Revving up: The BMW 730Ld has a fantastic engine that makes it a hoot to drive
Photographs by Abhijeet Anand
The new BMW 7-series grabbed a lot of attention when it was launched in March this year. But the company wanted to better the car and as a result, knock customers eyebrows into orbit. The 750Li managed to do that easily, with its 407bhp twin-turbo V8 motor that could knock the speedo needle to 250kph at the mildest provocation.
But glory boy though the 750Li is, even billionaires are sometimes thrifty. And so, to please those who get chauffeured around with one eye on practicality and grounded running costs, heres BMWs magnificent 750Ld without the Hagar the Horrible thirst.
The diesel motor under the hood of the 730Ld is an upgraded version of the one that powers the 530d. This reconfigured motor that uses a variable nozzle turbo develops plenty of additional torque as well. While 245bhp is not as good as 407bhp, the diesels maximum torque of 55kgm is nearly as good as that of the petrol.
A firm shove on the throttle gets this very large and long saloon to positively leap off the line, rear wheels spinning. Theres a petrol motor-like snarl from the straight six engine, the diesel pulls hard to the redline at 5000rpm and you get a feeling of uninterrupted thrust. The 730Ld blasts from 0 to 100kph in 7.47 seconds and hits 150kph in a scant 15.6 seconds.
With a larger chassis to absorb the diesel motors vibrations and a modified engine, this car is almost petrol-smooth. Though there is some degree of diesel pitter-patter, its still amazingly refined. The smoothness is achieved with the help of a third-generation common-rail direct injection system. It meshes well with the six-speed gearbox the pair function in perfect synchronism.
The 730Ld delivers almost the same levels of comfort as its petrol sibling. On poorly surfaced roads, it rides particularly well on its adjustable dampers and softened rear self-levelling suspension. Ride quality is very pliant and silent in Comfort, where only extreme road conditions make their presence felt. And this is despite the run-flat tyres.
The 7-series has air springs in the rear but lacks the low speed lift feature where ride height can be increased as in the Merc S-class and the Audi A8. The car wallows a bit in Comfort mode while speeding, and its better to select Normal on these occasions. For more spirited driving, theres also Sport and Sport+; this is, after all, a BMW.
Agility in Sport is pretty incredible for a car of this size. The dampers firm up nicely and the car feels as nimble as something much smaller. The active rear wheel steering system helps make this car feel agile and stable. The rear wheels steer in the opposite direction at low speeds and the same way at high speeds and the system really works well.
This 7 is so comfortable that for once, in a BMW, its difficult to figure out which is the better seat to be in. This long-wheelbase version has rear seats that can rival first class airline travel. They dont fold flat but can be reclined, theres enough legroom for nine-footers, each passenger gets his own big screen and your rear can either be massaged, cooled or heated. Rear seat passengers also get their own iDrive console with their oh-so-comfortable seat. The armchair seating arrangement at the rear, however, means that a centre seat is non-existent.
The design of the instrument panel, with the LCD panel merging into the dials at the bottom, is stunning and so are comfort levels for front seat passengers. And its a fun drive. This is probably the most non-diesel-like diesel around and the 7 sometimes makes you forget how big it is.
Of course, the biggest advantage of a diesel lies in its efficiency compared to a petrol. This large barge needs only a litre of diesel to travel 6.5km in the city, impressive with all things considered. As always, there is more technology at work here: regenerative braking, alternator disengagement and other efficient dynamic features.
It also means that owners are more likely to be worried about windscreen washing than fuel bills. What will cause even more worry is the lack of a spare. Yes, run-flat tyres mean you dont really need a spare, but there are many parts of India that are more than 100km away from a replacement tyre.
This snub-nose limo from BMW is very comfortable and very fast, fulfilling the carmakers primary objectives easily. The diesel motor is very refined, performance is strong and fuel economy good enough to never be noticed. The rear wheel steering gives it agility without sacrificing stability and the regenerative brakes and clever electronics make it very clean and efficient.
Its also ferociously well equipped, though its not as engaging a drivers car. The steering feels a bit drab and the cabin could have been better insulated from the outside world. But if these little things and the price tag dont faze you, this car is truly something.
Price: Rs 99.34 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Engine: Diesel/ front, longitudinal/ 6-cyls in-line, 2993cc, turbo-charged
Power: 245bhp at 4000rpm
Torque: 55kgm at 1750-3000rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
Tyres: 245/50 R18 run-flat
Suspension (F/R): Independent, double-joint spring strut/ independent, air suspension
Turning circle: 12.7m
Brakes (F/R): 348mm ventilated discs/ 345mm ventilated discs