The previous 7 Series was controversial for all sorts of reasons but none more so than for its styling. This was the first production BMW to feature what BMW’s then chief designer, Chris Bangle, described as flame surfacing – and it kicked off a fiery debate that lasted for years.
Now, though, the all-new 7 Series has calmed down in its appearance and seems almost plain, which proves how easily we get used to things if we’re subjected to them for long enough.
The big difference between new and old Sevens visually is around the higher, more vertical nose, which thrusts its way out of the bonnet with even more authority than before. But if you look closely the whole shape has been subtly reworked to be softer and better looking, even if the profile still seems strongly familiar.
It’s not a gorgeous-looking car, but neither is it one that makes you recoil in shock as the previous version did when launched. Beneath the skin it makes several strides forward and, as ever, is a showcase for BMW’s various new technologies. The platform may well be brand new but the basic features are familiar: strut suspension at the front and multi-link at the rear, with power going to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic ’box.
But for the new model BMW has introduced a whole range of electronic elements to make the chassis as sophisticated as possible. Inside the new Seven, BMW’s designers have performed a subtle but admirably restrained rework of the cabin, with a new dashboard and centre console housing numerous switches without managing to look or feel overly complex.
They have also, at long last, redesigned the iDrive system to function in a more intuitive fashion, even though there are more buttons to play with around the console itself. The big news is that the air-con now functions separately from iDrive, but just about wherever you look the cabin has been improved, or simplified, and the results speak for themselves.
So how do you distinguish those range-topping 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.