cylinder 740i. The lower base price might not woo shoppers in this segment, but the engine alone could: simply put, this feels far more linear than any other 7-series I’ve driven. Coupled with the fact that this example did without the advanced baubles most other test cars (including our Four Seasons 750Li), this 740i felt like a throwback to the 7-series models of the late 1980s: big and luxurious, yes, but relatively simple, straightforward, and rewarding. At this point, the only reason I’d consider the twin-turbo V-8 instead is for the availability of all-wheel drive, although we seemed to survive Michigan’s harsh winters just fine with a Four Seasons rear-wheel-drive 750Li and a set of snow tires.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Yes, the 740i is a fantastic deal if you happen to be looking for a 7-series on a budget, though I really wonder how many 7-series shoppers are obsessing over $14,300 in savings. Part of the appeal of any of the sedans in this class is the exclusivity they promise. You’ll see lots of these at a country club or luxury resort, but they still represent a very small portion of all new car sales. And buyers want that exclusivity.
The twin-turbo I-6 is also perfectly adequate in a car of this size. BMW has perfected the power delivery of this engine and it’s one of my favorites in the current BMW engine portfolio. But, again, I wonder how many buyers just want an adequate engine in a vehicle that’s well beyond adequate in virtually every other measure. Since the exterior of the 740 is identical to that of any other 7-series, it’s not advertising the fact that only six cylinders reside under the hood and thus it’s just as likely to provoke the Occupy Everywhere crowd as a 760. Get a Hyundai Equus if you demand a luxurious limo and the ability to totally fly under the radar.
If perfectly adequate transportation at a reasonable price were all that mattered, nobody would ever buy anything nicer than a Nissan Versa.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
To me this engine is more than just adequate, it’s exactly what this big Bimmer needed to make it livable around town. Instead of having to gently feather the throttle away from a stop to prevent either embarrassing wheel spin or a violent surge forward like you’re trying to race the guy next to you — both common occurrences in the V-8-powered 750i — the 740i’s straight-six produces linear, easily modulated thrust, giving the 740i a far more relaxed demeanor. It doesn’t kick you in the backside when you flatten the throttle — which I admit is an extremely entertaining characteristic of the 750i — but it never feels slow or underpowered.
I don’t buy into the generalization that every individual who shops the 7-series is only concerned with image or has money to burn. I think that even buyers in this market like the feeling that they are getting a lot for their money and, to me, the 740i is a ton (technically about 2 tons) of car for the price.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Having been employed by Automobile Magazine for more than twenty years now, I’ve driven more than my fair share of BMWs. One thing that’s always been evident is that the engineers at BMW are masters of tuning in-line six-cylinder engines, whether normally aspirated or turbocharged. Interestingly, the company dropped the six-cylinder option from their 7-series lineup back in 1995, which likely made sense back at a time when BMW’s 4.4-liter V-8 produced 282 hp and it’s six made 190 hp — and the car weighed about the same as today’s 7-series at about 4300 pounds. Today’s twin-turbo I-6 is more than up to the task of motivating this large sedan, however, with an output of 315 hp and 330-lb-ft of torque. It is smooth and seamless and never feels lacking for power. I don’t imagine that anyone who owned this car would have to feel like they had to apologize for not opting for the more powerful eight- or twelve-cylinder models.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 BMW 740i Sedan
MSRP (with destination): $71,875
PRICE AS TESTED: $77,475
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged I-6
Horsepower: 315 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 330 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
245/50VR-18 Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 14.0 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.3/38.9 in
Headroom (front/rear): 40.6/38.5 in
Brake fade compensation
Adaptive Xenon headlights
Halogen fog lights
Front and rear parking distance control
Universal garage door opener
Multi-function sport steering wheel
iDrive system w/on-board computer and controller
Vehicle monitor system
Navigation system w/voice control
12-speaker audio system
BMW Assist w/Bluetooth
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Convenience package- $1700
Power trunk lid
Soft-close automatic doors
Cold weather package- $1200
Heated steering wheel, and heated front and rear seats
Premium sound package- $1800
Premium hi-fi system
Ceramic controls- $650
Smartphone integration- $250
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Driver assistance package- $3500
Blind spot detection
Side- and top-view cameras
Lane departure warning
Automatic high beams
Luxury seating package- $3200
Active front seats
Power rear and side window shades
Front ventilated, multi-contour seats
Rear entertainment package- $2800
6-disc DVD changer
BMW claims a 0-to-60 time of 5.8 seconds for the 740i, 0.7 second slower than its twin-turbo V-8 sibling, the 750i.