Versus the competiton:
To say that BMW was caught off guard by the rapid acceptance of Japanese luxury cars is an understatement on par with calling the Grand Canyon just another hole in the ground.
In the last three years, BMW – and almost all other European automakers – had its tires flattened by the Japanese.
But 1993 may be different.
The economy is strengthening. And European automakers are now bringing to market cars that can compete with those made by the Japanese.
When comparing imported luxury cars these days, quality, customer satisfaction and individual taste are really the only question marks that remain.
Lexus and Infinti scored best on the most recent J.D. Powers and Associates annual survey of fewest reported problems. The Japanese luxury cars also nailed down the top spots on Powers’ customer satisfaction survey.
But BMW’s 740i is just hitting the streets, so it’s too early to tell how well it will measure up the competition in quality.
If you love the look of a finely crafted engine, your eyes will probably glow like Roman candles when you see what’s under the hood of the 740i.
BMW has raised the ante on all other automakers who pride themselves on neat engine packaging.
The plastic fan at the front of the engine and the matte black and brushed aluminum valve covers are about the only recognizable features. Everything else, such as spark plug wires and fuel lines, are tucked neatly under metal or plastic covers for a streamlined, space-age look.
Not only is the 282-horsepower V-8 an impressive looking piece of machinery, it’s a powerful one.
Coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, the 32-valve four-cam aluminum engine can propel the 740i from 0-to-60 mph in 7.1 seconds. That’s a shade quicker than the Infiniti Q45 and a full second faster than the Lexus LS400, according to a road test summary in Motor Trend magazine.
I’ve tested about half a dozen BMWs over the last three years. None have been as smooth and quiet and refined as the 4.0-liter V-8 in the 740i.
When accelerating, the computer throttles back the engine slightly at the moment the transmission shifts gears. This is to ensure smooth acceleration.
I don’t think BMW has been as successful in refining this technology as Lexus or Infiniti. Several times I floored the 740i and it felt almost unruly. It is as if the engine was resisting this intervention.
In any case, I found the 740i to be quick and responsive machine.
I am not going to waste time by raving about how well the 740i handles. Suffice it to say that BMW has equipped the 740i with a full menu of high performance suspension hardware.
After all, we are talking about a BMW here. One expects an athletic ride, and the 740i delivers with all the grace and fluidity of a sports hero at the top of his game.
BMW has built upon its reputation for crafting standard-setting sports sedans by giving the 740i some interesting new technology.
One such item is called the ASC+T system – that’s short for Automatic Stability Control plus Traction.
Most traction control systems merely reduce engine power when tires start to spin on slick pavement. The BMW system goes a step further – it reduces the throttle and selectively applies the rear brakes to the slipping tire.
FIT AND FINISH
If BMW is going to compete with Japanese luxury cars, it is going to have to assemble its vehicles as well as its rivals. BMW already may be there with the 740i.
Comfortable and well built, I found the car to have a little more style and personality than the Lexus LS400 I tested several weeks ago.
The simplicity of the wood-covered dash, the soft and inviting leather seats, the thick wool carpet and the solid feel of the car combine in a way that attacks your senses with pleasing aromas, nicely styled shapes and materials that are sturdy and durable.
The e are a few areas where the 740i has not kept pace with Japanese luxury cars. For instance , the steering wheel is electrically adjustable, as it is on big Lexus and Infiniti cars. But the wheel only telescopes; it doesn’t move up or down.
The 740i is the first BMW to have a remote-control door lock transmitter. But it is big and bulky compared to what other automakers offer. For instance, the Lexus LS400 has the transmitter built in to the key.
And for the money, BMW should give the740i a top-notch stereo system with a CD player.
I recognized the Pioneer stereo as being basically similar to what was used in a 1991 Rover Sterling – a $28,500 car when new.
The AM/FM stereo is a decent unit for a mid-priced luxury car, but not for a $60,000 BMW sports sedan. The Nakamichi unit in the Lexus blows it away.
The 700 series body has been around for a few years. It’s BMW’s biggest sedan. There’s abundant room for rear passengers, a spacious trunk and a decent size glovebox.
Twin air bags are standard.
Considering the shocking rise in price of Japanese luxury cars in the last year and the competitive price of the 740i, BMW appears to be in a position to try to win back those buyers who moved to Japanese machinery.
Truett’s tip: The new 740i is BMW’s answer to Japan’s Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45 V-8 powered luxury sedans. It’s close in price, performance and equipment, and by far the leader in style and character.