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and features a range of straight-six engines, the vast majority of which were petrol to begin with but have now been superseded by turbodiesel units.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.

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