BMW will launch the 730d in the UK next March, the first time the company has sold a 7 series diesel here.

UK diesel sales have soared since the introduction in April of a new company car tax scale based on CO2 emissions.

BMW is targeting the 7-series diesel directly at the Mercedes-Benz S-class 320Cdi which now accounts for 55% of S-class sales.

The 730d’s second-generation, common rail fuel injection straight-six engine develops 218 bhp at 4000 rpm, with maximum torque of 369 lb-ft between 2000-2750 rpm.

Top speed is 146 mph and 0-62 mph is reached in 8.0 seconds, giving it a half-second performance advantage to 60mph over the 197bhp Mercedes while returning 33.2mpg on the official EC combined test cycle.

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The 730d is the world’s first diesel car to feature a six-speed automatic gearbox.

The new variant will be offered with the optional Concours five-year servicing package costing £500.