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New Car Review

1998 BMW 740iL

by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 68,500
Price As Tested                                    $ 69,295
Engine Type               DOHC 4-valve 4.4 Liter V8 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 268 cid/4398 cc
Horsepower                                   282 @ 5700 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               310 @ 3900 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  120.9"/73.3"/201.7"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4325 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  22.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      235/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                               Five percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/24/18
0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.5 seconds @ 92 mph
Top speed                                           125 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

BMW continues to dazzle the automotive world with its line of rock-solid sports sedans and coupes. At the top of the heap are the 7-Series models: the V8-powered 740i, the extended length 740iL, and the 750iL with its array of high-tech features and a powerful V12 engine.

Recently, a BMW 7-Series was featured as the designated company car for James Bond in the newest 007 movie. However, his car has a few spy items not available on BMWs at your local dealer's lots. Bond's car is a highly modified 750iL model, but this week we test the 740iL.

OUTSIDE - The 7-Series was redesigned in 1995 to feature a more assertive nose-down stance, and it looks lower and more aerodynamic than the 1988-94 7-Series models it replaced. The "L" designation in our test car's name refers to a 5.4-inch stretch over that of the regular 740i, which allowed a significant lengthening of the rear doors. This certainly makes climbing in back easier, but it also increases the distance needed to swing them open, which is sometimes a problem in crowded parking lots or narrow garages. Body-color bumpers and mirrors, along with extended lower body cladding give it a low, muscular look, while thin strips of chrome surround the side windows and grille, and wrap the car about knee level. A set of 16-inch cross-laced alloy wheels and grippy 235/60R16 all-season tires are standard.

INSIDE - The front bucket seats are 16-way adjustable, contain optional heating elements, and have unique shoulder level adjustments. They also provide four-way power lumbar support. Memory settings for the driver automatically adjust the seat, outside mirrors, seat belt and steering wheel heights. Remote keyless entry is standard. The stretched 740iL interior offers nearly 42 inches of rear seat legroom, along with a ventilation port in the rear of the center console. Leather upholstery and walnut trim are standard, as is a powerful AM/FM/cassette stereo. The windshield wipers are intermittent, variable speed, speed-sensitive and have both heated washer fluid and heating at the base of the windshield. A cold weather package adds a ski sack from the trunk, a heated steering wheel and high-pressure headlight washers.

ON THE ROAD - With dual overhead camshafts, 32 valves and digital motor electronics, the 740's 4.4 liter V8 engine produces 282 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It has a broad range of available power, which helps on long uphill grades and when launching into crowded freeway traffic. A five-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available, and it's a logical choice. It features Adoptive Transmission Management, a system that measures many driving parameters and will quickly match shifting points to how the car is being driven. BMW's third-generation Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is standard on the 7-Series and it also measures different driving situations. It activates both the anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the engine's traction control system to help the driver maintain control on wet or icy turns.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Though the 7-Series shares many components with the 1988-'94 cars, closer inspection reveals an all-new undercarriage layout. For the new car, BMW extended the wheelbase on both the 740i and 740iL by almost five inches, and added the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension from the recently-discontinued 8-Series coupe. The front suspension remained much the same with its double-pivot strut design, but forged alloy lower control arms help reduce unsprung weight. Coil springs, anti-roll bars and gas shocks are conventional parts of the system, but added to these is what BMW calls Electronic Damping Control (EDC). Optional on the 740iL, it is essentially a shock absorber system that keeps the vehicle level when it's loaded. Speed-sensitive steering, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and fully independent suspension make this one of the best-handling large sedans available.

SAFETY - DSC; ABS; traction control; dual front airbags with differentiated deployment; side-impact airbags; Inflatable Tubular Structure (ITS) with Head Protection System (HPS) for the front seats.

OPTIONS - An electric rear sunshade adds $740, and heated front seats are $500. The destination charge adds $570.