The BMW 7 series was long my favorite executive sedan -- until 2003. Along with everyone on Earth, I was appalled by the redesign of this crisp and solid-handling machine into a lardy boat of Avalon-ian proportions.
Things have barely improved in the ten years since this disaster of a redesign ruined every shred of ethos or cred this car had going for it versus the S-Class. Various steps have been taken to improve the tactile responsiveness of this giant barge, but the exterior style is still well past its PSI inflation rating. Regretfully, even the 2014 model looks so overinflated and obese that its sheetmetal might be about to burst at any moment.
The scowling Explorer-knockoff blinkers above the lamps are, joyously, banished forever. But the car is still quite ponderous to look at, and a mind-boggling level of complexity meets anyone who sits down inside.
In Spartanburg, I had the pleasure of being moved from the Zentrum museum to the X3/X4 factory in one -- and it is pretty impressive inside; for its seats, mainly.
But versus the Panamera S that I also ride and drive regularly? The 740Li was noisy and clunky, at once both too bumpy and too wallowy. It is a boat adift in a Naval wave-pool -- huge swalls coming from all sides.
Does it handle? I couldn't say yes or no. But from the worried and over-cautious way our driver was hunched over the wheel -- I would be inclined to say it is not an "intuitive" car to drive.
What's my reference? My girlfriend in highschool was pretty fancy. Her last name is on a packaged meat brand that you see in grocery stores nationwide. She is the granddaughter of the founder. They were pretty "comfortable," as the saying goes.
On one of many wild weekends up at her family's four-home compound on Indian Lake, Michigan -- which connects to Lake Michigan via a set of locks -- we had the pleasure of taking her big daddy's 740iL there and back.
I'd never even had any idea such great cars existed. Never had I even fantasized about such a fantastic machine. And my daily driver -- or nightly, I guess you would say -- was a 1995 Infiniti Q45. Not exactly a low-brow machine.
Daily was either a 1975 VW Superbeetle or a 1994 Infiniti G20 -- both driven with gas pedal permanently on floor. Permanently. Beetle would only hit 83MPH after a LONG run-up and zero hills or wavering on throttle. It needed all the help I could provide in terms of throttle leg.
(It did snap more than a few throttle cables -- but like everything in a Beetle -- was road-side-fixable without special tools. Walter (the Beetle), I must mention, did start on fire more than once.)
I was forever angling for the best cars in the family fleet. There was a 2002tii in the garage that knocked my socks off with its eagerness and rasp under throttle. Similarly, when we finally got their 1965 out from being quad-parked inside -- behind rows of other cars -- and then got it started, I was absolutely flabbergasted.
The Mustang convertible was like driving a grocery cart with a drowning mouse under the hood. Ponderous does not begin to do this car justice, and corners were so fraught with chassis flex that I was sure we had lost some back-seat passengers.
It felt "head over keels."
Was I alone in treating this comfortable family's cars as a plaything? Oh no. I was also thrown twice from racing speedboats that I was not driving -- wind knocked out of me, about to drown in the water with no lifevest. Kennedy-folly type of death? No thankyou.
Except I was neither wealthy nor willing to perish for a lakehouse compound weekend.
But that 740iL? Made me feel like a movie star behind the wheel. Crisp responses on the up-rated, Tomorrow-Never-Dies spec M Sport wheels -- this was a MACHINE!
It road like a dream, but also handled with a one-handed confidence.
The sense of purpose in the 740iL seems completely lost today -- adift and battered by competing factions. Float this way, but face a capsize when the next wave comes.
The 2014 740iL is a seamen without a compass. Lost at sea. With no rudder.
Sounds a little familiar to me.
I have every confidence the 7 Series will work its way to back greatness.
will might take a total tech lobotomy, suspension ECT, and perhaps a crash diet -- where the biggest things lost are hundreds of misguided ideas about what a BMW limo should be.
The Best Upgrade: Executive -- M Sport and Full-LED Lighting Pack -- Shown on Right