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First drive: New BMW flagship sails in to Australia
Redesigned BMW 7 Series limousine gains diesel power as prices and specs increase
17 Feb 2009
BMW Australia has overhauled its 7 Series limousine line-up with this week’s introduction of the new fifth-generation model, well ahead of its April arrival in local showrooms.
Along with the already-announced twin-turbo six-cylinder and V8 engines that will be available from launch, the new 7 Series will get a diesel variant for the first time in Australia, with deliveries of the $198,800 730d beginning in June.
The Executive and Sport variants have been dropped from the range, but buyers will still have a long list of options available to individualise their cars.
Launching such an expensive vehicle into the depressed automotive market may seem risky, but BMW Australia managing director Guenther Seemann argues this is “the perfect time” for the new 7 Series to arrive and will increase sales.
“The very top of the luxury market is sensitive to new model activity, so this is the perfect time, especially with our more frugal, cleaner engines, to engage the market,” said Mr Seemann.
“There will always be a core of 7 Series drivers who want to be the first with the latest model (and) I think the new technology we have in the 7 Series will also pull people in. I’m talking about lane departure warning, the enhanced night vision with pedestrian recognition as well as Integral Active Steering and speed-related rear steering.”
Mr Seemann said the polarising styling of the previous model had not stopped it from being the best-selling 7 Series in history, or from being copied by other car designers.
He believes the new model will set BMW’s future styling direction.
“True, (the E65/66 series) looked very different from the E38, but not only were the driving dynamics spectacular, the exterior design was copied by everyone from the Koreans and Japanese to some of our much closer neighbours,” said Mr Seemann.
“The new car is progressive in its design, taking some of the cues from the predecessor and also reshaping the styling for the second decade of the 21st century. It is also setting a benchmark for other BMW models to follow.” The new base petrol model remains the 740i, but the previous 225kW/390Nm 4.0-litre V8 engine is replaced by a 240kW/450Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo six that not only produces better performance (0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds versus 6.8s for the V8) but delivers lower fuel consumption (9.9L/100km versus 11.2L/100km).
The 740i is also better-equipped and specified than ever before, and breaks through the $200,000 barrier with a 6.6 per cent price increase to $203,000, while the long-wheelbase 740Li rises 6.9 per cent to $218,000.
Prices for the 750i and 750Li have risen even more – up 19.1 per cent to $274,200 for the 750i and 16.6 per cent to $291,200 for the LWD variant – but they get even more equipment and performance.
With 300kW of power and 600Nm of torque from its twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 (also seen in the X6), the 750i not only eclipses the previous 270kW/490Nm 4.8-litre ‘atmo’ V8 but accelerates faster than the discontinued (for now at least) 6.0-litre V12-engined model.
BMW argues that, with such incredible performance – the 750i races from 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds, 0.7 faster than the outgoing model – and superior fuel consumption, there is no real need for a 760i, but has not ruled out bringing one here if head office decides to build one for status-conscious countries in the Middle East and Asia.
BMW’s first diesel-engine 7 Series will only be available in standard wheelbase guise and will use the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo alloy six-cylinder engine as the 330d sedan, with third-generation direct injection and variable turbo geometry.
It produces 180kW at 4000rpm and 540Nm at between 1750-3000rpm, pushing the 730d to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds – only three-tenths slower than the superseded petrol V8-engined 740i – while returning average fuel consumption of just 7.2L/100km and CO2 emissions of 192g/km.
Like the rest of the 7 Series range, the diesel model has a six-speed automatic transmission specified as standard.
BMW claims the 730d will be the most economical car in its class, but it does not benefit from Luxury Car Tax relief because it is over the targets for consumption (only just) and price (by a lot).
Although the previous generation 730d (which had 10kW less power and used 10 per cent more fuel) was the best-selling 7 Series model in Europe, Mr Seemann defended the fact that it is only now coming to Australia.
“We haven’t offered it before because we were not sure Australia was ready for a diesel in a car of this class, but the response to our (other) diesel introductions have all been ultra positive,” he said.
“Remember, when the E65 was launched in Australia, we didn’t offer a single diesel. So this new 730d is the logical progression, perhaps the capstone, of our diesel introduction program.” The entry-level 730d will arrive in June with a full complement of airbags and electronic controls as well as head-up display, bi-Xenon headlights with daytime running function and various adaptive features, a rear-view camera, cruise control with brake function, dynamic damper control, 18-inch alloy wheels, ventilated front seats, premium leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, soft-close doors and boot, GPS with 10.2-inch screen, a TV receiver, voice recognition and a 12-speaker HiFi with six-stack DVD changer.
All 7 Series models feature weight-saving alloy roof and doors (saving 7kg and 22kg respectively), helping to make them up to 40kg lighter than the previous generation, and feature BMW’s ‘Brake Energy Regeneration’ system, which the company claims is a first for a large sedan in Australia.
When the driver lifts off the throttle or brakes, kinetic energy from the wheels is captured and fed to the battery, reducing the amount of power the battery draws from the engine and enabling the power-sapping alternator to be decoupled, improving fuel consumption and performance.
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