As the cost of motorings grows, here's how to cut your cars' bills
Long-term BMW 730d: month 1
- On fleet since: January 2009
- Official combined mpg: 39.2mpg
- Our average economy: 42.1mpg
- Performance: 0-62mph 7.2secs/153mph
- Power/Torque: 245hp@4000rpm/398lb ft@1750-3000rpm
- Insurance group: 17
- Options fitted: Ash-grain Anthracite wood interior, high gloss (£325), Six-disc DVD changer (£405), head up display (£915), lane change warning system (£425), lane departure warning system (£355), reversing Assist camera (£290), seat heating front (£300), side view cameras front (£290), USB Audio interface (£205)
- Price as tested: £57,310
- Pros: Big-car pleasures, soothing for long distances, eye-opening economy
- Cons: Ride is complex, parking it is challenging
What's it like driving a luxolimo? Very nice indeed. Those who say big cars don't have a place anymore need to live with one. No, you don't need the space most of the time. Yes, it is rather decadent, taking up so much road space. Certainly, there's just as much room in a £35k-cheaper Ford Mondeo.
But with big cars come big indefinable benefits. It's heavy, so is able to waft where smaller, lighter cars are irritable. Think big cruise liner as opposed to choppy speedboat. There's much more space to soak up nice and disturbance at speed, too. Side winds are simply ignored. Ambient conditions? An irrelevance. The list goes on.
What do we like?
Lots. The seats are huge. The dash is huge. The centre arm rest is massive. Getting into 'smaller' cars, such as a Honda Accord, feels a real step down in comparison. Incidentally, I stepped into the Accord, to prove one of the 7's many contradictions. Big cars needn't be thirsty ones.
See, every day, I'm averaging 47mpg in it. Well, that's according to the trip computer. I've even seen 50mpg. Contrast this with the 2.2 diesel auto Accord. A slower, rattlier, less refined car, with less power. And less weight. It, on an IDENTICAL journey, showed just 42mpg. Go figure.
The same BMW geniuses have also made this massive car handle like one far, far smaller. Its cornering ability is exceptional, steering precision first rate. It dives into corners with barely believable alacrity. What's more, so wieldy is it, you soon drive without fear of the dimensions.
Seriously. I blast through gaps in this with millimetres to spare, without thinking. Happened today: the Renault Scenic behind me? Stopped, waited for the gap to enlarge. That's what confidence in your machinery brings. That's why 'handling' is so vital, to everyday drivers as well as F1 stars.
What do we dislike?
OK, the elephant in the corner. The ride. I think I may write a thesis on this, so complex is the story with the 7. Here's what I've found so far: the 18-inch wheels spoil it. They're nuggety, picking out minor irritations, which an S-Class would soak up.
On the motorway, this manifests itself in a faint patter. Not harsh or lumpy, but 'there'. The real lumpiness can arise in town, over the sort of potholes. There, it can bosh on rare occasions. But, contrast this with its imperious reaction to surface changes, to undulations.
Work the 7's suspension and the ride really is most elegant, keeping occupants absorbed without throwing them about or making them yak. Ugly surfaces are dealt with sophisticatedly, twisting country roads become pleasing for passengers as well as Lewis behind the wheel.
Blame the runflats. Yes, that age-old BMW complaint. They have stiff sidewalls, which is what leads to this initial interference. But remember, without them, the steering wouldn't be so sharp, nor the handling as crisp, nor the poise as good. A few thousand miles in, I'm willing to make the compromise.
As for looks, it never ceases to amaze how many comment on it. Look at me as they drive past. Turn heads as I drive past. Spend thousands of miles in it and it becomes an everyday 3 Series. And this is in no way a criticism.
Those who moan the 7 is too much like its predecessor ought to see it in UK traffic context. It really is quite special, particularly in our peachy metallic dark grey. Twinkling xenons help here, as do BIG LED rear lights that I wish I could see more of.
What's next for the BMW?
It's got a biggie coming up - we're off to the Geneva Motor Show in it! Four-up, there's no better choice for long-distance intercontinenal cruising. Monitoring the economy will be interesting; as will whether we get stuck if it snows. Which it does, a lot, in Geneva...
Other long-term reports
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
Engineers are using robots to test Ford vehicles through some of the most strenuous obstacles in the industry.
Date 15 hrs ago, Duration 2:20, Views 169