Fleet News

BMW 745i

BMW

Review

WHAT can you get for £56,000 these days? It may sound like a lot of money but in today's world-gone-mad, it is a trifling amount.

Maybe it would buy you a parking space in an upmarket London suburb for a year, or perhaps you would prefer to splash out on being a space tourist (by my calculations, by the time the Shuttle cleared the launch pad your £56,000 would have run out and it would be time to get off).

Or you could invest in the world's most gadget-laden luxury car which, as an added bonus, comes complete with the most distinctive styling seen in the automobile world for years.

BMW's striking new 7-series has divided opinion like no other car for a long time – you either love or loathe the styling and if you are even slightly technophobic, you will approach the iDrive system with dread.

But while these two items have grabbed all the Seven's headlines, what has tended to be forgotten is what a fabulous car it is.

It is spacious without being intimidatingly large, its equipment list is as lengthy as an M25 traffic jam on Friday night, the quality of materials used is top-notch, the engine is not only quick but economical (relatively speaking for a big, heavy car with 333bhp on tap) and it is comfortable without being a wallowy luxo-barge.

All of which should have the opposition pretty worried - especially Mercedes-Benz. The S-class has been leading the luxury car sector since its launch in 1998 and it has been Fleet News' best luxury car for three years' running.

However, Mercedes-Benz is aware of the threat of the new Seven and has announced a raft of improvements to the S-class range which will be available from October. And while we're on the subject of rivals, Jaguar is also busy readying its new XJ range for launch later next year, but for this test we have included the luxurious Daimler Super V8 variant.

To make up this desirable quartet, we have included the new Range Rover in range-topping Vogue guise.

All four cars will be well and truly at home in the chairman's car parking space.

In 745i guise (a 3.5-litre V8 with 272bhp is also available and a diesel-powered 730d arrives in the spring of 2003), the BMW is a cruiser par excellence, with 333bhp on tap and enough torque to move a mountain. Drive is through a six-speed automatic gearbox which has impercetible shifts and three modes depending on the urgency of your boss' next meeting - drive, sport and manual.

There is also an optional electronic damper control system which can stiffen up the ride for a more sporty feel. However, on our test car with EDC and the bigger 19-inch alloys, the ride did get a little crashy on poor surfaces.

But what this car really majors on is presence. Everywhere it was parked people stopped and looked – you may not like the new Seven, but you can't ignore it.

Fact file: BMW 745i

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £56,770
CO2 emissions (g/km): 263
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 34%
Graduated VED rate: £155
Insurance group: 19
Combined mpg: 25.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £20,750/37%
Depreciation (60.03 pence per mile x 60,000): £36,018
Maintenance (3.66 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,196
Fuel (14.74 pence per mile x 60,000): £8,844
Wholelife cost (78.43 pence per mile x 60,000): £47,058
Typical contract hire rate: £1,142 per month

  • All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance

    Three rivals to consider

  • Daimler 4.0 V8 Super SWB
  • Mercedes-Benz S500
  • Range Rover 4.4 V8 Vogue

    P11D Price
    AT this end of the market, price really isn't an option. Anyone who has this choice of cars for their company vehicle isn't going to baulk at the price. But for the record, the BMW has the least expensive front-end price at £56,770. The Mercedes is £790 more expensive while the Daimler costs £1,750 more than the BMW. The Range Rover costs a few pounds shy of the £60,000 mark, but if one has to ask the price, one really can't afford.

    BMW £56,770
    Mercedes £57,560
    Daimler £58,520
    Range Rover £59,815

    SMR costs
    EQUALLY as innovative as the gizmos and electronic wizardry on the Seven is BMW's unique Concours servicing plan, where owners pay £500 to cover the cost of having their car serviced for five-years/75,000-miles. This results in by far the lowest servicing, maintenance and repair costs, at just 3.66ppm. By contrast, a BMW 318i costs 4.33ppm – impressive stuff BMW. As a result, the BMW opens up a clear advantage in the first part of our running costs analysis.

    BMW 3.66ppm
    Range Rover 4.25ppm
    Daimler 4.70ppm
    Mercedes 6.00ppm

    Fuel costs
    THE Seven utilises BMW's VANOS and Valvetronic systems to optimise fuel efficiency. The result is that the Seven records 25.9mpg on the combined cycle – well ahead of its rivals. It's worth remembering that the Seven is a hefty chunk of metal with a 333bhp 4.4-litre V8 engine. As a result of this technology, the Seven is nearly 3ppm less expensive on fuel costs than its closest rival, the Daimler. By contrast, the huge Range Rover, which shares the BMW's V8 engine, costs 21.92ppm.

    BMW 14.74ppm
    Daimler 17.67ppm
    Mercedes 18.09ppm
    Range Rover 21.94ppm

    Depreciation costs
    FOR once the BMW does not top the charts in our running costs comparison, with honours in depreciation costs falling to the Mercedes. CAP predicts a residual value of 38% of price new after three years and 60,000 miles for the S500, slightly ahead of the BMW on 37%. In third is the Range Rover which has the highest RV prediction of 40% but its higher front-end price counts against it. The Daimler is way off the pace, with CAP predicting it to retain 29% of its price new over the same period.

    Mercedes 58.52ppm
    BMW 60.03ppm
    Range Rover 60.06ppm
    Daimler 69.20ppm

    Wholelife costs

    RUNNING costs in this test might not be as critical as with the other cars we test, but it is worth looking closely because of the huge difference in cost here. The BMW costs 78.43ppm to run over three-years/60,000-miles, more than 4ppm less expensive than the Mercedes. The Range Rover is a further 4ppm further back with the Daimler bringing up the rear. Over 60,000 miles these figures are huge and will burn a big hole in the company pocket.

    BMW 78.43ppm
    Mercedes 82.61ppm
    Range Rover 86.25ppm
    Daimler 91.57ppm

    Emissions and BIK tax rates
    DESPITE the fact that the BMW's carbon dioxide emissions are massively lower than its rivals, it doesn't really count for much in taxation terms. At 263g/km (about the same as a 530i auto), the Seven falls into the 34% of P11D band for benefit-in-kind tax this year. The Mercedes (320g/km), Daimler (350g/km) and Range Rover (389g/km) are all much heavier on CO2, but the system only puts them one tax band higher. It seems BMW has done all the hard work for nothing.

    BMW 263g/km/34%
    Mercedes 320g/km/35%
    Daimler 350g/km/35%
    Range Rover 389g/km/35%

    Verdict

    Stunning looks, fabulous engineering, luxurious interior and huge road presence – these qualities on their own are enough to secure victory for the 7-series. But the Seven also out-classes its rivals on emissions, economy and wholelife costs. A revised Mercedes-Benz S-class arrives soon and it had better be good to catch up with the BMW.

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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