BMW 740i

At the helm of Munichís technological tour-de-force

by LOUIS CORDONY

ENGINE 2998cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo / POWER 240kW @ 5500rpm / TORQUE 450Nm @ 1380-5000rpm / WEIGHT 1725kg / 0-100KM/H 5.5sec / PRICE $224,200 FOR SIX-FIGURE German limos, the rear seat isnít just a place to plonk belligerent kids or things that wonít fit in the boot. Itís just as main an event as the cockpit, doubling as an office, retreat, guest room. A little spot for an executive snooze, even.

The 740iís back seats are comfortable and lavish-looking in a way youíd expect from a $224K luxo limo. Thereís plenty of tech, too. Youíll find a seven-inch Samsung tablet in the rear seat armrest, letting you remotely adjust the cabinís climate control or infotainment. Or pop in the glovebox if the rear seat occupants are still a decade or two from university, let alone the boardroom.

Up front, HVAC info is now displayed in colour, ditto the full-TFT instrument cluster, while nav scores a new menu interface, which can be controlled by gesture Ė a very, very cool feature.

Leather and cool-to-touch chrome drenches the gorgeous-looking steering wheel to complete a spacious, sumptuous office.

BMWís efforts with the new 7-Series arenít isolated to its cabin Ė 100kg is stripped from the 740iís bones thanks to a semi carbonfibre skeleton and part-aluminium skin. As a result the 740i side-steps like a rugby winger.

Through tight stuff thereís loads of rear grip, and that signature BMW balance feels to be easily exploitable in this 5.1-metre sedan.

That doesnít mean the 740i forgets itís wearing a suit, though. Occupants will enjoy the carís cloud-like buoyancy as it wafts along in the self-levelling air suspensionís softest damper mode.

However, the rideís not magic enough to make rude ridges disappear, and the M-Sport packageís run-flat tyres feel out smaller disturbances in urban environments.

Another sour point is the steering.

Itís far from direct, and on long corners youíll be winding off lock.

In between bends, though, the uprated 240kW/450Nm turbo inlinesix has no trouble with the weight and is a sweet match to the eightspeed transmission. Whether it can nail BMWís 5.5sec 0-100km/h claim remains to be seen.

Itís hard to say whether the active roll technology ($5500) makes all the difference, but the 740iís a decent steer, an even better ride, and a classy place to perch yourself Ė even if it feels like you are driving a huge gadget at times.

There are cheaper ways to transport five, but in this segment and at this price point Mercedes-Benzís S400 only comes in long-wheelbase form and Audiís A8 only as a diesel.

So until either rival changes tack, the 740iís cutting-edge tech, refinement and petrol-powered grunt make it a unique proposition among luxo-barges Ė and one that doesnít disappoint from the front seat, or the back. Not that youíll be spending much time there, naturally. M

Like Cushy ride; exquisite cabin; good steer STAR RATING Dislike Excessive options; iffy steering 4.0