By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT - It's hard to find anything to quibble about when it comes to BMW. And that was the case during my week-long test drive of the 2012 BMW 740i.
I had the base model; nonetheless, the BMW 7 Series is the flagship of the Bimmer lineup. My test car was powered by an inline six cylinder engine. That may sound ho-hum but it was direct fuel injected and it had a twin-scroll (read dual) turbocharger.
This engine put out 315 horsepower and even better was the 330 foot-pounds of torque it generated from 1,600 to 4,500 RPMs. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. From the driver's seat, it was almost impossible to tell that my test car had a six-cylinder engine.
Power was subtle, immediate and free flowing. At one point I had to back off the accelerator while entering a curving entrance to an expressway. I was approaching 100 mph without any real effort.
The suspension was almost magical. Without a lot of settings, BMW engineered a chassis that let me as well as my passengers feel how the car was interacting with the road without feeling how the car interacted to the road.
Although I didn't try it, BMW said the engine could move the 4,344 lb. 740i from zero to 60 mph in a really quick 5.8 seconds. Top speed was electronically limited to 150 mph (I didn't try that either) and fuel consumption was 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Factor in a 21.7 gallon fuel tank and my 740i had a real world range approaching 500 miles.
All that muscle was wrapped in a refinement that I've not felt in a BMW 7 Series. It has always been a world class full size fun to drive luxury sedan. But the engineers at BMW have managed to imbue the 7 Series with a sophistication that just wasn't there before.
My test car seemed stately, refined. It was quick, nimble and fast when needed but it wasn't outwardly athletic. However, it was just as capable from a performance standpoint as the last generation 7 Series. It seems like BMW is moving the Series upstream from a refinement standpoint.
The 740i's character seems to have changed. It's all grown up. The 7 Series was the first car in my memory that ditched the vertical center stack. Now, its second generation horizontal instrument layout is simply smooth, from the matted wood veneer to the slots in the doors that make the door handles imperceptible. And the door latches seemed like curved pieces of metal.
Ambient interior lighting matched the amber nighttime lighting of the instruments. There were also outside ambient lights that illuminated each door handle when I approached the car with the key FOB that was more FOB than key. The car had push button start and stop as well as push button lock and unlock.
Amongst my test vehicle's creature comforts was its all weather package that featured heated seats all round as well as a heated steering wheel. There was a power trunk lid and soft close automatic doors that I really liked. And a rearview camera took the anxiety out of backing out of my driveway.
Park distance control fore and aft came in handy and I always appreciate self leveling Xenon headlights. But most important is that I think BMW has finally got its IDrive system right.
Since it was first introduced with the last generation 7 Series it has been roundly criticized because of its complexity. BMW has improved it with each new model. Now iDrive is simply simple to use. In most cases, I found the system intuitive and redundant. There wasn't much that I could not do in at least two and sometimes three different ways.
My test vehicle was based priced at $71,000. Add options like the premium sound package that included satellite radio and an $875 freight charge and the sticker rose to $77,475.