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Reader test: BMW 740iL

2007-09-25 09:37

James Taylor, Maputo

As a rule, new BMW's rank highly on my list of things not to do, in fact they're in the Top Five.

The other four include invading a sovereign nation in the Middle East, dissolving a political party and joining your opposition for personal gain, combating the HIV/Aids epidemic with Lifebuoy and causing trouble in Ventersdorp disguised as a black man.

So let's start with BMW.

As far as I am concerned, three types of people buy new BMWs.

Those who have so much money they don't mind losing it, those who want to be recognised as the first type and finally those who just buy whatever is on the show room floor because, if it's there, it must be cool.

The first lot are hopeless but the second and third bunch needs to learn a wonderfully simple financial term - depreciation. Sign the financing papers and immediately your new BMW becomes a used car.

BMW heritage

In BMW's defence I am not saying that they haven't made some remarkable cars.

The E46 330i and 330d are remarkable vehicles in every way. Add to that list every M3 ever produced, the E30 325is, the Z3 M-Coupe and who could forget the E39 M5 and the 840i?

A few others added here and there and one has a list probably justifying why BMW is the most accomplished German motor company around.

These older cars have character, power, style and heart. They invoke feelings similar to those when seeing a Doberman curled up with a kitten. It may be mean but its kind and has character.

Sadly, as with all good things though, it has come to an end with the Doberman contracting rabies, having a stroke, ingesting LSD and having a midlife crisis all on the same day.

I find nothing attractive about any vehicle now produced by BMW at the hands of Chris Bangle.

Assuming that Americans in general can't really design anything that isn't repulsive (as a reference look at the Cadillac Escalade or Rosie O'Donnell), Bangle's tortured band of "we-holidayed-at-Chernobyl-last-summer" style vehicles are awful by normal standards.

The good news

That's the bad news, so here's the good.

If one looks at my "things to do" list, converse to my stance on new BMWs, second-hand Beemers rank in the top five along with making sure my children don't turn out like me, trying to make at least one friend that doesn't secretly hate me, destroying Microsoft and organising a public beating for the person who invented call centres.

If you don't care that your neighbours will think you're poor, second hand BMWs are well built, comfortable and fun to drive.

With all this in mind, after getting rid of my absolutely ruined Ford Ranger, I couldn't stomach buying a Land Rover Defender and bought a 1998 740il instead.

Now don't confuse this vehicle with the normal 740i. This is the long wheel base version, and apart from space enough to have you fending off developers who wish to put townhouses down in your boot, the truly remarkable thing about this vehicle has got to be how it moves in relation to how it looks.

Rocket ship

BMW has taken an excellent 32-valve 4.4-litre V8 and paired it with a smooth, well thought out Steptronic gearbox.

Although most 7 Series BMWs came with 16-inch alloys better suited to a pram, change them for M-Parallel alloys shod with quality 255/40/ZR 18s, take off the traction control and with a bit of practice you can make two and a half tons go from standstill to 100-km/h in just over 6 seconds.

Keep you foot on the floor and you will see the needle happily edge up to the magic electronically limited 250-km/h ceiling. The ride quality is also something to tell your grandchildren about, even on dirt roads.

Styling wise, I yet have to meet someone who is not at least slightly in awe of the vehicle's presence. However, it probably runs a close second to the Audi S8 of the late 90s in the looks department, with the old S8 being as good as it gets.

Although it gulps fuel, drinks water like a dehydrated camel and servicing costs are exorbitant (my last oil change and microfilter replacement cost R 2 000), it's worth every cent.

Although the 740il is very hard to come by, a decent example of a 2001 740i can be picked up for less than R 200 000.

Considering a new, fully loaded 740i Bangle experiment will set you back as much as a million if you select "luxury" items like seats and tyres as extras, it's not bad. Even if one has to replace the entire engine on an E38 every 20 000 km, it is going to take many years to get up to that kind of money, which in a way justifies fuel and servicing bills.

It's a great vehicle if you're in the market to spend money rather than burn it.

Now, about invading Iran...

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