Blog: An Argument For The BMW 740i

By Brandon Turkus

July 14, 2011

Right up near the top of my list of favorite cars sits the BMW 7-Series. Frankly, I’m not picky about whether it’s the near-super-sedan 760Li or the awesome B7 Alpina, or the 400-horsepower, V-8-powered car. Long wheelbase or short doesn’t really matter too much to me either, because the 7, regardless of engine, is simply an excellent vehicle to drive. That point was driven home on my first drive of the new 740i.
This car is good. I mean really good. As in, it’s so good that, were it my money, I’d have a very difficult time picking up any other 7-Series over this. Unlike the biturbocharged V-8 or V-12, the 740i is powered by a single-turbo straight-six, also found in the 1-, 3-, and 5-Series models (among others). In this particular application, it produces 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.
Now, I can understand those of you saying “Well that doesn’t seem like much,” and normally I’d agree with you, considering the 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque that can be had in the biturbo V-8 model (not to mention the 535-horsepower 760Li). But the thing is, the six-pot and the 7-Series feel so natural together. We like the sound (and the performance) of the V-8 and V-12 cars a lot, but there is just something so classic about the shrill howl of an inline-six sitting under the hood of any BMW.
It also performs quite well too. As we’ve come to expect of BMW’s turbocharged motors, initial acceleration is quite good. I admit to actually being surprised the first time I nailed the throttle, as I (rather shamefully) thought that this was going to be a “budget” 7-Series. I was wrong. The six-speed auto quickly dropped gears, and while there was just a slight hint of turbo lag, it wasn’t long before the surge of torque was throwing the big sedan down the road. It’s not as quick as the V-8, and not nearly as fast as the V-12, but somehow, the experience of that six-cylinder screaming at the command of my right foot was genuinely enjoyable.
The smaller engine also does the 740i favors in the handling department. Because it’s smaller and lighter, the 7-Series is too (almost 220 pounds lighter than a 750i). It also improves the weight distribution, moving it closer to the ideal fifty-fifty split between the front and rear. This makes the 740i one of the most agile and sure-footed large sedans I’ve ever driven.
As for those that are certain I’ve lost my mind for picking the car a car with 300-horsepower version of 4300-pound car when there are (far) more powerful alternatives available, let me just point out a couple things. A quick check of BMW USA’s consumer website reveals zero-to-60 times for both models, with the six-cylinder recording a 5.8-second time and the V-8 scampering to 60 in 5.1 seconds. These are both properly quick engines, but the fact that the 740i only loses seven-tenths of a second on a car that boasts 85 more ponies and well over 100 more pound-feet of torque is remarkable.
At the same time, the 740i will net drivers 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. 750i drivers will see 15 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. So there’s also a nice bonus to economy here (not that buyers of $70,000 to $100,000 luxury sedans regularly think of such things).
Now the most obvious reason to choose the six-cylinder over the eight: price. Our short-wheelbase tester starts at $71,000, while the SWB V-8 model starts at $84,300. That’s a $13,300 difference for a car that is only seven-tenths of a second slower to 60 miles per hour, but will get over 50 more miles per tank. Doesn’t sound like a half-bad bargain. It gets better though.
You see, the majority of BMW’s optional equipment can be had regardless of model. That means you can pick up a very nicely equipped six-cylinder 7-Series for the starting price of the V-8-powered car. And if you are worried about the 740i looking cheaper (smaller wheels, different exhaust configuration, less aggressive front fascia), well don’t. With the exception of the “740i” badging on the tailgate, there is no external differentiation between this car and the V-8. You can even get an M Sport package that adds a nice body kit and twenty-inch rollers.
So is there a case for choosing the least powerful engine? When it comes to the 7-Series, I certainly think there is.