Squeeze the throttle of the BMW 7401 and you might not believe your ears. The aural evidence suggests that TVR has made a surprise entry into the executive saloon car market. In a word, it sounds gorgeous. It might come as quite a shock to habituees of the silky-smooth, and now departed, 735i, but BMW insists that 42 per cent of 735i owners had expressed a preference for eight cylinders. What the PR spiel doesn’t specify is whether the other 58 per cent would be happy sticking with six…
In the modern age, a BMW V8 is something of a novelty, although the 500-series models of the ’50s and ’60s were thus equipped. The new engine is available in two guises: a threelitre, rated at 2 l 8 bhp, and the four-litre sampled here, which generates a whopping 286. Rather confusingly, there are now two 730s in the range, for the older, 188 bhp six-cylinder model of the same name continues alongside the new V8. Effectively, the ‘new’ 730 fills the void in the range created by the 735’s demise, for it offers similar performance (with a claimed top speed of around 142 mph), albeit with improved fuel economy (estimated average 25.4 mpg, to the old car’s 23.7). At £36,950, it is also around eight per cent cheaper than the model it succeeds.
The 740i costs £43,950, and a long-wheelbase version (the 740iL, stretched by four inches) is also available… but don’t expect much change from £50,000. Standard fitments include leather trim, alarm, trip computer and air conditioning. As with any BMW, the cabin is an ergonomic masterpiece.
The old 7-Series chassis was always a jewel. For a large car, the 735i had a blend of performance and balanced handling that BMW’s adversaries in this sector could only dream about. The 740i continues that trend. The V8 is more compact than the straight six it replaces, which says BMW, aids axle load distribution (it also means that future 7-Series models will feature a lower bonnet line).
Search out a serpentine B-road in the 740i, and the car shrinks around you. It won’t have you thinking you’re in a Mini Cooper, but you’ll be surprised at its poise. There can be few, if any, equals in the agility-per-inch stakes.
Colleagues who tried the same car in the streaming wet report that front end grip was badly lacking, though this was possibly down to the brand of tyre on which that car was running. When the car did start to slide, it was easily brought to heel. I only tried the car in dry weather, in which circumstances its chassis is never anything other than wholly impressive.
The same is true of the new five-speed automatic, with its crisp up-changes and its well-matched ratios. At the top end, there’s a relaxing 32 mph per 1000 rpm available, but the lower ratios are closer together to favour punchy acceleration. The 7401 isn’t short of torque, either. The 295 lb/ft peak is at 4500 rpm (the red line is at 6250), but the engine responds well from tickover upwards. BMW claims a top speed of 148 mph and 0-62 mph acceleration in 7.4s. The latter figure, in particular, is impressive for a car of these dimensions. We didn’t have the opportunity to verify the claims, but it’s worth noting that past experience tells us that BMW’s performance claims tend to be mildly pessimistic, which is something of a rare quality in press pack statistics.
There are cheaper options for those in the market for a lavishly appointed car of this size. The Lexus LS400, marginally better equipped as standard, is listed at £38,657, for instance.
The Japanese contender is a worthy luxury saloon, but the 740i is a worthy luxury sports saloon, and those who derive any pleasure in getting from A to B will appreciate the difference. SA