You are looking at the fifth-generation BMW 7 Series, and if you’re surprised by how similar to the previous model it appears then you are quite clearly not alone.

So close in feel visually is the new Seven to its predecessor – the first BMW to boast Chris Bangle’s controversial flame-surface styling, remember – you could easily mistake it for a mid-life revamp model.

In reality, of course, it’s a brand new car featuring a brand new platform and an entirely new bodyshell, which just happens to look remarkably like the one before. A very broad range spreads from the cheapest 730d SE, which carries a mid-£50k price tag right up to the 760Li M Sport (an unlikely combination of attributes) that costs almost double the entry-level car.

The 7 Series started life, as so many of BMW's headline models did, in the mid-1980s. And although it has gained weight, size and technical sophistication across the four different models that have followed, the fundamental template has remained virtually unchanged.

Just as the very first versions were, the latest car is rear-wheel drive and features a range of straight-six engines, the vast majority of which were petrol to begin with but have now been superseded by turbodiesel units. In the second-generation car a V12 option was added. A series of V8s have since joined the mix and there have been numerous long-wheelbase models as well.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

  • Hyundai Nexo FCEV
    This is the new Hyundai Nexo FCEV
    First Drive
    20 February 2018
    The new Nexo SUV is a showcase for both hydrogen power and autonomous tech. Does that make it an appealing purchase?
  • Vauxhall Insignia GSi Sports Tourer
    This is the Vauxhall Insignia GSi Sports Tourer
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    The Insignia GSi is Vauxhall's new performance flagship. Can this diesel estate version offer both pace and practicality?
  • Honda Civic Type R
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    It’s a warm welcome to this steaming hot hatch. But is it too fiery for Britain’s roads?
  • Aston Martin DB11 Volante
    The DB11 Volante chassis' torsional rigidity is 22kN/deg, down from 34kN/deg on the coupe – but substantially more than the 14.7kN/deg of the DB9 Volante
    First Drive
    19 February 2018
    The DB11 Volante is the first convertible variant of Aston Martin's new model generation. How does it compare to the likes of the new Ferrari Portofino?
  • BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo front
    The new BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
    First Drive
    16 February 2018
    The top-of-the-line 6 Series Gran Turismo has arrived in the UK, but does a more potent engine increase its unusual appeal?