THE BMW 730Li is now old enough to require a facelift but it still has something no other BMW model available here can boast of - a classic, naturally aspirated, three-litre engine. Over the years, BMW's sweet straight-six engine has been subjected to forced induction in the quest for more oomph. As a result, models, such as the 335i, 535i and 640i, still feature a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder unit but they are all turbocharged.
Except for the 730Li.
This entry-level BMW 7 Series limousine still has a naturally aspirated, 3.0-litre to drive the rear wheels, while the next higher variant, the 740Li gets a 3.0-litre with twin-scroll turbos. With a turbine forcing more intake air into the cylinders, the difference to power and torque is clear - the 730Li produces 258 hp and 310 Nm, while the 740Li forces out 320 hp and 450 Nm.
Surprisingly, however, the BMW 730Li doesn't feel inadequate. On the move, the long-wheelbase 7 Series accelerates briskly. BMW's familiar Driving Experience Control function provides for several driving modes, and in recognition of the 7 Series' flagship status, there are five such settings in the 730Li - Eco, Comfort+, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Part of the 7 Series' makeover includes a brand-new virtual instrument cluster. Not only is it able to project beautifully detailed and realistic graphics, but it also allows the whole panel to change when a different mode is selected. For example, in Eco, the readings become blue with economy gains in the form of additional kilometres to display efficient driving habits.
And the traditional meters of Comfort+ and Comfort disappear when Sport or Sport+ are chosen, replaced instead by a digital speedometer and gear selection indication.
The chassis and drivetrain settings can be individually tweaked in the sportier modes to suit personal preference but it is Comfort that has to be the most impressive mode. The 730Li's suspension is comfortably pliant, while the eight-speed automatic transmission - upgraded from the former six-speeder - engages gears gently as it is still able to shift down faster than in Comfort+. But if more urgent gear shifts are required, they can be done using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts. Here, the ZF eight-speeder proves to be as smooth as it is enthusiastic, changing down on demand even at high engine speeds. Best of all, the straight-six sounds sweet when revved hard with a linear delivery of power.
So even at 5.2 metres in length and weighing in at 1,865kg, the 730Li is still one of the most fun limos to drive.
The makeover has also freshened up the interior of the 730Li, with a new and more attractive dashboard featuring tasteful wood veneers and handstitched leather. At the back, the 3,210 mm wheelbase means more than ample rear legroom, rendering the word "spacious" an understatement. There are the obligatory limousine features, such as soft-close doors, cruise control with braking function, 10-way electric front seats, as well as the usual BMW equipment like head up display and Comfort Access System with contactless boot lid opening.
All in, they make the 730Li an even nicer drive.
Engine 2,996cc inline-6
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Max power 258 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Max torque 310 Nm @ 2,600-3,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 7.5 secs
Top speed 250 kmh
CO2 emissions 202 g/km
Price $380,800 (with COE)
Distributor Performance Motors