2011 BMW 740i
8:01

2011 BMW 740i

Automobiles
-Funny things happen when you legislate higher average fuel economy. Electric cars are born, small cars flourish, and the 7 Series gets an Inline-6. Now, where is the pomposity in that? Let's roll in the 2011 BMW 740i and check the tech. The 7 Series is a flagship and that, in the U.S. anyway, has always meant either a V-8 or a V-12. But every thing's lingering greener these days, so BMW thinks we're ready for a 7 without an engine to brag about. In carbon black over oyster leather, a 7 still cut that imposing figure even when it does have an engine from a 3 Series. The navigation system is standard on this car. It's your general beauty of a BMW rig. What is that thing? 9, 10 inch diagonal extremely widescreen. This is one of the best I've seen yet on doing their 3D rendering of urban areas and also does a real nice job of showing contours in various parts of the world; and, of course, being the BMW, that's not a touchscreen. It's all done here with iDrive or with voice command. We've seen this iDrive controller before. Lots of dedicated buttons to shortcut the things you wanna do; telephone, nav, radio or CD. The back button is key. The option button is kinda like right click on your windows mouse. Outshone by iDrive is the now excellent voice command in this car. During destination entry for example, it's able to verbally take in your destination in one big gulp instead of state then city then street then address as separate verbal burps. 235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California. -235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California. -The CD multimedia on this car is a relatively limited amount of goodies in terms of digital stuff you wanna play. You've got your optical slot right up here. Here's store-in vehicle. That's because we've got a hard drive. You can rip this guy to the hard drive and you've got 12 gigabytes of space total. Now, what's not so clear is the fact that you do have a USB jack in this car but it's not reachable and that's for a reason. You can't do much with it. That USB drive though is not for playing your iPod or ThumbDrive. It's only for loading files to the hard drive from a USB storage stick or backing up those files to the stick or restoring them from it or loading your personal driver settings. This is what they call the smartphone cradle. It does all the integration through hardwired contacts if your phone matches one of the cradles they offer. It also gives you wired power and a built-in in-car antenna. But then you can also use what's called a bluetooth cradle which does the connection via bluetooth but does give you access to the built-in antenna on the car. And finally, there's an iPhone cradle which holds you iPhone here while, I believe, it's bluetooth connected but getting a charge and I don't know if it's hardwired to an antenna. One thing we're never gonna see on this screen unless we spend some option dollars is a rear-view camera. Instead, you get these dual sensor maps, front and rear sensors. This one shows both at once. This one shows a zoom in of the car itself whether I'm in reverse or whether I'm in drive; kind of a quaint 6-speed automatic with the now familiar BMW ice cream scoop or something more obscene than that, whatever you think that looks like. Next to it is a driving dynamics rocker. This will take you all the way from Comfort where the car behaves like a slug all the way up to Normal which is standard and balanced. Here is Sport. You can actually get in there and decide what sport modifies. And finally, you've got Sport Plus which pushes everything to its most aggressive and also plays with the traction control to make it break loose a little bit. This is the kind of car where rear-seat entertainment kinda makes sense; but while I liked that it now uses a pair of widescreen headrest monitors, I'm bored with the fact they tie you into an old school 6 DVD changer in the front glovebox. Now, up here up on the bow is where you learn that this is the BMW 7 for those who don't have to prove the size of their bank account or anything else because it's the thinking person's 7. It's got a 3 liter Inline-6 with dual turbos; the same engine that was in the original 335i. Plenty of power though. 315 horsepower, 330 foot-pounds of torque, gets this 4400-pound brute up to 60 in about 5.8 seconds while delivering seventeen 25 mpg. Part of the magic is not just the turbo but direct injection in BMW's infinitely variable Valvetronic timing on the cams. Most interestingly though, this 740i makes a real fool of its brethren, the BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid which cost about $32,000 more and, if memory serves, gets about 1 mpg better. I've gotta a maxim about cars. It goes a little bit like this. When a car is engineered properly, in everyday driving, you are using about 70% of what it can do. If you buy one of today's high-powered big bore, multi-turbo blah blah blah cars--I'm looking at U750 or 760-- you're using maybe 20% of what the car can do most of the time and that's not really driving to me. That's more like stewardship. Turbo lag is definitely there. Turbos always lag. It's the nature of a turbo. There's no way around that or it'll be a blower. But it's definitely restrained and I think this car has what I would call ample power, if not overwhelming power. There is a real difference on the suspension compliance between Comfort and Sport. At least between those two notches, you really feel a difference in the wallow. You get quite a bit when you're in Comfort which gives it a nice town ride but you've gotta get out of that when you really wanna handle the car because there's just too much bounce and jounce on the front end or rear end. Sport load holds the shift points dramatically higher. These are meaningful settings. That's what I'm trying to get at here. The Comfort, the Normal, the Sport, the Sport Plus, they really do things differently that aren't just a bit of switch-craft to make you feel like you got a gimmick, and they do things differently in the right places. That's nice. Okay, let's price our 2011 740i 6-cylinder, yes; still a $71,000 plus car just to get in the game. That feels a little steep to me but it's a BMW. Now, the packages you've gotta consider to go CNET style include premium sound-- that's the more watts, the more channels on the iPod and USB playback ability, $1800, not badly priced. Badly priced is the rear-seat entertainment system at $2800. Yeah, they're wide screens, but that's just such a dated setup overall passed, $1300 gets you this driver-assistance package that's going to bring you automatic high beams and more interestingly lane departure warning and blind-spot information stuff. I think I'd go with that and no matter what you do, no matter what package you get, no matter how much you spend on this goddamned thing, you've gotta spend $400 ala carte to get a rear-view camera. That's where I go on strike. Other ala carte options are one of those confusing phone cradles from $150 to $220, adaptive cruise control $2400, head-up display (BMW does that well) $1300, active suspensions, 2 grand. Oh yeah, night vision with pedestrian detection $2600--pricey but cool. And did I mention? The rear-view camera, 400 bucks.

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