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2000 BMW 740i Review

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by Ted Latu

SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide


When BMW took a serious run at the top end of the North American market, in the late 1980s, the model they utilized to spearhead this paradigm shift was their long-wheelbase, 12 cylinder 750iL. It received mixed reviews; the chief complaints being that it was very expensive, and really, did not display the kind of power and performance that one would expect from a $100,000-plus automobile. BMW also had a V8 powered 7-series in the form of the 740, but declined to offer it in North America until 1993. Kind of a shame, because even then, the 740 had superior performance and balance and, in my opinion, would have faired better.

Anyway, almost seven years later, BMW now offers the 740 in two different versions: the 740i and a longer wheelbase iL model. Basically, what separates the two is about four thousand dollars, forty horsepower, and approximately six inches in overall length. You can also order a Sport version of the 740i, which has upgraded suspension and larger wheels and tires.

Power is provided by 4.4 litre V8 with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Also found in the new X5 sport utility, this powerplant develops 282 horsepower at 5700 rpm and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission only. The transmission is BMW’s Steptronic gearbox, which means it can be shifted manually as well as doing its own thing. A real manual gearbox would be very cool, but, even so, this drivetrain combination will take the 740i from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in under eight seconds with an electronically-governed top end of 201 kilometres an hour….or 120 mph, for those of us still living in an Imperial measurement universe. Brakes are four-wheel-disc, naturally, with four-channel ABS. The Steptronic transmission is not available on the longer-wheelbase iL, incidentally. Fuel economy, if that concerns you, is also pretty good for a car of this size…..13.8 litres per 100 kilometres - or 21 miles per gallon - in the city and 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres - or 31 miles per gallon - on the highway.

Needless to say, the 740i has a list of convenience and safety features that would fill a book. Sixteen-way adjustable seats, full-zoot leather and wood interior, dual climate control system, power up and down windows, rear and side window sun screens, etcetera, etcetera. And you’ll be safe in this car as well, with dual front and side airbags, seat belt pretensioners, and lockable safety belts and lockproof rear doors for the kids. The 740i also has a traction control system for slippery road conditions and options include a GPS/information display centre, rear passenger airbags, an audible parking sensor, and a self-levelling suspension system.

I must put in a word about the optional GPS/information display centre. Having encountered this feature in various guises in other upscale models, like the Mercedes S-class, Acura TL, and Jaguar XKR, I have come to the conclusion that it is an absolute waste of time, requiring far too much of the driver’s attention. In fact, I’ll go even further: I consider all information display systems to be dangerous, because the driver spends so much time trying to figure it out, he/she is distracted from the business at hand: driving the car. To the point where, unless you have a passenger on board, you simply can’t properly use the thing. No doubt one would become familiar with these systems after awhile, but it requires considerable study and dedication. The instruction manual for the Mercedes S-class, for example, is 300 pages in length! And even when you’ve mastered all the intricacies of the system, you still have to take your mind off the road to operate it. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me at least ten minutes just to figure out how to properly tune the stereo system on my test 740i, and when Mercedes introduced their S-class to Canadian journalists earlier this year, nobody could figure out how to use their COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system. The cream of Canadian automotive journalism was on hand (including several engineers), and none of us could make heads or tails out of the thing.

Executives from upscale manufacturers privately admit there are problems with these display systems, but insist that it’s a marketing thing. They have to offer them because everyone else is. Customers paying upwards of one hundred large want all the bells and whistles, and if you don’t give it to them, somebody else will.

Having said that, I hasten to add that I have no ambivalence whatsoever about the rest of 740i. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it demonstrates beyond any doubt that BMW has essentially perfected the upscale touring performance sedan. It’s got rugged good looks, ample power, state-of-the-art handling and braking, and is an absolute delight to drive. It may be expensive, but you’re getting a lot of car for the money.

Now, if BMW will just come to its senses about the GPS/information display system.

SPECS- Price: $89,900 Drivetrain: 4.4 litre V8/ five-speed automatic transmission Power: 282 hp at 5700 rpm Performance: 0 - 100 km/h in approx. seven seconds Fuel consumption: 13.8 L/100 km (21 mpg) city/ 9.2 L/100 km (31 mpg) hwy. Seating: five Brakes: Four-wheel disc w. ABS Wheelbase: 2930 mm (115.4 in) Curb Weight: 1930 kg (4255 lb.)