From £56,325
The V12 7 Series returns, but this time with added turbos

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

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    BMW 7 Series Active Hybrid 7

    Superb driveline, excellent refinement, but awful brake feel

What is it?

Nine months after it was launched, BMW’s fifth generation 7 Series gains a range topping V12 version, in the shape of the 760Li; also BMW’s most expensive production road car.

Although the V12’s swept capacity is identical to that of the previous generation, BMW claims this all-aluminium engine to be ‘all-new’. The big news is that, in a first for BMW, a V12 is combined with twin-turbos (one for each bank of cylinders) to produce 532bhp and 553lb ft.

The 760Li is also the first model to get BMW’s new eight-speed automatic transmission (developed in conjunction with ZF) also due on the 5 Series GT.

Although BMW is producing the 760i in both short and long wheelbase versions, in the UK we will get only the latter. There is however the choice of regular (as tested here) or M Sport specification.

What is it like?

So how do you distinguish a V12 7 Series from the lesser versions? Other than the badges there are a few tell-tale exterior signs, the most obvious being the quad exhausts, but also V12 labels next to indicator repeaters, and additional chrome detailing. And as with some previous versions, the kidney grille is also more prominent, this time by increasing the thickness of the chrome surround rather than actually enlarging the grille itself.

Inside, as you would expect the interior is packed with toys otherwise optional on other 7 Series models. Bespoke to the 760Li is a particularly plush looking leather and alcantara roof lining and wood trim featuring walnut inlays (other trims are available).

To drive it is, as you would expect given the outputs, very brisk indeed. BMW claims 4.6 second to 62mph, which seems completely believable. Top speed is as usual limited to 155mph, and as a measure of the performance when the limiter kicks in, even doing so gradually, the reduction in acceleration is marked. What the 760Li isn’t though, is a hot-rod in the vein of Mercedes’ similarly priced and S63AMG.

For the most part the BMW’s V12 remains almost completely silent, whether at idle or low to mid range revs, and unless you have an awful amount of space available, you will rarely get the engine spinning much beyond 4000rpm.

Such is the effectiveness of the turbochargers - peak torque is available from 1500rpm onwards and doesn’t let up until 5000rpm - that unless you use the manual mode to lock the gearbox in an unnaturally low ratio, trying to exercise the engine results in so much speed that you are forced to back off before the engine gets even remotely vocal. And for a turbo-charged engine the response is extremely clean and immediate, the only real sign of forced induction the faintest distant hiss.

What of the gearbox? Well it’s excellent: smooth, incisive and discrete. It retains a conventional torque converter function for smooth slow speed manoeuvring, but on the move the gearbox locks up for efficiency, speed of shift and control.

Again, unless you operate the gearbox in its manual mode (possible only through toggling the lever for there are no steering wheel paddles), you’re hard pushed to realise this gearbox had any more than the regular six ratios. So what’s the benefit of eight speeds if you don’t notice them? Economy and refinement at the high speeds possible in Germany. Whether it makes quite so much sense in the UK is more questionable.

In other respects the 760Li is much like the regular 7. Along with switchable dampers, Dynamic Drive (active roll bars) and four-wheel steering is standard on the 760Li. In most circumstances it is comfortable, only the occasional tremble at slow speeds over rougher urban roads spoiling things. Move the control to Sport or Sport+ and the 760Li becomes more agile than its weight and size would suggest, but it is still a car to drive quickly but tidily rather than hustle.

Should I buy one?

It’s likely that the very few people who will buy the 760Li will have already decided to do so. Other than the marginal extra refinement, objectively the 760Li doesn’t do a great deal that the 750Li doesn’t already, or for that matter that the new 740d. What the 760Li does do rather well though, is fill the role of flagship, and for a certain type of buyer that will be reason enough to have one.

Jamie Corstorphine

Join the debate

Comments
26

26 July 2009

Don't get me wrong here.

I don't doubt that this car is technologically advanced. It'll have electronic this, and electronic that. It'll hurl itself round corners without so much as upsetting the balance of the newspaper being held by the fat guy in the back. It'll maintain a constant internal temperature, even if the sun has just gone supernova. The leather seats will look unruffled, even after 100,000 miles of being smothered by a fat-arsed businessman. The doors will self close. The lights will follow corners. The fuel consumption will be amazingly low (for a V12, anyway).

So why does it look so DULL?

26 July 2009

The new 7 is a very capable car, and will give even the mighty S-class all it can handle.

But although it looks a lot better than its ungainly predecessor, I gotta agree with DM here; it just doesn't look special enough for a flagship car. Many potential customers will buy a Quattroporte for its gorgeous looks alone. I doubt if the 7 will arouse the same visual passion.

26 July 2009

Great looking car, BMW back on form. Not many people will get one of these but obviously the performance is monumental. But buying the 740d is a no-brainer.

26 July 2009

I doubt this car, like S600 and W12 A8 will make much sense outside of USA, China and Russia, where having the best is a psychological advantage

26 July 2009

I am no BM fan so this car will not be high on my shopping list!......but surely the fact that it is sublte and discrete is part of the point....

....if you want loud and "look at me" get a Nissan GTR...with the BMW people that know know (they see the small details etc) and those that do not are not bothered anyway.....

...but for me subtle and dicrete is a very good touch....their is no need to shout....

26 July 2009

[quote North]I am no BM fan so this car will not be high on my shopping list![/quote]

No offence, North, but I dare to suggest there might be some more important reasons why it's not high on your shopping list...

26 July 2009

[quote Dan McNeil]So why does it look so DULL?[/quote]

It's not just dull, from the front it simply doesn't look right. If they moved the bonnet shut line from above the kidney grill, to incorporate the grill, and then did something about the long, straight and narrow lower grill it would look much better. Still dull but a little more cohesive.

Or you could just buy it in a dark colour which would hide the bonnet line and the lower grill.

26 July 2009

The depreciation in the first year will still be horrendous in this car!

26 July 2009

JackB; like what?? it is not on my shopping list as I have no intention of buying a BM; unless you are casting doubt on my ability to pay for such an item?

And quite frankly the latter would not be any of your business, secondly you should not ever assume (if you are suggesting it should not be on my shoppping list with regards to cost) that I treat this forum with such contempt as yourself by definition.....if that is what you are assuming?

Do not ever let your own manner in dealing with the outside world be porjected onto others in terms of your perception of others.......and what they say and or what they can and or cannot consider for transport......work with an open mind, its far better.

I am not bothered if you can afford one or not....I do not care, but I do take offence about you casting shasows on me.....and in a forum?...personally I think you foolish...if that is what you were stating.

..hope that helps...

26 July 2009

[quote North]I do take offence about you casting shasows on me.....and in a forum?...[/quote]

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is” - Francis Bacon

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