"If I were a rich man," Tevye sings in "Fiddler on the Roof, "I would build a big, tall house right in the middle of the town."
Well, that's fine for him. But if I were a rich man the first thing I'd do is dash down to BMW of Murray and put in my order for a 1998 BMW 740iL, the marvelous motor car in which I've spent the past very sublime week.(Vehicles such as the 740iL are referred to in the automotive press as "motor cars" to distinguish them from the beaters that most of us drive in real life.)
Driving the Big Bimmer this past week put me in a Teutonic frame of mind. These Neitzche-esque musings ranged all over the place. At one point, mired in a traffic jam at the I-15 interchange at 126000 South, it struck me as unfair that this magnificent machine, built to cruise the Autobahn at 200 km per hour, should be forced to idle helplessly in a queue. Hmmmph, I mused. They should all pull over to the side and allow me to pass as the peasants in their carts once did for Louis IV.
Another time, northbound on I-215 at rush hour, it struck me that America's highways are the ultimate representation of democracy. Some of the cars sharing the road with me cost less than the BMW's on-board satellite navigation system alone, yet they felt perfectly at ease being on the same road with my regal ride. Indeed, they had no compunction in cutting me off without so much as a flick of their turn signals.
In this country, even rusted-out Fiats and Yugos are entitled to their place on the road right along with the monarchs turned out by the incredibly talented engineers at Munich's Bavarian Motor Works. If you want to see democracy at work, don't go to Washington, D.C. - take a ride on any U.S. highway.
Well, that's what driving a car like the 740iL will do for you - or TO you. You tend to get uppity. You tend to lose patience with the bottom feeders of autodom. You tend to drive way too fast.
Ninety miles per hour in this car feels like 60, allowing one to creep up to near triple-digit motoring unawares. Its 4.4 liter, 32-valve, 282 horsepower engine delivers its power so quietly, and the amazing suspension system holds the car so effortlessly on line that it does not deliver the usual speed cues - noise, vibration, bouncing, steering lightness - that are the norm in other cars.
It's a wonderful experience driving a BMW, but it also can be a bit frustrating. This car is an example of engineering overkill. There is simply no place in the country - and certainly not in highway-hampered Salt Lake County - where you can legally make good use of this car's awesome abilities.
But I'd buy it anyway if I could afford it. The BMW 740iL is unquestionably the best automobile I've ever driven, and I've been doing auto reviews for this space for lo these 19 years.
That means I could tell all of you faithful readers to simply go down and buy yourself a 740 and I can call it quits with the column. Mission accomplished. Found the perfect car. Nothing more to write about.
But since some of us need or desire un-cars - trucks, minivans and sport-utilities - and most of us can't come close to making the monthly payments on the 740, I guess I'll soldier on for awhile. Besides, the BMW is only the best car I've driven so far. Who knows what wonderous conveyances await us in the 21st century.
As long as we're on the subject of filthy lucre, let's talk about how much it takes of the stuff to get into a 740iL. It takes $66,500, and if you want the navigation system you can tack on another $2,500. Destination charges of $570 brings the bottom line to $69,570. Frankly, I think it's worth every dollar unless it means the kids don't get to go to college.
Fuel mileage is rated at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which is decent for a large, V8-powered car. Premium grade fuel only, please.
Incidentally, the letter "L" in the model designation indicates it is the long-wheelbase version. Basically, this means that it has enough rear-seat legroom to allow even Michael Doleac to get comfy, and it also means that some of the luxury goodies that are options on the 740i are standard.
For the record, the top-line 750iL has even more standard goodies and is powered by a 5.4-liter V-12 engine that takes the aforementioned overkill to new heights.
As you might expect in a near $70k car, the 740iL has enough luxury, convenience, safety and gee whiz features - headed by the futuristic navigation system - to make your brother-in-law insanely jealous, but they aren't what make the car worth the money. Most of the gadgets will go unused after the novelty has worn off.
But the incredibly exhilarating performance will be there forever.