1987 BMW 730i E32 vs. Ford Granada 2.9 Scorpio Executive – Giant Road Test

2015 / 2016 Drive-My

Twin Test 1987 BMW 730i E32 vs. Ford Granada 2.9 Scorpio Executive – The Luxury Gap. Is a luxury saloon defined by what it does or what it has? Ford’s top-line 2.9 Granada has the lot, including a £19,246 price tag. BMW’s new 730i boasts far fewer creature comforts and costs £1600 more But which car offers the real value for money? Photographs by Maurice Rowe and Peter Bum.

The market place is not always rational and seldom predictable. If it was, a Ford Granada and a BMW 7-series E32 could never share space on the same shopping list. The new BMW 730i automatic, for instance, is the smaller-engined stablemate of the mighty 735i – a car which we have not been alone in calling the best luxury saloon in the world. Now can a Ford – any Ford – face up to that?

Ford clearly believe that its latest top-line Granada – cumbersomely named the 2.9 EFi Scorpio Executive – is a worthy challenger. And if you don’t believe it, just look at the price. At £19,246, it costs only £1600 less than the £20,850 730i A. Just to put things into perspective, the cheapest 1.8 Granada is around £10,000 less, and that gives a big clue to the nature of this confrontation. The top Granada is deliberately competing out of the class, compensating for the absence of a genuine pedigree bloodline with a formidable line in “add-on luxury”. This embraces almost the entire Ford extras catalogue as well as an impressive-looking full-leather interior. The basic hardware is of proven competence, too, the Granada’s initially controversial “jelly-mould” styling having been more readily accepted than the Sierra’s, its roomy five-door accommodation setting the standard for the big car class and a new 2.9-litre engine adding some much-needed extra muscle.

1987 BMW 730i E32 vs. Ford Granada 2.9 Scorpio Executive

The BMW 730i E32 follows smartly on the heels of the £24,850 735i which wasted no time in stamping its superiority on rival Jaguars and Mercedes with a stunning blend of style, ability and intelligently applied technology.

The major difference is the substitution of the 735i’s 220 bhp 3.5-litre single overhead cam straight six M30-type (M30B30) with one of 2986 cc developing 197 bhp, though other aspects of the specification have clearly had to be modified to place the 730i in direct competition with the top Ford. If anything, the Bavarian company has more to gain by encroaching on the Ford’s volume sales territory than the Granada has by breaking into the real prestige sector. Certainly enough not to mind equipping the 730i with 6.5Jx15 in steel wheels shod with 205/65 VR tyres instead of the 735i’s 7JX15 in alloy rims with 225/60 VR covers. Items deleted from the 735i’s equipment list include the trip computer, electrically- adjustable front seats and an electrically-powered sunroof.

The BMW is slightly longer and wider than the Ford and looks it on the road, though it puts this to good use by appearing handsomely low and sleek. Its more conventional booted four-door shape also has an immediate prestige presence that the Granada’s rather bloated five-door hatchback lacks. Both cars’ rear wheels are driven via four-speed automatic transmissions, steering is power assisted – by recirculating ball in the BMW’s case, rack and pinion for the Ford-and braking by discs all round (ventilated at the front). Also common is coil-sprung all-independent suspension by MacPherson struts at the front and semi-trailing arms at the rear with anti-roll bars at both ends.

The 730i’s Motoronic injected 2986 cc straight six has a compression ratio of 9.2:1 and develops 197 bhp at 5800 rpm and 199 lb ft of torque at 4000 rpm. A development of the old Cologne unit rather than a radically new design, the Granada’s 2933 cc all-iron V6 still uses pushrod valve-gear operation but breathes through Bosch L-Jetronic injection and, on a compression ratio of 9.5:1, develops 150 bhp at 5700 rpm and 172 lb ft of torque at 3000 rpm.


PERFORMANCE

These two are closer against the clock than you might suppose from the brief appraisal of their engines above. The Ford’s relatively modest power and torque outputs are largely offset by its considerably lighter weight (1388 kg against 1663 kg) and shorter gearing, though the heavyweight BMW fights back with an excellent drag coefficient of 0.32 to pit against the Granada’s still respectable 0.34.

The 730i’s higher top speed is an obvious reflection of its more slippery shape: round Mill- brook’s high-speed bowl, it achieved a highly creditable 133.1 mph (barely 7 mph slower than the 735i E32); the Granada, though far from disgraced, was left trailing with a best lap of 124.5 mph. The Ford achieved its maximum in fourth – the engine’s rev-limiter intervening just before 124 mph in third. The BMW, conversely, did its best work in this gear, reserving its 27.8 mph/1000 rpm overdrive top for lazy motorway cruising.

Where the Ford gets its own back is in the standing start sprints. Left to its own devices it does reasonably well – 0-60 mph in 10.3 sec, 0-100 mph in 31.2 sec – and this with the automatic changing up early, especially into top. In fact, the readiness’ with which the transmission would kickdown having just changed into top suggests that all was not well with our test car. This view was reinforced by the improvements that could be made by manually overriding the system, 0-60 mph falling to 9.3 sec and 0-100 mph to 27.2 sec. Typically, the BMW’s standing start times could not be bettered by resorting to such tactics, the ZF ‘box timing its shifts to perfection. The results are 0-60 mph in 10.7 sec and 0-100 mph in 27.0 sec, the former figure reflecting surprising tardiness off the line (zero to 30 mph takes a disappointing 4.7 sec against the Granada’s 3.5 sec), though by the ton the BMW has regained the lost ground and is poised to surge ahead.

The kickdown times give a bigger advantage to the BMW, which is consistently quicker than the Ford from 30 mph on, though the Granada does steal a small lead between 20 and 40 mph, returning 3.0 sec to the 730i’s 3.3 sec.

Subjectively, the Granada feels a punchier performer than the BMW, but only if you’re pre-pared to take on a high proportion of the gearchanging to keep the engine on the boil. Left to do its own thing, the automatic presents a much lazier image of the 2.9-litre engine’s performance potential than is really the case, though it could be reasonably argued that the V6 sounds so strained and breathless when worked hard that this is probably no bad thing.

Certainly, the ‘BMW’s long-admired 3-litre straight-six doesn’t shy away from exertion: on the contrary, it revels in it. This remains one of the very finest six-cylinder engines in volume production and sets standards for mechanical smoothness the Ford’s V6 doesn’t get close to approaching. Apart from the sluggish step-off, it works beautifully with the transmission to provide an almost miraculously seamless progression of eager performance. The drivetrain is simply superb.


ECONOMY

The BMW may be heavier and ultimately faster than the Ford, but it’s not significantly thirstier. The respective consumptions are 21.3 and 20.3 mpg – both respectable results considering the masses and muscle involved though aided, in the BMW’s case, by its long-striding top gear.

Less relentlessly determined driving should benefit the Granada more than its Bavarian rival, the Ford’s projected touring figure of 27.8 mpg comparing with 25.3 mpg for the BMW, though this was calculated from provisional Government figures. Even so, the Granada can’t match the massive 500-mile range conferred by the 730i’s huge 90-litre (19.8-gallon) tank, the Ford’s more modest 70 litres (15.4 gallons) allowing 429 miles. Four-star petrol is recommended for both cars.


TRANSMISSION

Both cars employ sophisticated four-speed automatics. The Granada’s A4LD transmission – first used in the Sierra – features full lock-up in top and freewheels on a closed throttle at below about 50 mph. The BMW’s HP-22 ZF ’box is the same as that used in the more powerful 735i and, apart from its slightly shorter 3.64:1 final drive, features the same converter lock-up in fourth and three-mode operation settings for Economy, Sport or Manual. In the latter’s case, all three intermediate ratios can be held to provide engine braking or avoid “hunting” in persistent start- stop motoring.

Not that the 730i is prone to this, anyway. The manner in which its transmission changes gear – whether on the lightest of throttle openings or during full kickdown – is not only a lesson to Ford but every other car maker. In most cases shifts are noticed only as a change in revs. Allied to this superb responsiveness, especially in “Sport” mode where full throttle up-changes are made at peak revs and part-throttle kickdown is evoked more readily than with the default Economy setting.

By most standards, the shift quality of the Granada’s transmission would seem entirely acceptable but it is made to feel crude and jerky by the BMW’s. Despite the probably untypical tendency of our test car to change up early into top, the unit also loses marks for laggardly part-throttle kickdown. The figures show that it doesn’t make the most of the engine’s performance, either.


HANDLING

The BMW doesn’t have it all its own way here. Ultimately it is the better handling car, understeering and rolling less than the Granada. In fast cornering it feels tauter and grippier with more closely damped body movements and a greater sense of inherent stability.

But the Ford has better steering, its rack and pinion system offering crisper straight-ahead precision than the BMW’s recirculating ball set-up which can often feel a little sloppy. This means that the Granada can be placed with greater accuracy on entering a bend and guided through with just a little more finesse and fluidity. In moderate to brisk cornering, it also copes more ably with surface irregularities; the partially stressed 730i E32 can feel a little jiggly over bumps.

That said, when the going gets tough it’s the BMW that gets going, its hitherto rather hazy dynamic character snapping into sharp focus when confronted with a real challenge.

Pressed hard in sweeping bends, the 730i adopts an all but neutral cornering attitude with just the merest hint of oversteer on lift-off. Gunned out of a tight bend, there’s insufficient power to slide the tail wide in the dry, the nose tending to run wide instead. On wet or greasy roads, however, tail-out antics are more easily provoked, though just as easily controlled.

The Ford, on the other hand, will almost, invariably dissipate power by’ spinning an inside wheel before getting significantly out of shape. While this points to an essentially safe nature, it is also a symptom of the chassis’ lack of poise on the limit. Body roll builds up prodigiously near the limit and, in the wet, the driver is never quite sure which end will breakaway first.


RIDE

Around town, the Granada is the more comfortable car with the better rounded ride. It smooth’s out sharp-edged ridges and troughs with rare aplomb. This is all the more commendable when you remember how much heavier the BMW is: that it doesn’t steam-roller small bumps as well as the Ford is a ready indication of its tauter suspension.

On more demanding B-roads, however, it becomes apparent that the BMW’s superior damping control pays handsome dividends. When the Ford shows signs of float and wallow, the BMW feels flat and stable. For overall honours, we’d have to declare it a dead heat, though the 730i possesses the sort of ride you’d value on a long run.


BRAKES

Both cars have broadly comparable systems: discs all round and ABS anti-lock. Both provide plenty of reassurance with firm yet progressive pedal actions and powerful retardation.

But, again, when the chips are down it’s the BMW that displays more strength in depth, resisting any signs of distress during repeated hard stops when the Granada’s brakes were graunching badly and starting to fade.


NOISE

Objective measurement shows the BMW to be the quieter car at all speeds: under hard acceleration, you don’t need the services of a noise meter to confirm this. The difference is purely down to the more vocal nature of the Granada’s V6 engine and least obvious when cruising on a light throttle between 80 and 100 mph, since wind and road noise are well suppressed in both cars. In truth, both are serene cruisers, but the BMW can never be persuaded to raise its voice.


ACCOMMODATION

Here the Granada pulls back some ground on its rival. Despite its more compact external dimensions, it beats the BMW for overall legroom by a remarkable 7.6 cm (3 in), though this is more a reflection of the Ford’s exceptionally generous accommodation than any paucity on the BMW’s part. In plain language, the Granada is outstandingly spacious and more than capable of transporting a quartet of six-footers in considerable comfort. Rear seat passengers are even treated to the luxury of electrically-reclinable backrests, though this has a practical application for very tall occupants as rear headroom is ample rather than generous.

The BMW’s rear backrests are rather upright, but comfortable nonetheless, and so long as rear passengers don’t slouch – unnecessary in view of the excellent headroom – legroom is more than adequate. It beats the Ford for oddments stowage, which extends to a centre rear armrest cubby in addition to a large glovebox, decent door pockets and numerous trays and cubbies. Being a hatchback, the Granada clearly wins on versatility – enhanced by its’ 50/50 split folding rear seats – but the BMW’s boot is appreciably bigger.


AT THE WHEEL

Although it is easier to exploit the full range of seat adjustments in the Granada due to its powered fore-aft-tilt facility, all of our testers agreed that the

BMW has the fundamentally sounder driving position and better shaped, if firmer, seats which, in turn, offer greater fore-aft-tilt travel – albeit by means of manually-operated levers. The Ford would be more convincing with powered rake adjustment incorporated instead of an orthodox handwheel and more space between cushion and steering wheel.

Both cars have neat twin-stalk arrangements within fingertip reach of the wheel rim. The Ford holds its own when it comes to minor switchgear layout, too, with groupings of illuminated push-push buttons on either side of the instruments, though the BMW’s centre console electric windows are more conveniently sited than the Ford’s.

The 730i’s cabin feels lighter and more airy than the Granada’s, though both cars are easy to see out of. Large door mirrors and powerful headlights are common features.


INSTRUMENTS

Clear and neatly presented as the Granada’s instruments are, they have to give best to the BMW’s, which are perfectly sited and beautifully easy to read. Both layouts comprise a large speedometer and rev counter with smaller gauges for fuel level, water temperature and “economy”. The Granada was a trip computer as standard (a more sophisticated unit is available for the BMW at £351), but the BMW has electronic displays for the odometer and trip.


HEATING, VENTILATION

The Granada has the significant advantage of standard air conditioning which is effective in providing a welcome fan- assisted blast of chilled air on a hot day but robs the centre vents of ram flow. In typical Ford fashion, there is a stratified link between heating and ventilation where the ambient temperature airflow isn’t corrupted by the heater until the temperature slider is pushed to around 70 per cent of its maximum setting. The controls are simple and easy to use.

Even without air conditioning, the BMW’s system offers greater flexibility with separate temperature controls for driver and front passenger and fully independent ventilation. Obtaining a cool face/warm feet balance is not a problem and we never experienced any hot or cold draughts – the mark of a fine system.


EQUIPMENT

The Granada Scorpio Executive is one of the most thoroughly equipped cars on the British market – the arch-exponent of “add-on luxury”. Its long list of standard features include leather trim, a cruise control, an alarm system, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, electrically adjustable front and rear seats and a trip computer.

The 730i – essentially representing the alternative philosophy in which a top drawer luxury car is made more basic – can hardly hope to compete, though it is by no means sparsely appointed with central locking, heated electrically-adjustable door mirrors headlamp wash-wipe and tinted glass in addition to anti-lock brakes.


FINISH

The Ford continues to pursue an overt luxury image in its cabin aesthetics which, to say the very least, are a little overpowering. The heavily bolstered leather seats look disturbingly like a mid-Sixties “G-Plan” lounge suite, an impression heightened by the facia’s fake wood insets. The overall effect is opulent but in an excessive, tasteless way.

The BMW, in stark contrast, is lean and low-key, with good-quality fabric and plastic blending harmoniously and unobtrusively. Clean design abounds and, to our eyes at least, the plainer appearance is more inviting. All the more so when you consider that it goes hand in hand with fine build quality and excellent detail finish. The Granada is well put together but can’t match its rival’s crisp shut lines and flawless paintwork.


CONCLUSIONS

That the BMW is the better Car is beyond dispute. In fact, if performance is not a paramount consideration, the 730i seriously challenges the 735i as the best BMW saloon: it has a marginally sweeter and freer- revving engine, exquisitely smooth automatic transmission and a more pliant ride. Despite its relatively meagre equipment specification, it is hugely good value for money – a no-frills luxury saloon of unsurpassed ability, build and design. Sell-out status is assured.

All of which makes the Granada a rather sad, if predictable, runner-up. In this comparison it pays the price for being unable to conceal its modest origins. Ford’s eagerness to have a representative at the £20,000 price point has spread the Granada’s virtues a little too thin. Its space and ride comfort are commend-able and it is potentially more accelerative than the BMW. Yet no amount of leather can eclipse the BMW’s superiority. Expensive furniture, after all, doesn’t improve your house’s value.


Left: BMW’s facia combines function with flair. Above: instrumentation is faultless.

Flight: rear legroom is adequate, seats firm. Far right: front seats look plain but support well

Left: heavily rounded Ford facia offends some. Above: instruments are easy to read. Right: masses of legroom in the back.

Far right: front seats aren’t quite as soft as they look.

BMW’s underbonnet layout is beautifully neat.

2.9 V6 fills bay, looks impressive.

Contrasting tail lights, badges identify the cheapest BMW 7- series and dearest Granada

Above right: BMW has the bigger boot, but Scorpio compensates with hatchback versatility.


BMW 730i Automatic

Make: BMW Model: 730i Automatic EH Country of Origin: Germany Maker: Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Munich UK Concessionaire: BMW (GB) Ltd, Ellesfield Avenue, Bracknell, BerkshireRG124TA Tel: (0344) 26565

Total Price: £20,850 Extras fitted to test car: Alloy wheels (£580), electric sunroof (£646), rear seat head restraints (£97), on-board computer (£351) Price as tested: £22,524 1987


FORD 2.9 EFi SCORPIO £19,246

Make: Ford Model: Granada 2.9 EFi Scorpio Executive Country of Origin: Germany Maker: Ford Motor Co. Ltd., Eagle Way, Warley, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3BW Tel:(0277) 253000

Total Price: £19,246 Extras fitted to test car: None / Price as tested: £19,246 1987

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