From £56,325
Fifth-generation range-topper strives to mix luxury with driver involvement

Our Verdict

BMW 7 Series
The BMW 7 Series features a new platform and entirely new bodyshell

Technology-laden BMW 7 Series looks better than its predecessors, but is ultimately disappointing

  • First Drive

    BMW 750i

    The 750i makes a convincing case in the outside lane of an accommodatingly smooth motorway
  • First Drive

    BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid 7

    Superb driveline, excellent refinement, but awful brake feel

What is it?

BMW’s latest executive express, the new long-wheelbase 7-series. Now in its fifth generation, the Seven’s brief remains unchanged: offer limo comfort, but drive like a purposeful sporting saloon.

The new 7 Series uses BMW’s latest 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, in place of the old petrol V12. It also has four-wheel-steering in an effort to improve the 7’s dynamic ability.

And there’s a host of new technology – including a new iDrive system – which will eventually filter through to the rest of the BMW range.

Demure, high-quality fabrics and dark, polished wood panelling swathe the 750Li’s elegant, serious and slightly intimidating cabin. That functional ethos is a running theme. According to the man who designed it, the new Seven’s exterior – which isn’t flattered by photos – is meant to blend purposeful aggression with elegance.

This all stands the 7 Series apart from its more obviously opulent key rivals, the Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS. This BMW is a boardroom on wheels, not a boudoir.

What’s it like?

The 4.4-litre V8 petrol powerplant offers an almighty 406bhp and not so much of a torque curve as a 442lb ft flat line from 1750 to 4500rpm. Zero to 62mph takes 5.2sec, but it’s the way the 750 pins your shoulders back as the speedo sweeps past licence-losing numbers that’s really epic. The 750Li can demolish distances like few other cars can.

It is, you may also argue, a profligate waste of time. This saloon returns 24mpg (at an optimistic best) and pumps out 266g/km of CO2. BMW admits the 750Li will make up a tiny proportion of European sales compared with the diesel 730d (which we’ll be thoroughly testing soon).

Still, if you can afford to run it, fuel costs may not trouble you. But the ride quality will.

The new 7 Series gets three-position adjustable dampers, but we found the ride fidgety and unsettled in all three settings (comfort, normal and sport). Our test car had big 18-inch wheels. We tried another with 17s and felt some improvement – but not enough.

The 7 Series is also too noisy for a luxury car of this ilk. Above 70mph, both tyre roar and wind noise intrude on the cabin to a surprising degree.

But the 7 Series does top the class for handling, with a fine chassis and excellent body control. Compared to old V12, this 750’s weight has been kept in check by aluminium doors, bonnet and wings and of course by four fewer cylinders. This undoubtedly aids its athleticism. A four-wheel steering system also improves low-speed manoeuvrability.

Technological highlights include a much-improved iDrive system, reverse and side-view cameras, a very useful heads-up display and an ability to read and display road signs. But is it right that buyers can easily add £15k-plus of options to this already expensive car? Still, we’re looking forward to getting that iDrive on the 3 and 5 Series.

Should I buy one?

The new 7 Series would make us think twice about an S-Class. It certainly steers better than any other car in this class. Refinement, however, should be better; both ride quality and cabin noise are not good enough. And, in these tight times, this mighty 750Li model and its wonderful engine may end up as a very low-volume irrelevance.

Will Powell

Join the debate

Comments
22

14 November 2008

Last night i went to the shrewsbury BMW preview night of the new Bmw 7 series and i was very dissapointed i was finding that the only people who liked the car were people who had never owned a previous 7 series i was also finding that people who owned the current 7 series felt there's was still the better car and that is what i think.I think the trouble is the current 7 series is so good that the new one cant better it,ok the current one isn't the nicest looking car put tbh who cares if you want a nice lookin car you dont buy a german car you by a alfa,ferrari,lambo.I just feel that the current 7 series is better than the new one.

I also spoke to one bloke who sold his current 7 series for the new one and he didn't like the new one so he is going to buy one of the old ones again :)

There is only one good thing about the new one at that is the mpg and emissions but who cares about them when you are spending over 60k lets face it

cheers

Many Thanks

14 November 2008

What about the Audi A8? A worthy competitor that seems to have been ignored in your article. The standard air suspension, especially in Comfort mode, will easily beat the 7-series' fidgety ride. And the A8's interior ambience is still second to none.

14 November 2008

Well, the A8 is said to have an even more fidgety ride, the S-Class being the standard when it comes to suspension suppleness. From what I hear though there will be a V12 version in the form of the even more powerful 760 (the old 750 also had a V8 after all - the 760 was the V12), so I find this article a bit missleading as it compares the new V8 to the old V12 as if we won't get a new 760.

14 November 2008

I agree with REALZEUS. I've also heard of a forthcoming replacement for the 760i & Li.

The article is also misleading when it comes to iDrive. New 1's and 3's are coming off the line with the new iDrive system which is hard drive based rather than DVD, while I believe new 5's and 6's just get the new controller as new models will be revealed relatively soon.

As for the shoddy ride, does anyone know if BMW are going to use run-flats wherever possible for the 7? I'm thinking they will but I don't know for sure yet.

14 November 2008

[quote Harry_Boy]What about the Audi A8? A worthy competitor that seems to have been ignored in your article. The standard air suspension, especially in Comfort mode, will easily beat the 7-series' fidgety ride. And the A8's interior ambience is still second to none.[/quote]

Anyone who claims that the Audi A8 rides properly should be made to sit in a W220 or W221 S-Class on standard rims. Nothing touches it.

As for the 7-Series, could the car be more wrong (a dull looking luxury car with poor refinement) and arrive at a wronger time (when nobody's spending money on fat-arse pointless cars)?

15 November 2008

If Citroen can manage to build a car (New C5) with low wind, engine and road noise, vibration and harshness for 15K why do BMW find it so difficult in a rear drive chassis for 60K (handling compromise accepted). Are they so disconnected from their customers/competitors that they do not know or do not care!

15 November 2008

This article is in retrospect a little different to the twin-test they did several weeks ago against the S320 CDI using a 730d. Ok that test took place in Germany where the roads are in general a lot smoother, but a few key points should be mentioned.

Firstly they said the 7 series actually travelled better over a cobbled street than the S class (although the Benz was clad with 20 inchers) and the interior had an altogether more ambient and better put-together feel; not that there was anything wrong with the Benz's ergonimcs, just obviously not as modern.

The wind noise factor though was consistent with what they've said here, especially over higher speeds on smooth German asphalt which is where these luxury cars traditionally will spend most of their time.

I think the final road test of a 730d SE (non sport version please) will give us a clearer indication of just 'how good or nearly not as good' this car is.

15 November 2008

Unlike probably everyone here I have driven these cars back to back. On different roads and for a full day.

The Audi A8 has a wonderful interior but - even with air suspension - the ride and handling are terrible.

The Lexus has every option in the book thrown at it but that doesn't stop it feeling like a cheap copy of a luxury car.

The Mercedes interior feels slightly downmarket, the ride however is very good but means the helm feels detached. I was the most excited about driving it but ultimately, it left me the most disappointed. What ARE they raving about? I think like most people though - the three pointed star in front of you just makes you feel good.

The BMW felt the most rounded. The engine and drivetrain are awesome. There are flaws, sure, but it's SO much better than the prevous model.

I don't agree with the ride critisisms, in comfort mode it is as good as the Mercedes.

I do have a slight problem with the styling, a Mercedes S Class does it much better.

BMW have a bad image generally I think. It's undeserved. The 7 series is a good car. Good enough to win the public vote? We'll see.

15 November 2008

[quote corky73]

Unlike probably everyone here I have driven these cars back to back. On different roads and for a full day.

The Audi A8 has a wonderful interior but - even with air suspension - the ride and handling are terrible.

The Lexus has every option in the book thrown at it but that doesn't stop it feeling like a cheap copy of a luxury car.

The Mercedes interior feels slightly downmarket, the ride however is very good but means the helm feels detached. I was the most excited about driving it but ultimately, it left me the most disappointed. What ARE they raving about? I think like most people though - the three pointed star in front of you just makes you feel good.

The BMW felt the most rounded. The engine and drivetrain are awesome. There are flaws, sure, but it's SO much better than the prevous model.

I don't agree with the ride critisisms, in comfort mode it is as good as the Mercedes.

I do have a slight problem with the styling, a Mercedes S Class does it much better.

BMW have a bad image generally I think. It's undeserved. The 7 series is a good car. Good enough to win the public vote? We'll see.

[/quote]

BMW do tend to change their models and indeed facelift them on a more frequen basis which does confuse owners and indeed upset them when it comes to residuals

I personally like the look of this car and will reserve full judgement until seeing it in the flesh

The S-Class remais the daddyhere I suppose in this class - hard to knock it off is perch - no one has mentioned the Lexus LS460/LS600 - DOES ANYONE RATE THIS RIVAL?

16 November 2008

Couple of thoughts

1. the new 7 looks really nice to me - but you'll still have to go to a BMW delear and so its probably out. Why do manfactorers spend billions designing a car and then give it to morons to sell?

2. love the S but wouldn't/couldn't have one - because the steering wheel's fitted at an angle on rhd versions. Go try it and see what I mean, you're sitting an an angle just to hold the wheel - why do the journalists not mention these things? (also try a rhd Audi A4 or Q5 - the peddles are all scewed to the right - on a manual I found it uncomfortable to push the clutch in)

3. Audi is lovely (I've had BMW 730D SE and an Audi 3.0D SE) but a bit soulless. On balance I'd like a 730D but not from a BMW dealer!

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