BMW 740Ld xDrive M

Sport

BMW 7 Series, 2016, overhead
BMW 7 Series, 2016, front
BMW 7 Series, 2016, front, action
BMW 7 Series, 2016, action
BMW 7 Series, 2016, doors open
BMW 7 Series, 2016, side, static
BMW 7 Series, 2016, side, action
BMW 7 Series, 2016, rear
BMW 7 Series, 2016, rear, action
BMW 7 Series, interior
BMW 7 Series, boot

IT seems strange to think that BMW's stately 7 Series was once one of the most ‘out there' cars around.

Okay, it might not have quite been in the Nissan Cube wacky bracket but Chris Bangle's 7 Series really did ruffle a few feathers when it broke cover in the early noughties.

Its avant-garde design language was drastically different in the executive saloon segment and proved not to be to all tastes - but I have to confess I rather liked it.

In the end the BMWs that followed in its wake were very much toned-down versions of this trailblazer and since then the 7-Series itself has become progressively more mainstream with each subsequent update and incarnation.

The latest version is certainly classy, almost in that timeless way that BMW manages to deliver on the design front from time to time and it should age well.

As such it should also fare favourably against competitors like the Mercedes S-Class, the Audi A8 and Jaguar's XJ.

It's the largest BMW yet produced, longer still at 5.2m in the case of this long wheelbase model, which has clearly got the Chinese market, where chauffeur-driven cars are big business, in its sights.

The result is a splendidly accommodating, comfortable and open cabin with the focus on rear seat passengers, who are well and truly spoiled when it comes to legroom, headroom and pretty much everything else besides.

It was definitely one of those cases where the rear of the cabin looked so inviting I wished I was being driven around rather than driving it.

In terms of interior equipment the 7 Series scores highly.

Going back to that original Chris Bangle model, I struggled with the iDrive system but it's come on leaps and bounds and the latest version is superbly intuitive and easy to use.

It also comes with a touchscreen for the first time and even has the capability of recognising hand gestures, which I liked a lot.

I also liked the Bluetooth phone set-up where you could call the number you want to dial out - way less distracting than trying to input a number via the touchscreen.

The controls generally are very easy to navigate your way around, meaning you start to feel totally at home in the car very quickly.

The rear entertainments screens, an optional extra fitted to this vehicle, also impressed, as did the wireless headphones.

While the 7 Series may lack the class-leading glide-like ride of one of its chief competitors - the S-Class - it more than makes up for it when it comes to delivering an enviable driver experience.

This might have been a veritable mini-limo but there were no shortcomings when it came to offering what is still one of BMW's great strengths.

I tend to think of the chief qualities of the big three premium brands - Audi, BMW and Mercedes - as being comfort, interior refinement and driving dynamics respectively.

The 7 Series might be a big car but it feels tremendously light, agile and nimble. Interestingly the car's weight has been kept down as a result of using carbonfibre parts in its construction.

It's a fun and engaging car to drive and you get to adapt its qualities depending on what you're doing.

Driving modes range from eco through comfort to sport and by combining the sports setting with the sports mode on the automatic gearbox it becomes an exciting and almost aggressive machine that simply delights.

Engine-wise the biggest seller will be a standard 3.0-litre unit fitted to the 730d models, though the more powerful 3.0-litre unit fitted to this car offers a little more oomph.

There's also a 750e plug-in hybrid, which makes great sense as a company car and a V8 petrol which really probably makes no sense whatsoever but it no doubt great fun to drive.

FAST FACTS

BMW 740Ld xDrive M Sport

Price: £79,100

Mechanical: 315bhp, 2,993cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 5.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 54.3

Insurance Group: 46

C02 emissions: 142g/km

Bik rating: 27%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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