Home » The Super-Rare Diesel BMW Flagship Sedan That Unfortunately Launched The Same Year As Dieselgate: Holy Grails

The Super-Rare Diesel BMW Flagship Sedan That Unfortunately Launched The Same Year As Dieselgate: Holy Grails

Bmw 740ld Xdrive Topshot
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As I previously detailed on Holy Grails several months ago, the BMW 540d is incredibly underrated. Not only is it the only B57-powered car sold in America, it’s a fascinating blend of modernity with phased-out diesel efficiency. It’s good enough to be on people’s radars, even if the number of people captivated by it is small. However, now it’s time to talk about that other plush, late-run BMW diesel sedan. For the 2015 model year only, BMW made a 2015 BMW 740Ld xDrive for the American market, and it was both flawed and magnificent. Oh, and did I mention it came from seriously troubled beginnings?

[Writer’s note: Welcome back to Holy Grails! Mercedes is on vacation this week, so I’ve been entrusted with producing this week’s edition. Fingers crossed, I hope I haven’t screwed it up. -TH]

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The 7 Series’ Gas Engines Were, Uh, Not Great

Bmw 750li

The fifth-generation BMW 7 Series started life as a bit of a headache. Well, when I say a bit of a headache, I really mean a full-blown migraine. In 2008 for the 2009 model year, BMW rolled out its then-new flagship with a moonshot of an engine: The world’s first production hot-vee turbocharged gasaoline V8. Was the 750i composed, smooth, and unbelievably quick? Absolutely. Do I know someone who had $60,000 in warranty claims on their leased 750i? Yes, yes I do. Look, first-generation technology rarely works perfectly, and BMW had to roll out several enormous customer care packages to fix the N63 V8 in-post.

N63 Service Bulletin

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According to a technical service bulletin, the summary of fixes for the 750i consisted of two new MAF sensors, up to eight new piezoelectric injectors, the engine vacuum pump, the “Fuel System Low Pressure Sensor/Feed Line,” new intake-to-turbocharger seals, a bevy of new hoses for the crankcase ventilation system, inspection of the timing chain for stretching, and replacement of the battery because these things chew through 12-volt batteries like Chiclets. While this package certainly helped early N63 V8s, it didn’t quite fix them.

Bmw N63

In 2019, BMW settled a class action lawsuit for oil consumption on the N63 V8 engine with a technical service bulletin calling for complete engine replacement if oil consumption exceeded one liter per 750 miles, albeit using a “customer contribution percentage matrix.” If an engine had more than 120,001 miles on it, BMW wouldn’t cover the repair at all, and four matrix bands between 80,001 miles and 120,000 miles saw dwindling manufacturer contributions. While this bulletin provides some solace to owners of low-mileage 2009 to 2012 750i models, the reputation of BMW’s fifth-gen flagship had been sullied long before that.

Bmw 7 Series 1

Needless to say, world quickly spread that the fifth-generation BMW 750i wasn’t the most durable machine on the market. Sure, the N63 V8 would undergo a massive technical update in 2013, but that wasn’t good enough for the interim, or indeed for the long-haul. For 2011, BMW introduced the 740i, a fifth-generation 7 Series powered by the infamous N54 twin-turbocharged inline-six engine. While not exactly reliable thanks to multiple issues including high-pressure fuel pump failure, turbocharger wastegate problems, and obscenely expensive fuel injectors with an alarming failure rate, it was a step in the right direction compared to the disastrous N63 V8.

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Things got better in 2013, when BMW replaced the N54 inline-six in the 740i with the revised single-turbo N55 inline-six. Sure, high-pressure fuel pumps on early models were still failure-prone, but the switch from piezoelectric injectors to solenoid-fired injectors was a massive reliability boost, as was the new single turbocharger replacing the N54’s twins. With the high-pressure fuel pump rectified (a new part was factory-fitted from 2014), these N55-powered 740is are fairly reliable as far as aging German plutocratmobiles go, but they’re still missing something over their V8 siblings — bucketloads of torque.

Diesel Delight

Bmw 740ld Xdrive 2

Back in late 2014, the dialogue around alternative fuel vehicles was different to what we have today. Sure, the EV surge had begun, but hybrids were considered a sensible transition technology, hydrogen fuel cells still had some semblance of hope around them, and diesels were thoroughly back in America. Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volkswagen were selling diesel passenger vehicles in America, Mazda was trying to launch a diesel of its own, and intrepid consumers were starting to latch onto diesel vehicles for their economy and torque. After all, an engine that makes a ton of power way up top is great, but low-end torque is what actually gets vehicles moving from stoplight to stoplight.

Sensing a new American enthusiasm, BMW simply took the N57 turbodiesel inline-six from the X5 35d and bolted it into a long-wheelbase 7 Series, creating the 740Ld. The result was an executive chariot with 250 horsepower but 413 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,500 rpm. This created a diesel executive sedan with a distinctly Bavarian flavor, a rare curiosity at the absolute end of the model run.

Bmw 740Ld xDrive Brochure

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The BMW 740Ld xDrive doesn’t rationalize well, especially when VW’s Dieselgate scandal broke in September of 2015. After all, the big oil-burning Bavarian sedan tipped the scales at roughly 300 pounds more than an Audi A8 TDI, was slower to 60 mph than the gasoline-powered 740i, and although the fuel economy boost was significant — 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined compared to 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined — the premium of diesel fuel and the cost of diesel maintenance erodes those gains pretty quickly. Indeed, Motor Trend came to the conclusion that the 740Ld xDrive probably isn’t worth it on paper.

With a base price of $83,450, the 740Ld xDrive costs $1,500 more than the 740Li xDrive. It’s not a sizable amount, but neither are the mpg benefits (based on EPA numbers). The gas-powered 7 looks even more attractive when you consider the diesel’s slower straight-line performance. A diesel Mercedes-Benz S-Class doesn’t exist (yet), so if you must have a large diesel-powered luxury cruiser, the Audi [A8 TDI] is the better choice

However, the BMW 740Ld xDrive is more than on-paper mediocrity. Thanks to a 21.1 gallon fuel tank and that EPA highway fuel economy rating of 31 MPG, this thing has a theoretical cruising range of more than 650 miles. Manhattan to Charlotte on one tank? Don’t mind if I do. Oh, and because this is still a 7 Series, there’s a kernel of athleticism buried deep beneath layers of leather and infotainment, provided you tick the right option boxes. In Car And Driver testing, the 740Ld edged out a performance advantage over the Audi A8 TDI.

Performance bragging rights go to the 740Ld, however, with it edging out the A8 TDI by a couple of tenths both to 60 mph (6.2 seconds) and through the quarter-mile (14.8 at 93 mph). Lateral grip around the skidpad is a respectable 0.89 g, and our test car came to a halt from 70 mph in just 159 feet on its 20-inch Pirelli P Zero run-flat summer tires.

Yep, there’s a sports sedan hidden in there alright. Unfortunately, the BMW 740Ld xDrive only stuck around in the American market for a single model year. For 2016, the fifth-generation 7 Series was replaced with a new sixth-generation model, the Dieselgate scandal was in full swing, and appetite for a next-generation diesel 7 Series was virtually nonexistent. Mind you, demand for the 740Ld wasn’t strong either. Rumor has it that only a few hundred were produced, so this is a much harder vehicle to find on the second-hand market than an Audi A8 TDI.

Aging Gracefully

Bmw 7 Series Interior

You know how vehicles tend to get worse with age? Well, the BMW 740Ld xDrive is a curious case of the opposite happening. When the 740Ld xDrive was launched, it was the final model year of the fifth-generation 7 Series, and that interior just didn’t compare to the cabins in the new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the third-generation Audi A8. However, now that those competitors are aging, the playing field is starting to shift. For instance, the majority of pre-loved W222 S-Classes I’ve been fortunate enough to experience have been creaky, with interior trim doing its best pre-bankruptcy GM impression.

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Likewise, the interior of the third-generation Audi A8 is still gorgeous, but it’s motorized infotainment screen is a serious limitation for modern tech retrofits. On fifth-generation BMW 7 Series models, you can drop in a massive screen offered by a litany of online vendors that supports Wireless CarPlay, a solid emulation of the iDrive 7 menu structure, and all that jazz. For the Audi, you’re effectively stuck with the stock screen and an MMI box.

Of course, N57 diesel ownership isn’t without its foibles. I’d recommend replacing the harmonic balancer every 60,000 miles as it has a tendency to shred, it’s a good idea to carry a spare glow plug relay in the trunk, and the rest of the common problems are typical modern diesel stuff — carbon-clogged swirl flaps, carbon-clogged EGR valves, worn-out diesel particulate filters, that sort of stuff. Thankfully, the N57 is a fairly easy engine to DIY stuff on. For instance, both EGR valves can be done at home in an evening, and so can installing a fresh intake manifold to fix the gunged-up swirl flaps. As a bonus, the massive unreliability of the V8-powered 750i means many second-hand spare components for 740Lds are easy to come by. Electrical components, body panels, and even some of the coveted M Sport bits are all fairly available if you shop around.

Rarity Assured

Bmw 740Ld xDrive 3

The 2015 BMW 740Ld xDrive isn’t for everyone. It’s a rare, strange, heavily-depreciated curiosity that seemed to target an exceptionally small customer base. Its ideal use case is extended interstate slogs, and the number of supercommuters willing to gamble on a nearly decade-old German luxury car today is likely in the single digits. However, for a certain subset of enthusiasts, it’s something both weird and cool.

At the time of writing, there’s only one for sale on Cars.com, in Harrisburg, Penn. of all places, for a reasonable $25,999. Unsurprisingly, Canada seems to have slightly more selection, including this one up for sale outside Toronto. Both Cars & Bids and Bring A Trailer historical results draw a complete blank, so this car seems to be off of everyone’s radar. However, to weirdos like us, the 740Ld xDrive is awesome. There’s a flagship at the bottom of the BMW iceberg, and dare I say, it’s magnificent.

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(Photo credits: AutoTrader seller, BMW)

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Windnsea00
Windnsea00
8 months ago

There seem to be some very binary individuals here; I own a Lexus and a BMW- it’s possible to like both brands.

4004
4004
8 months ago

I still maintain some of the best BMW’s over the last 20 years were diesels. Granted, you’d need to probably live outside of the US to enjoy all the benefits and fewer of the costs.
Although not a massive fan of the F01, had a 730d in the family for 10 years and it was a good car

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
8 months ago

One thing to keep in mind is that N57’s have been experiencing timing chain stretch, and since the timing chain is on the back of the engine, it’s a very expensive engine-out proposition. A buddy of mine is the service advisor at an independent BMW shop near here and they just replaced an N57 timing chain a week ago, for a cool $8000.

RC
RC
8 months ago

I have had two of these still have one. My ex got the previous one. I might have even suggested this as a grail car.

I’ve had it for about 35,000 trouble-free miles (70,000-105ish).

Fun points

  • The 0-60 time is vastly underrated when measured relative to other cars. It’s 6.1-6.2 seconds, which makes it faster than a new Toyota Corolla (which might sound like a low bar, but it’s both heavier and cheaper than that car) or a mid-90s Ford Mustang. I can’t think of any 7 owner that actually flogs their car in a way that the 0-60 matters
  • Only about 400-odd of these were imported.
  • Diesel maintenance isn’t terrible on these. Oil changes on big Bimmers are always pricey, but two gallons of Shell Rotella 5w-40 gets the job done. The pricey bits are the tires, really.
  • Most owners will turn a proprietary BMW diesel fluid can into a funnel and use any off-the-shelf diesel fluid that’s Adblue compatible, because for some reason BMW decided to make the filler neck of the DEF tank proprietary.
  • You can go 600-700 miles on a tank.
  • The torque specs make these things surprisingly competent tow platforms; I’ve flat-towed both a 4Runner and an LC a couple hundred miles apiece behind mine, and other’n getting over the goofy visual, it’s fine.
  • Because it’s a turbo, it holds its power at high altitude, which makes it a helluva lot of fun at the high-altitude passes on I-70 and SR20 and SR9 in my state.

People knock on BMW’s, but this is both a grail and a hidden gem. My running costs have not been terribly high – diesel, DEF, tires, oil, all of which are non-specialty parts available almost anywhere. It’s about 14 cents/mile in fuel costs at current prices.

My last BMW was a 2008 with the 4.4, and that engine was no end of headaches.

Racer71
Racer71
8 months ago

I have a client with one of these, I’d never heard of them until he bought his. Flew out to Jersey to get it, only has 25k miles on it. Def tank sender is stuck and flags codes, he’s supposed to get it to me, we’re gonna try soaking it with some water to get the sender loosened up. It’s a beautiful car, long wheelbase X drive.

HOT_HATCH
HOT_HATCH
8 months ago

A buddy of mine who owns an independent BMW repair shop had a manual 335d back in the day when it was just a couple years old. He sold it after a few years because it was too unreliable and hard to fix.

Joel Sinclair
Joel Sinclair
8 months ago

The real holy grail would be the M550d. Triple turbo inline-6 making almost 400hp and 550tq.

Lardo
Lardo
8 months ago
Reply to  Joel Sinclair

they upped it to 4 in 2018

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
8 months ago

The guy that owns one of the farms I rent has one of these. He’s a diesel nut and also has a 250d with 400k miles.

Tifosi35242
Tifosi35242
8 months ago

I really love my 2012 Jetta TDI, but I sooooooo want this thing!

The Dude
The Dude
8 months ago

I guess the difference between owning a Lexus and BMW is that at 120k miles, the BMW engine at end of life and for the Lexus it’s just getting broken in.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

There’s also a massive difference in how engaging and fun to drive they are. I like both of them for different reasons…but pretty much every Lexus that doesn’t have a V8 is going to be about as entertaining as watching grass grow. I feel like this commentariat is ridiculously pro Lexus…and I definitely get the advantages they offer but I also get why someone would buy a BMW over one as well.

The Dude
The Dude
8 months ago

Fair enough, I’ll admit that aside from a few Lexus models, the BMW is going to be much more engaging/fun to drive. Not including vehicles like the GX or LX, which are off-road focused and BMW doesn’t offer an off-road vehicle.

That said, to me, quality of construction/longevity is one of the main things value in a car and to me is a hallmark of world class engineering. Not saying that BMWs aren’t well engineered, but I consider Toyota engineering superior because of this. And yes, I do realize that when pushing performance boundaries, you are bound to give up some level of longevity to push new/advanced tech.

TLDR I would be willing to sacrifice some level of driving engagement, even if a sporty Lexus isn’t quite as sporty as the BMW competitor, for a car that is built to last.

SarlaccRoadster
SarlaccRoadster
8 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

Toyota engineering is superior?? To Moskvitch, maybe..
I have plenty of issues with some post-2000’s BMW engines (bearings, valve seals, brittle plastic cooling, DLC cylinder coating, timing chain guides etc.), but at least they were designing and making their own engines, compared to Toyota’s engine development consisting of a guy with Yamaha on speed-dial. Later they upgraded his phone by adding 2 more numbers he can call: Subaru and, ironically, BMW.

Last edited 8 months ago by SarlaccRoadster
EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
8 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

BMW engines are either the most reliable thing you’ve ever owned or a ticking time bomb and there’s absolutely zero in between. I can’t think of an engine that was just alright. And tbh, this website has been a bit heavy on unreliable German stuff from the Roundel and the Arrow. Granted an article on why the N52 will tick all the way to 500k wouldn’t really be interesting.

RC
RC
8 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

Nah… I have one example of the grail car this article is about, as well as a 1999 4Runner.

BMW’s problem is that it does produce some garbage engines, but they aren’t all garbage. I’ve taken BMW’s to 300,000 miles before (4 cylinder 1998 318), and that one died on account of the transmission. The N57 engine is solid, much more so than the 4.4 that was in the previous generation of 7’s. That one would figure out creative ways to blow smoke (valley intercooler leaks, EGR leaks, I hated working on that car).

I have both BMW and Toyota products, so don’t want to sound like I’m shilling; if I had to pick a car to own solely on the basis of hucking a dart at a dartboard, I’d ask the dartboard to be populated with Toyota models. If I can do my research, I’d be perfectly fine taking a BMW.

It’s a shame BMW never shopped their diesels very hard here, because their diesels are both pretty fun (the 740LD with the M performance package has some surprisingly great driving dynamics) and are not (unlike some of the rest of the lineup) unforgiving towards second or third owners.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
8 months ago

Based on the plates on the Ontario one for sale they guy has owned it for a year. Add in the 2 red bulls and pack of smokes on the seat it tells me “young guy who could only afford the price of admission” Something has either gone wrong or is about to and he can’t afford the repairs.

ChefCJ
ChefCJ
8 months ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

I would guess the DPF is about to go. That’s the most cost prohibitive thing on a diesel, I would guess this one as a $3k bill for just the part. Unless you live somewhere you can delete it, it’s the pain that keeps on paining

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
8 months ago

I had a 335d and while I loved it, the necessity of having the intake walnut blasted to get all the soot out wasn’t ideal. If this vehicle, which makes the same power as the 335d did, despite the “540” appellation, suffers from the same issues, then this is a vehicle to avoid. Ours had issues with the DEF thing twice, but at least it was under warranty and BMW paid for all the equipment they had to replace. But the walnut shell thing was all ours. I hear you can install a plate to block soot from arriving back into the intake, but I just ditched it and got something else.

Great car. It was like the faster you drove it, the better its mileage was. We got 34mph after a solid hour or so long run at >100mph in Nevada one time. At 80mph, you’re sitting right on the 425lb. ft. torque peak of 1800 rpms. It was nuts punching that thing out of a corner and you definitely wanted all the chassis aids on and running.

But the eventual requirement to stuff a bunch of money into it, including turbos that were likely gonna fail in the low 100K range called our ownership to an end.

Toecutter
Toecutter
8 months ago

That BMW is quite tempting. I’d briefly thought of what it would be like to own one, and have always wanted to drive one to see how it was.

I’d rather have another Mercedes 300 SDL with the injector pump threads replaced with larger units so I could feed more fuel to the engine. No complicated electronics, no urea tank, and it is actually possible to work on mostly with basic hand tools.

Mine got 30 mpg cruising 70 mph on the highway, and could top out at slightly over 120 mph. Stock, the SDL would get its doors blown off by this BMW. Mine took 11 seconds to hit 60 mph from a stop. But it could still be tuned to roughly 300 horsepower on the stock block and internals while retaining reliability. I never got around to doing this mod before selling mine, but it was on the to-do list. I bought mine when it was 25 years old with over 200k miles on the odo, abused the crap out of the accelerator for 3 years straight, spent over 100 cumulative hours at triple digit speeds for the duration of ownership(I did a LOT of hooning on Texas backroads), and it served me well. It was sold because I had no place to keep it after I moved back to my home town. Maybe one day I’ll get another, preferably black next time(the one I owned was burgundy)

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
8 months ago

Okay, here’s kind of a non-sequitur: the BMW has solenoid firing injectors, right? So they can cycle fast enough to inject fuel at every necessary stroke, right? Would it be possible to have the intake and exhaust valves be solenoid actuated? That would enable truly infinite valve timing to optimize for economy, power, or whatever was necessary for the situation.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

You are referring to a camless engine. This has been a goal of lots of automakers for a long time, mercedes made some claims (~20 years ago?) that they would have a production camless engine soon. Other automakers made that claim as well.

Complexity, cost, and reliability of the system probably killed it.

Here’s some reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camless_piston_engine

V10omous
V10omous
8 months ago

Koenigsegg is supposedly putting theirs into production next year.

Amazing if they’ve managed to pull it off, though of course not very relatable to us mortals.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
8 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

True! Koenigsegg has been talking about it for a while as well.

SarlaccRoadster
SarlaccRoadster
8 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

This mortal has done it with the help of an Arduino back in 2021 and open-sourced it, so in theory we all could do it.

https://hackaday.com/2021/02/24/deleting-the-camshafts-from-a-miata-engine/

Last edited 8 months ago by SarlaccRoadster
HOT_HATCH
HOT_HATCH
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

F1 has be using pneumatics to control valves for quite some time. Infinite control of timing.

Gee See
Gee See
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

A youtuber called Wesley Kagan built one in his own garage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-RR0AJyTq8 and he later put it in a Miata.

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
8 months ago

For every BWM article Thomas, an unabashed Roundel homer writes, the more it seems like I will at no point ever have the financial disposal (or blind lack of financial acumen) to consider the ownership of any of their products.

Maybe I got old, maybe I got boring, but bad, relatively cheap choices can still = fun. Big, expensive terrible choices that will cost sometimes 5 figure sums because someone decided something buried deep in the mechanicals should be made out of the cheapest plastic available…I guess where I’m going with this is I’m too poor to have any interest in BMWs, my enthusiasm for what Lexus stands for – reliable comfort that won’t bankrupt you at the drop of a hat has risen exponentially as an aspirational one day choice, maybe as a CPO if I’m really rolling in the cheese.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
8 months ago
Reply to  Usernametaken

They’re not all bad. Get an E46 and apart from some cooling issues which can be fixed in an afternoon you’re good to go.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
8 months ago

I’m a bit of a BMW fanboy and even I didn’t know this thing existed. What a strange fever dream the late 2000s/early to mid 2010s were. It’s absolutely wild to me that German luxury manufacturers were all offering various diesels for the US market…and they’re dear to me because my family had a W211 E Class diesel that I drove a lot and subsequently totaled in 2017.

I agree that diesels make sense in luxobarge applications. They’re quick off the line and they’re absolute missiles on the highway because of the low end torque. Even when you’re cruising at 75 in top gear there’s enough grunt for you to pass with ease. I remember taking that Benz on road trips and it was a treat. It averaged like 35 MPG the whole time too.

Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of the weirder 7 series variants. I’ll occasionally browse M760 listings because who doesn’t want a V12? I can’t even begin to imagine what a maintenance nightmare that engine is but V12 go brrrrrrr!

Alexk98
Alexk98
8 months ago

They’re quick off the line and they’re absolute missiles on the highway because of the low end torque

Cries in OM617 equipped C123 ownership

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
8 months ago

Great article. Just one point…

Likewise, the interior of the third-generation Audi A8 is still gorgeous, but it’s motorized infotainment screen is a serious limitation for modern tech retrofits.

Audi’s motorized screens can indeed be replaced with a stationary updated unit. I’ve seen it done in the A8 FB groups. RSNav sells one for the C7, but curiously they don’t list the D3/D4. Maybe Aliexpress has you covered there.

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