CRAWLING along the crowded basement car park of Mid Valley Megamall on a Friday night – the pathways and corners occasionally clogged by haphazardly parked vehicles – sounds like a route to aggravation.
It’s a groan even in my regular compact.
But there we were, driving BMW’s new generation 740Li, equipped with what is possibly the Bavarian automaker’s sharpest tool in the war of the luxo barges.
It’s called Integral Active Steering system. More than mere technical verbosity, it seems to makes a very big car feel like it could bend itself around corners.
Well, the 740Li doesn’t bend. But with its four-wheel steering system where the rear wheels also turn, we could take the most barely passable corner in this Titanic-sized vehicle without flinching. It’s a feat that would easily blow its long wheelbase competitors – and even some not so long ones – away.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn at opposite angle to the front wheels, allowing the 740Li to take corners like a smaller 3 Series.
During higher speed lane changes, the rear wheels steer in the same direction as the front wheels, allowing the car to mildly “crab” across for less body roll and greater stability.
Four wheel steering isn’t new, having been introduced by Honda in the late 1980s but the early versions had some quirky handling characteristics, which appeared to have been all ironed out by the electronics governing the new 740Li.
Suffice to say that it takes the nimbleness of large cars to a new level, making you go around corners more quickly and tightly.
And smoothly too – elevating the overall ride quality by reducing the stresses brought by the usual yawing motions of cornering. That’s also due to the weight of the car being kept in check by the use of some aluminium body panels
However you’re driving, the 740Li never feels ruffled or pressed.
Of course, we have come to expect such innovation from any new Bimmer flagship, bearing in mind that this latest has to make its RM850k price tag worthwhile.
Although you won’t confuse the new 7 for anything else, its lines are less controversial than the previous E66 generation.
It’s graceful, and quite pleasing to the eye – some might say even a little stately – although that large, protruding front grille takes getting used to.
There was a downpour the other evening. As I parked the 740Li outside one well known Chinese restaurant in Puchong, a member of the staff came rushing out with an umbrella as we alighted.
Well, talk about a car having presence. That has never happened in my own car.
Inside our test car, much of the creature comforts are manifest in dark Dakota leather upholstery and matching wood trimmings, rear air conditioning with temperature and speed settings, two 8-inch monitors for the entertainment fix, and reclineable seats with massaging, cooling and heating features.
A simpler-to-use iDrive controller system is evident, with shortcut buttons for radio, CD, sat-nav and even main menu.
Generous helpings of rear legroom make this a ride that even NBA superstars would feel at home in.
Sit back and relax: With enough room for the longest legs of the NBA.
Enhancements include the Side View camera system, a world first that is also extremely functional.
With cameras mounted just ahead of the front wheels of this long car, the driver can now view through the centre display and see around blind corners for in coming vehicles.
The Night Vision system has been revised to include an intelligent pedestrian recognition system that flashes a warning the moment its senses pedestrians moving into the 740Li’s path.
We found the ride, courtesy of the front dynamic dampers and rear air suspension, supple and good overall – certainly more so than the old 7 Series although it doesn’t share the heavy, cossetting feel of some competitors.
Like most cars of its ilk, there’s a range of settings that you can adjust it to, depending on your driving preferences.
At cruising speeds, the 740Li is well insulated for interior quietness, although some wind noise is noticeable at 160kph.
Where the old 740Li used to have a 4.0-litre V8, the times we now live in dictate that manufacturers have tough new emission goals to meet. Hence, the new 740Li comes with a cleaner and more fuel efficient 3.0-litre twin turbo engine.
There’s plenty of wallop with 326 horses and maximum torque of 450Nm that knocks in from as low as 1,500rpm – enough to propel this tycoon cruiser to 100kph in six seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 250kph.
But while the in-line six whisks you away impressively quickly, it does sound rather busier doing the job. We do miss the silky smoothness of the old V8 – and if that is what you must have, a twin turbocharged 4.4-litre version is available in the 750Li.
All in all, there’s much to keep the BMW faithful gratified in this package of thoroughly infused agility – in a limousine that has always devoured distances and now, corners.