What is it?
The flagship BMW 7-series, and one that you’re pretty unlikely to see prowling our streets – nearly all BMW 7-series sold in the UK come fitted with the excellent 3.0-litre diesel engine. That’s no reason not to take notice of the 760Li though; it’s effectively the pinnacle of the firm’s expertise, a showcase of just what the engineers can do given a (relatively) free rein. There’s pedigree too, BMW celebrating the 25th anniversary of its flagship model having a 12-cylinder engine under the bonnet.
And it’s what lies under that lengthy nose that defines this car: a 5.0-litre TwinPower V12 petrol unit with the kind of numbers that can make a supercar blush. The 537bhp peak power figure doesn’t arrive until 5250rpm but its 553lb ft comes in at only 1500rpm and holds for a further 3,500rpm.
Facelifted earlier in the year, the 760Li differentiates itself from other long wheelbase 7-series thanks to V12 badging on the wings and squared-off tailpipes at the rear.
What is it like?
Smooth, but also rather deceptive. With all of that torque delivered so low down in the rev-range, the 760Li’s get up and go is delivered instantaneously. People often talk of cars where the accelerator need only be brushed lightly to reach licence-losing speed; and a brief foray onto a derestricted section of autobahn proved that, in the 760Li, this hyperbole is entirely justified.
Of course it can be driven smoothly and serenely, the engine almost silent at both idle and low throttle openings. The V12 has 89mm piston bores and an 80mm stroke, giving a ratio between the two dimensions of 0.9 – considered ideal by engine specialists – and the 60-degree bank angle ensures vibration is kept to a minimum.
Keep the throttle deployed throughout the rev range though and thanks to active exhaust flaps the turbocharged 5.0-litre snarls with pedigree and class.
Fitted with Integral Active Steering, Dynamic Damper Control, Driving Experience Control and Dynamic Drive roll stabilisation, along with self-levelling rear suspension, the 760Li is without doubt one of the most involving drives in the sector. But it’s really a car to relax in and enjoy at a slower pace of life, and like every other model in the 7-series range it still suffers from a ride that remains too firm, exacerbated by the run-flat rubber thumping into potholes and other road imperfections.
Should I buy one?
Probably not. Looking at the 760Li in isolation there is little to be critical of, certainly nothing more than with the regular car, itself hampered by a firm ride and a design that, despite the recent facelift, still won’t sit too easy for some.
Performance is exemplary, the V12 engine a masterpiece of engineering and refinement and the interior modern and luxurious.
But fuel costs will likely be as astronomical as the purchase price, and nice though it is we’d find it hard to recommend the 760Li over the 730Ld; a car that covers 99 per cent of the bases the flagship does for much less cash.
BMW 760Li SE
Price £101,805; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 21.1mpg; CO2 303g/km; Engine 12 cyls, 5972cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 537bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 553lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox eight-speed automatic