The new 730i is the first BMW 7 Series with a four-cylinder engine. Does it still feel like a flagship BMW?
SINGAPORE — What to make of the BMW 730i? Well, to start with, we have a problem with BMW’s 7 Series, and it’s this: no car makes it harder to decide whether to take the wheel and savour one of the most implausibly exciting driving experiences known to man, or sit in the back, where massage chairs can do things to your buttocks to make you moan.
The 730i solves that conundrum, if only by virtue (if you can call it that) of having a plain back seat, without the reclining function or the ability to go all Shiatsu on your spine and glutes.
It’s the cheapest 7 Series on offer at the moment, though cheapness is a relative thing since it costs $408,800 with COE.
For $9,000 more you can have a 730Li, which is 14cm longer in the middle, with practically all that extra length dedicated to rear passenger legroom.
That’s traditionally the best-selling 7 Series, and probably will be again. Or will it? This time around the base 7 Series has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, so if you want a silky six-cylinder engine you’ll have to spring for the 740i ($442,800) or 740Li ($455,800).
Is there a material difference? Actually, yes. Step hard on the accelerator and you can tell from the resulting gruff sounds that the engine is a four-pot, and if you pay attention you’ll even detect a few mild vibes. Most unbecoming of a 7 Series, I’m sure you’ll agree.
But there’s a good chance you won’t mind at all, because when you lean on the right pedal, there’s just a smidgen of turbo lag and then the 730i takes off with much more vim than you expect, like a doped Russian athlete.
I don’t know about you, but I get a small thrill when a small engine performs like a big one, if nothing else because it gives the finger to the tax man.
It must help that the 730i isn’t a particularly heavy car, what with its carbon-fibre reinforced chassis and everything. That’s not the only way it’s a bit clever — the engine is shrouded in sound insulation to kill noise at its source, which saves on having to use acoustic foam elsewhere. That led to a net weight reduction, believe it or not.
And like the other versions of BMW’s flagship, the 730i dances through corners in a way that beggars belief. It’s surefooted yet eager to change direction, and so satisfyingly precise.
Maybe you think of a 7 Series as an uncle’s car, but here it’s only true in relation to the naughty uncle that every family has, the one who used to sneak you beer when your parents weren’t looking.
Perhaps more to the point, the 730i soaks up bumps extremely well. And when you drive it gently, the engine is capable of keeping its voice down, so what you have is a car that is supremely refined in town, and enormous fun outside of it.
And though the back seats aren’t as cosseting as what’s available in the 740i and up, the front section of the car doesn’t make you feel short-changed. It still feels like a 7 Series, complete with the new touchscreen and hands-free gesture controls.
Rather handily, there are still parking sensors galore and enough cameras surrounding the car to keep your rims free of kerb rash.
There’s little more to ask for, but that still leaves you wondering: just who is this car for? Someone who loves driving would be better served by one of the more powerful versions of the car. Someone who wants to save a bit of money on a 7 Series? I just can’t see anyone with more than four hundred grand to drop on a car needing to economise.
That leaves the standard wheelbase 730i as a niche buy, perhaps for someone forced to appear grown up and prosperous, but who has enough of a subversive streak in him to want a big car with a small engine that can be hustled around like a hot hatch.
My guess is the long wheelbase 730Li will return to the top of the 7 Series sales charts, because maximum size/minimum engine has traditionally been the winning way in Singapore. But unlike the 730i, tradition is overrated.
NEED TO KNOW BMW 730i
Engine 1,998cc turbo in-line four
Power 258hp at 5000 to 6000rpm
Torque 400Nm at 1550 to 4400rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Top speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 6.2 secs
Fuel consumption 6.3L/100km
Price $408,800 with COE
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