Huh? Well, sure, there’s no arguing with the presence it has on the road. Yes, that ‘L’ stands for long-wheelbase. Fittingly, it’s huge.
Long, lithe and designed – at no little expense – with a totally bespoke roofline to the standard-wheelbase model (just to ensure the lines are spot-on, its designer told us), the biggest BMW saloon certainly racks up boldness as an attribute.
It comes as no surprise then to find loads of room inside. Up front, it’s unchanged from the standard model. This means even Peter Crouch wouldn’t have to set the driver’s seat right back on its furthest setting. With a tall, flat bonnet-line underlining the effect, it certainly has
presence, if not the outright impact of sitting behind a Mercedes S-Class’ three-pointed star.
Things get really special in the back, though. Like some of the characters in Doctor Who, this is plain weird. It’s simply not natural to have this much legroom! On planes, in trains, at school assemblies and certainly when in cars, we’ve grown accustomed to having a set ration of space.
So, in the back of the longest 7, to find you really can cross your legs and stretch out on the reclining motorised chairs is quite something. That’s the reason why Car Dealer Magazine fought over the rear doors during our week with it, rather than the front. And why we used it for bridesmaid’s duties at a family wedding…
It’s gadget overload too – and you know how we love our gadgets. Via monitors in the rear head restraints, you have access to the sat nav, TV stations, all the stereo functions, a multitude of heat and adjustment settings for the leather pews – all masterminded by a replica of the much-improved iDrive controller set up front. We can’t remember a car ever being this
entertaining in the back.
But that’s not to say the driver is shortchanged. We already know how well the standard 7 Series drives, have already discussed how it’s almost as agile and sporty as a 3 Series. Well, if anything, that was enhanced in the Ld we drove, through one trick optional addition: Integral Active Steering.
At low speed, this sees the wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front, helping the rear end swing around tight corners with double-take finesse. It’s hard to believe something so large and long can be so maneuverable.
Speed up though, and the wheels switch, and turn in the same direction as the front. This makes it agile in a different way, helping it scythe through bends with tangible immediacy. You genuinely can feel the rear end helping you round, ensuring the stretch of the model has no effect on the fun you’re having.
A powerhouse of a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel is further enjoyment – 245bhp of torque-laden power gives surge sufficient to elicit (distant) complaints from those in the back: 0-60mph in 7.3secs is barely down on the standard model, and damn impressive for one so large.
Despite this, it still does 153mph. And 41.5mpg. While the addition of rear air suspension over the standard model will hopefully have cushioned them off to sleep, anyway.
It’s a niche market for the longest 7. BMW admits chauffeurs are a key customer – but car dealers should not be upset about this. Such guys travel lots (good for aftersales) and will tick lots of options on the standard spec sheet to keep Lord Alan happy. Treat them right and they’ll be regular customers, too: brand-loyal, they often are.
In the 7, BMW has just the car for them. It doesn’t have the immediacy of a Mercedes S-Class, but for the driver who likes to drive, without spending crazy amounts on fuel, it’s the more favourable choice. £53,695 is no small beer, but what a lot you get for it. Big on the outside, big on the inside, then. Yet surprisingly, er, ‘small’ behind the wheel.
BMW 730Ld SE
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel
Top speed: 153mph