Automotive giant BMW hardly needs any introduction at all. Since 1917, the German manufacturer has consistently building up its reputation for making some of the finest luxury cars in the world. The BMW “difference” lies in the fact that their vehicles don’t just look and feel good, but perform as amazingly well as you should expect from a premium vehicle. The BMW 740i is one of the finest the company can offer—its flagship, in fact. Only available as either a sedan or a full-sized limousine, this car sets the stage that all other BMW models benefit from in terms of design and technology.
1977-1986: The precursor
Of course, BMW had been making automobiles prior to 1977, but it was the E23 large sedan—forerunner of the 740i—that would catch the world’s attention. The sedan was very upscale and classy for the time period it was released. For one thing, it was the first to benefit from BMW’s service interval indicators and a complex climate control system—the former informed the driver to various faults across many different systems. The E23 also contributed much to making Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) the standard that they are today. Later models even offered an optional driver’s airbag.
Significantly, the E23 would also set in stone the now-familiar appearance that all BMWs take: the double “kidney” grille and quad-headlights up front, capped by the BMW roundel. It was under the hood, however, that lay the secret to the E23’s immense popularity: it packed a power 12-valve M30 6-cylinder fuel-injected engine. Capable of putting out between 177 to about 182 of horsepower, the M30 engine gave the E23 more than sufficient power to leave competitors in the dust. By the time 1987 was coming around, the stage was set for BMW to up the ante.
1986-2007: The successor
The car that would eventually receive the 740i designation underwent some improvements from 1986 to 1992. Most importantly, several branches stemmed from the E23—each one differentiated primarily by the power of the engine that they came with. The 740i, which did debut in 1992, came with one of the most powerful of the bunch: a solid 32-valve V8 capable of putting out a whopping 282 of horsepower. Little changed in the actual appearance of the 740i which, when placed side by side with the E23 was difficult to differentiate. It retained all of the E23’s technology too.
Another milestone in the BMW 740i’s history came in 1995, where the V8 installed was bumped up to 4.4-L—horsepower output remained the same at 282, while torque was increased to 310 lb. ft. This improvement made the 740i extremely fuel efficient despite its power. In terms of appearance, this iteration started to show the curves that are now very iconic and very “BMW”. The significant technological upgrade came in the form of the iDrive. This computer effectively consolidated all the controls for climate, audio, navigation, suspension, and communication.
2008-2012: The next generation
The latest and greatest generation of the 740i features a longer wheelbase and a stunted front overhang to give it a far more sculpted look. The front face was given a lift and the grille and headlights remodeled to make it appear very aggressive. With a choice of three powerplants—4.4-L V8, 3.0-L inline-6, and 3.0L inline-6 turbocharged—drivers could tweak and balance their preference of either power or efficiency, iDrive was also updated for the next generation, and included a groundbreaking night vision system. This 740i was a culmination of many years of efforts, and aptly reflected the German giant’s design sensibilities and drive for innovation.