BMW 740i (2009) review | CAR Magazine

BMW 740i (2009) review

Published: 28 July 2008 Updated: 26 January 2015
BMW 740i (2009) review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

We’ve just been behind the wheel of BMW’s new 7-series, at the company’s Miramas test base. And while this 7-series might be a taped-up pre-production car, it’s all but ready. So we’ve taken the unusual step of driving a car before its official launch to see if the promised tech fest is worth waiting for ahead of its November 2008 launch.

The new BMW 7-series looks a bit like a revised version of the old car…

It does, in photographs at least. As designer Karim Habib explained, only in the metal does it gain life (designers frequently watch clay mock-ups being towed outdoors, to see how shapes ‘move’).

And it’s some display of sculptural art, the new Seven. Much more cohesive than the bit-part old car. BMW-trademark proportions push the front wheels right forward, emphasising the gap between A-pillar and wheel centre. Near-vertical kidneys are pushed forwards too, reinforcing the car’s length.

But it’s the new 7-series’ surfacing that’s most remarkable. Take the side: an organic form, twisting inboard at the front wheels, free-flowing outwards towards the rear. This is Habib’s favourite aspect. He claims that modern BMW design is all about light falling on the sheet metal. 

Click ‘Next’ below to read more of our BMW 7-series first drive

The interior was controversial on the old car, too…

And, again, it’s been matured here. Decadent and impeccably finished, there’s plenty of trick detailing inside the new BMW 7-series’ cabin. Black panel dials, for example, mimic high-end hi-fis, apparently. The jury’s still out on whether we like them, though. You can even order ceramic finishes.

The oh-so-controversial iDrive is integrated into the dash, rather than sitting pod-like on top, and its screen, as hi-res as HD TV, incorporates new logic. We think this is a big step forward. As with an iPod, you immediately understand how to use the new-style iDrive. BMW isn’t too proud to admit this means a few more buttons, Audi MMI-style. And you now get a gearlever rather than a stalk.

Oh, and the new BMW 7-series also has world-first internet-surfing ability. Shame that the UK market will have to wait while the phone tariffs are sorted out.

What’s that big button next to said gearlever?

A Sport button. Seen it all before? Not like this you haven’t. The 7-series’ chassis systems are among the most complex of any in the world – and also completely integrated by a central command unit. They all speak, barter and help each other out. Four ‘Dynamic Driving Control’ modes offer tangible differences that hone steering, throttle, gearshift, (standard) fully-adaptive dampers and driver aid leniency. Furthermore, there’s the option of Integral Active Steering with sector-unique rear-steer. We’d recommend buying it – it really works rather well.

Click ‘Next’ below to read more of our BMW 7-series first drive

I’m guessing the 7-series you drove had rear-steer. 

Yes, and the effect dazzled. As standard, the new 7-series is a big limo with an agile crispness akin to a much smaller 3-series. Press ‘Sport’, and the helm gets tauter and more detailed.

But with rear steer, through corners, BMW’s new limo becomes irresistible. In essence, it puts sideways castors on the rears; when the nose turns, you immediately feel the rear wheels do so too, in the same or opposing direction to suit. It’s bizzarely natural and satisfying. Even rear passengers benefit; cue one unjolted FT reader during an evasive lane-change – no roll-induced yaw reaction, you see.

With such agility, the apprehension of driving a large car is removed (even the turning circle is slashed). Believe us, on first evidence, this rear-steer innovation marks a luxo handling revolution.

But development saw BMW prioritise the comfort as much as the handling here. A fundamental shift? Well – shock – they’ve even switched from their beloved suspension struts to double wishbones. The result is plush-riding comfort unruffled by surface harshness, the actively damped body remaining unerringly level. Supple, quiet, luxurious. Who says runflat BMWs can’t ride well? They’re improving with every passing generation…

Does it shift?

Of course it does. Our 740i had a 3.0-litre twin-turbo six. The 335i engine? In a nutshell, yes; even the turbos are identical. But they’ve boosted it to 326bhp and 332lb ft. That means 62mph in just 5.9sec. It’s damn quick.

The 5.2sec 0-62mph 750i’s 407bhp twin-turbo V8 is a warrior, with fast-spooling turbos and such electric throttle response you’d swear it packed a V12 under the hood. But 85 percent of UK drivers will have jaws dropped in another way; by a 245bhp 3.0-litre diesel that does 62mph in 7.2sec, 39.2mpg, and emits 192g/km of CO2. Staggering on such a big car? I reckon so.

Click ‘Next’ below to read our verdict on the BMW 7-series


I’ve had to think long and hard before writing this verdict. You see, I don’t want to sound like the BMW PR machine. But when something’s as blinding, on first taste, as the new 7-series, we’re left in awe. The new Seven is big-car comfortable yet junior exec agile, which further defies convention with its combination of pace and green credentials.

Come back in September 2008 to see if we are qualified to use the S-slass-beater headline we’ve prepared. On first acquaintance with pre-production cars, the new 7-series feels that good.


Price when new: £60,000
On sale in the UK: November 2008
Engine: 2979cc 6cyl, 326bhp @ 5800rpm, 332lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 28.5mpg, 232g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1860kg/steel and aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5072/1902/1479


Photo Gallery

  • BMW 740i (2009) review
  • BMW 740i (2009) first drive CAR review
  • BMW 740i (2009) first drive CAR review
  • BMW 740i (2009) first drive CAR review
  • BMW 740i (2009) first drive CAR review
  • BMW 740i (2009) first drive CAR review