First Drive: 2011 BMW 740Li

#BMW, #740i

Six-cylinder 7-series models start at about $12,500 cheaper than their V-8-powered brethren, but the junior edition retains all of the 750's hi-tech options, including a head-up display, nightvision, twenty-inch wheels, and even BMW's superfancy custom "Individual" treatment, although all-wheel drive is one significant feature that will not be available on the 740. Standard features are very lush, though; the 740's standard cabin differs from the 750's only in its lack of soft-close doors, automatic trunk, keyless start and entry, Nappa leather seats, and "multicontour" (read: nearly infinitely adjustable) front seats. From the outside, only the ten-spoke eighteen-inch wheels and the "740i" or "740Li" badge reveal the car's cylinder subtraction.

Both regular and long-wheelbase 740s are rated at 17/25 mpg city/highway and 20 mpg in the combined EPA cycle. The last number is 3 mpg higher than the scores of both the 750i and the 750Li. In other words, buyers of the 740i will save well over $10,000 on their initial purchase and several hundred bucks in annual fuel costs. Not too shabby.

It's worth noting that there's a hybrid edition of the 7-series, the ActiveHybrid7, which offers similar fuel mileage to the 740. The hybrid, though, can allegedly accelerate to 60 mph in a scant 4.7 seconds, 1.2 seconds quicker than the 740 and a figure that BMW claims makes it the swiftest hybrid in the world. Predictably, the six-figure ActiveHybrid7 starts at $31,275 more than the 740i---or about the cost of a brand-spanking-new BMW 128i coupe with a few options. Mercedes-Benz fans might celebrate the S400 Hybrid's superior 19/25 mpg EPA rating, but that luxoboat carries a $16,925 premium over the 740i and takes more than a second longer to reach 60 mph.

It's a bit of a shame that the majority of 7-series owners demand the best of the best (short of the $140,000 760Li, of course) and will miss out on the impressive new base six-cylinder 740i, which is perhaps the smartest buy in BMW's current lineup.

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