Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //
Overall Rating
This is a fantastic piece of engineering: a massive and powerful luxury sedan that gets better fuel economy than a six-cylinder Subaru Legacy. You will like this car if: you want power and performance and style in a car that uses far less fuel than you might imagine.
Looks Rating
There is nothing wrong here, not with the proportions or the stance or the execution. But the big 7 does not stand out in any particular way, either. It lacks that certain and undefinable edginess that sets apart great art and design.
Interior Rating
You can’t buy better seats, the iDrive controller is almost understandable and the 3-D display for the navigation system is a standout. The rear seat is so big you hear echoes back there when you yell. Still, why isn’t it easy to find something as simple as the control for the rear window shade? Why does BMW insist on making controls so complicated?
Ride Rating
The 7 is powerful, despite being laden with all sorts of systems and controls and features designed to save fuel and make the driver a friend of the planet. This is a huge sedan that drives like a nimble mid-size sedan.
Safety Rating
Aside from the robust safety cage, what we have here is a sedan with every conceivable safety device.
Green Rating
This is a tough one to score. In real terms, this 740 uses a fair amount of fuel. But in relative terms, given the size of the car and the capabilities of its performance envelope, the big 7 is a fuel sipper.

You know something has changed when a major selling point for a $120,000 luxury limousine is a driving nanny intended to keep you from wasting gas.

What's changed? The regulators have won. Most of what's in showrooms is aimed at pleasing government officials. It's become the job of car company marketers to sell buyers on the wisdom of it. Get used to it. Almost all of what you'll see in the future will be the product of ever-tougher fuel economy, emissions and safety rules.

In the background, I can hear cans of non-alcoholic beer popping. It's taken 50 years, but I'm conceding the game to government officials – elected and unelected – toasting their success, congratulating themselves on having driven the "Ultimate Driving Machine" company to load up the stunning new BMW 740Li xDrive sedan with Coasting Mode and Proactive Driver Assist, Auto Start-Stop and Brake Energy Reneneration and Eco Pro Mode.

Story continues below advertisement

That last one suggests that you can do your part for Mother Earth while flashing around in a nearly 2,000-kilogram sedan powered by a furious turbocharged motor (315 horsepower/332 lb-ft of torque) that uses premium fuel to get 10.9 litres/100 km in the city, 7.3 on the highway. With BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive, too.

That fuel economy number is better than a 2013 Subaru Legacy with a six-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive (11.8 city/8.1 highway). I mean, the big Bimmer is a relative fuel sipper, given all it can do, all the fancy features it comes equipped with, all the luxury appointments that coddle and cater to you.

The regulators have forced BMW to put as much engineering muscle into fuel economy and low emissions as luxury and performance. Ultimate Driving is not just about a 0-100 km/h time of 5.9 seconds, but also about shutting down the engine automatically when you come to a stop (Auto Start-Stop) to save "up to six per cent" on fuel.

BMW is proud of the turbocharged straight-six-cylinder engine with all its modern direct fuel injection and valve timing and camshaft timing and electronic controls, but the company busts a gut talking about the "green" parts of this long-wheelbase saloon with the silky steering, the creamy acceleration and the astonishingly composed track manners.

For instance:

Brake Energy Regeneration: Most times the battery is recharged when you're coasting or braking. Sounds simple, but it's no small task to turn a non-hybrid car into a rolling generator.

Eco Pro: Computer controls dictate the most efficient way to manage the engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox, "as well as the programming of the heating and air conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heating." The driver also gets green driving tips. I've never met a BMW driver more interested in saving fuel than using it, but still …"Eco Pro can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 per cent."

Story continues below advertisement

Of course, if you care more about going than going "green," you can tailor the performance here (using Driving Dynamics Control) for more "entertaining" engine responses, tighter, quicker steering, a firmer ride and less intrusive stability control actions. Go ahead, use that rocker switch on the centre console to punch up Eco Pro, Comfort+, Comfort, Sport or Sport+ modes.

BMW's product people won't give you any applause for driving well and safely at, say, 250 km/h down the autobahn, but if you channel your inner Al Gore, Eco Pro has a display in the instrument cluster that gives you a metaphorical pat on the back: a graphical display of good fuel consumption in your recent driving history.

"In Eco Pro mode, average fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 20 per cent," says BMW.

On the other hand, nothing in the instrument cluster will cheer how you've just carved that last corner like Canadian champion DTM driver Bruno Spengler in his BMW. But, if in Eco Pro you take advantage of the coasting mode designed to decouple the engine when coasting at speeds between 50 and 160 km/h, thereby saving fuel, well then, you'll be a hero.

What I don't want lost in all this is how staggering the 740Li with xDrive is as a pure driving machine. During my test, I drove through snow, rain, sleet and even the odd stretch of wide-open and dry pavement. This is a big car that drives like a small one.

The exterior styling is pleasant, but this latest BMW design language lacks the edginess of cars done under former design boss Chris Bangle. Big and strong, the 7 looks unremarkable.

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, the cabin is delicious and comfortable. I am learning to manage the iDrive controller after more than a decade and the three-dimensional readouts of the navigation system are astonishing. You can't buy better seats and in back there's enough room to hold a caucus meeting of the federal Liberals. I know, that's a small group, but still… Perhaps some day those Liberals will get back into the governing game. If so, they'll have nothing to concern themselves with in cars. As I said, the regulators have won.

Tech specs

2013 BMW 740Li xDrive

Type: Large luxury sedan

Base price: $106,600 (freight $885); as tested, $121,850

Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder, turbocharged

Story continues below advertisement

Horsepower/torque: 315 hp/332 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city/7.3 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Jaguar XJ

Story continues below advertisement

To post your comments about this story, click here.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies