Lifestyle Boating & Motoring BMW 730d: A Luxury Limousine with Grunt
BMW 730d: A Luxury Limousine with Grunt
Friday, 01 July 2011

 

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Drs Daryl Sousa and Peter Bradley hit top gear when they tested the mettle of BMW’s flagship luxury sedan. But did the 730d meet their expectations?

Remember the 70s? A pie and sauce or a Coke cost 13 cents and so did a litre of gas (petrol, of course). And diesel was that dirty by-product from old trucks that created black plumes. Five bucks filled the tank and that was good for about 500 km ... sweet!

Then the first “energy crisis” came along, and we all thought we were witnessing the end of our gas guzzling incarnations.

Fortunately, that was just a bit of hype and manipulation by the oil producers (OPEC) to ramp up prices and profits for a while. The hysteria gradually faded, but manufacturers responded in the 80s by downsizing us and making vehicles more efficient. Now, almost 35 years later, we’re witnessing a similar process.

We’ve seen a plethora of new diesel engines filtering through almost every segment of the auto industry, from compacts to convertibles, luxury sedans to SUVs. The European manufacturers have led the way in developing user-friendly diesel-powered cars so that now, especially with the modern turbo-diesel, these vehicles compete with petrol cars for performance but are more economical. Gone are the days of the diesel cars sounding and driving like trucks.

Recently, we had the opportunity to test BMW’s 730d, the 5th generation 7 Series launched in 2009, with its 3rd generation turbo-diesel power plant. Interestingly in Australia, the 730d is the “entry level” model of the 7 Series. The 7 series is the largest and most luxurious of the BMW range and truly qualifies as a luxury limousine. At this level ($224k drive away), it comes packed with performance, technology, and creature comforts.

The first impression is that it is big! However, with small overhangs and a crisp accentuated shoulder line, it still looks sporty!

A few minutes of orientation with the salesman at Auto Classic paid dividends. We found the latest version of the iDrive controller simple and intuitive to use. The 10.2 inch widescreen high resolution TFT sat nav/control display was excellent, especially in 3D single view mode. The heads up display (of either navigation or just current speed) was equally impressive and allowed precise control of vehicle speed whilst using cruise control, which is crucial in avoiding (unhappy) “snap shot moments”.

For the technically minded, the 730d has a Common Rail Intercooled (single) turbo in line 6-cylinder diesel that packs 180 kW and 540 Nm from 1750 to 3000 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The individual Piezo injectors are force fed at 2000 Bar! The vehicle has an all-aluminium crankcase, and combined with other features such as regenerative braking, low CD, and extensive use of lightweight aluminium parts in the chassis, makes it one of the quietest and most efficient vehicles in its class. BMW call it Efficient Dynamics or ED (we medicos generally think of something else!) This all adds up to impressive performance with torque that is useful for quick acceleration in city driving and safe overtaking on country roads.

Initially, we found the test vehicles tyre noise a little intrusive on coarse bitumen, but then we discovered that it had Goodyears on the front instead of the original “run flat” Pirelli’s. Hard acceleration produced engine noise reminiscent of an Australian Big 6 (Petrol), but it was still quite acceptable for a diesel.

On a spirited drive to Gingin loaded up with five passengers, the 730d achieved an average 7.3 litres/100 km over approximately 200 km of combined suburban and highway cruising, which is almost exactly what BMW claims (7.2 l/100 km). These are very impressive figures for a car that does 0-100kmh in 7.2 secs and weighs in excess of 1900kg.

The centre console-mounted Dynamic Driving Control allowed the driver to select from Comfort, Normal, Sport, or “Sport Plus” settings. Unfortunately, my partner found the Comfort setting made her feel a little “sea sick” so most of the drive was done in either Normal (the best compromise) or Sport, which stiffens up the dampers to reduce body roll and changes the auto’s shift points. It kicked down earlier and held onto gears longer, which was really not necessary in such a high torque diesel. I have the same complaint with the EVO X’s TCCT [Daryl’s daily drive]. For a large luxury sedan, steering was sharp and the handling was very predictable.

Overall verdict: This is a very impressive Teutonic technological Tour de Force that would make any owner proud. It’s a little like going on a cruise – the destination is not that important. Getting out of a BMW 730d says, “I’ve arrived!”.

So what kind of people would want to drive this car? Is the 730d suitable for a retired farmer or doctor who wants to treat themselves after a lifetime of work? Not necessarily. We all deserve to be driving this vehicle, as it is safe, comfortable, and economical, but most of all, it’s fun and easy to drive. Unfortunately, entry into this league will be restricted to a privileged few! Enjoy!