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Our international drive revealed a 7 Series much improved over its predecessor. Now we assess its ride quality on our more arduous UK roads

Our Verdict

BMW 7 Series

New-generation luxury saloon is a technological tour de force

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20 October 2015

What is it?

It's BMW's new flagship model, and one that is looking to derail the sizeable market share that Mercedes has accumulated with its undeniably impressive S-Class. More than that, the 7 Series seems to be out to steal some of the limelight the S-Class enjoys as a known benchmark for cutting-edge technology and safety.

BMW has really gone to town. Not only has it used carbonfibre in the 7 Series’ construction but it has also included a wirelessly chargeable key with a 2.2in screen that acts as a remote for various functions as standard - including, eventually, remotely driving the car from the outside. Its exterior cameras will also recognise traffic jams and roadworks, then beam them back to a central hub before warning other BMW drivers. For relatively little extra, you can have a tablet included in the back, too.

Maybe the biggest hint that it's out to ruffle the S-Class's feathers is the Executive Drive Pro option, which acts like Mercedes' Magic Ride by studying the road ahead and slackening the suspension to glide over large bumps. BMW is keen to point out, though, that unlike with the Mercedes, it can be fitted to both diesel and petrol models and works in the dark and rain.

Oh, and while the Mercedes provides four perfume choices to be pumped one at a time into its S-Class's interior, BMW has developed eight, two of which you can flick between at your leisure. Now that's progress. 

Here we drive what's likely to be the best seller, the 30d diesel, in what should be the similarly popular long-wheelbase form. It's a compelling package, being closely priced to the equivalent S-Class, but quicker, and officially cleaner and more frugal. 

What's it like?

A noticeably better prospect than that which went before in terms of interior quality, ride comfort and technology. Its engine, though, remains as good as it ever was. Although revised from the old 30d unit, there's the similarly smooth punch of torque just a flex of the foot away. Speed builds extremely quickly and linearly, with the eight-speed automatic gearbox exploiting the engine’s torque band superbly well. 

The previous 7 was always as concerned with agility as it was with ride comfort, hence a greater front-end urgency than its biggest rivals possess and also a firmer ride. However, BMW has fitted adjustable air suspension as standard to both of the new car’s axles, to ensure a better blend of work and play.

The result is certainly a more comfortable prospect than before; the way the 7 Series sponges away sleeping policemen and cushions undulating roads in its most compliant Comfort mode is an improvement. Unfortunately, though, as the roads on our route back to the UK changed from French to English, there was still a fidget to the secondary ride at low speeds from which an S-Class just doesn't seem to suffer.

Dial it to Sport, and while the 7 Series is far from a properly engaging driver's car, there's certainly some fun to be had. Its steering is a little artificially weighted and just a touch vague off centre, but there's enough precision, grip and willingness from the chassis for it to feel light on its feet. 

The front passengers get a suitably massive range of seat adjustment and enough room to literally stretch out. Likewise, It's almost impossible to be uncomfortable - or bored - in our long-wheelbase model's executive seating, complete with heated, massaging seats, twin screens and snap-in tablet computer.

BMW's iDrive has been turned up a notch for the new 7 Series. Its screen can now be controlled by both the rotary dial and touch, which makes hitting larger buttons quickly that little bit easier. Its sharp and colourful 10.3in screen looks fantastic, too, while for a further £160 it's possible to control various functions by performing different hand gestures in front of the dashboard. 

Cabin quality is a step up from BMW's previous attempt, with the standard leather upgraded, a greater use and choice of different wood veneers and more advanced interior lighting options. Our car’s Bowers & Wilkins sound system is expensive at £4675, but it sounds superb and thanks to its intricate construction and soft backlighting, looks it, too. 

Okay, so there's ample opportunity to spend serious cash on options, but the standard equipment list is long. Even on the entry-level short-wheelbase 730d at £64,530, you can expect 18in wheels, leather seats heated front and rear, that Smart Display key, four-zone climate control, BMW's highest level of iDrive with Bluetooth, DAB radio and sat-nav, keyless entry and drive and adaptive cruise control. 

Should I buy one?

There are many reasons why the 7 Series is a much better car than it was. It's still one of the better luxury saloons to drive spiritedly, its cabin quality has been boosted to a far more competitive level and its combination of performance and efficiency in 30d form will appeal to private, company and fleet buyers alike. 

There are still question marks over its low-speed ride, though, even if it never actually reaches uncomfortable levels. For those buying the 7 Series as much to drive as to be driven in, it'll be a trade-off worth putting up with, but for luxury car buyers in search of the most pillowy progress, an S-Class still manages to keep its nose in front. 

BMW 730Ld

Location France and the UK; On sale Now; Price £68,480; Engine 6 cyls, 2993cc, twin-turbocharged, diesel; Power 261bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 2000-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1795kg; 0-62mph 6.2sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 58.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 127g/km, 23%

Join the debate

Comments
16

20 October 2015
The kind of utter predictability one's come to expect from an Autocar test in comparing the 7-series with the S-Class over the years. The tester makes the repeated point that the new 7 does not ride quite as smoothly as the S-class (though I've elsewhere that it does, e.g. Car Magazine), and sure enough this is an important attribute in the luxury car sector.

But then that's the only area where he chooses to compare the two cars! He states that the 7 is light on it's feet and is a car as much to drive as to be driven in, but doesn't say how it compares to the S-Class in this regard. Nor how the car's overall refinement, interior design, ergonomics, quality, sense of luxury etc compare to the S-Class.

He focuses solely on the car's 'secondary ride at low speeds' to declare the S-Class still has the edge and leaves it at that. It's as if the tester(s) are hard-wired to always decide the 7 could never be as good as the S-Class............(now if only the 7 had an XJ badge at the back).

20 October 2015
Overdrive wrote:

The kind of utter predictability one's come to expect from an Autocar test in comparing the 7-series with the S-Class over the years. The tester makes the repeated point that the new 7 does not ride quite as smoothly as the S-class (though I've elsewhere that it does, e.g. Car Magazine), and sure enough this is an important attribute in the luxury car sector.

But then that's the only area where he chooses to compare the two cars! He states that the 7 is light on it's feet and is a car as much to drive as to be driven in, but doesn't say how it compares to the S-Class in this regard. Nor how the car's overall refinement, interior design, ergonomics, quality, sense of luxury etc compare to the S-Class.

He focuses solely on the car's 'secondary ride at low speeds' to declare the S-Class still has the edge and leaves it at that. It's as if the tester(s) are hard-wired to always decide the 7 could never be as good as the S-Class............(now if only the 7 had an XJ badge at the back).

Boring. It's understandable that it should be compared the the S class. Why not try driving the car yourself and form your own opinion if the opinion of Autocar isn't good enough? You haven't driven it so how to you know?


20 October 2015
Winston Churchill wrote:
Overdrive wrote:

The kind of utter predictability one's come to expect from an Autocar test in comparing the 7-series with the S-Class over the years. The tester makes the repeated point that the new 7 does not ride quite as smoothly as the S-class (though I've elsewhere that it does, e.g. Car Magazine), and sure enough this is an important attribute in the luxury car sector.

But then that's the only area where he chooses to compare the two cars! He states that the 7 is light on it's feet and is a car as much to drive as to be driven in, but doesn't say how it compares to the S-Class in this regard. Nor how the car's overall refinement, interior design, ergonomics, quality, sense of luxury etc compare to the S-Class.

He focuses solely on the car's 'secondary ride at low speeds' to declare the S-Class still has the edge and leaves it at that. It's as if the tester(s) are hard-wired to always decide the 7 could never be as good as the S-Class............(now if only the 7 had an XJ badge at the back).

Boring. It's understandable that it should be compared the the S class. Why not try driving the car yourself and form your own opinion if the opinion of Autocar isn't good enough? You haven't driven it so how to you know?

How do I know what? I made no claims as to whether the 7 is better than the S-class or not, just that the review makes its judgment based on one single criteria and makes no attempt to compare the cars on the various areas that one would expect for a fair match up.

20 October 2015
Where was the carbon fibre used, just the wing mirrors? Not sure how good an idea carbon fibre is for 'everyday' cars (not a dig at the 7 series) since it is likely to cost lots to repair.

Still, despite the weight this is still pretty rapid.

20 October 2015
for a luxobarge like that. C/w a Continental GT

-------- 

I'm The Ωmega Man, always talking to myself

20 October 2015
My problem with the 7 series is that is doesn't look special enough. This looks like a 3 series with slightly bigger proportions. I know, they all do this, and Audi are even worse with the A8/A4. Merc at least start their latest designs with the S-Class, then filter it down to the lower saloons, rather than the other way around.

20 October 2015
superstevie wrote:

My problem with the 7 series is that is doesn't look special enough. This looks like a 3 series with slightly bigger proportions. I know, they all do this, and Audi are even worse with the A8/A4. Merc at least start their latest designs with the S-Class, then filter it down to the lower saloons, rather than the other way around.

I'm not sure it makes a lot of difference which way the design cues filter, particularly considering how quickly the latest C-class appeared after the launch of the S-class. These two, IMHO, look even more similar than the 3 and 7 Series. Where does this leave the forthcoming E-class, which seems likely to be another clone? Whatever its technical prowess, I'm afraid its appearance will be all too familiar and underwhelming. At least, with the launch of the new XF, Jaguar have three distinctive styles for their saloons, based primarily on their different side window arrangements.

20 October 2015
Daniel Joseph wrote:
superstevie wrote:

My problem with the 7 series is that is doesn't look special enough. This looks like a 3 series with slightly bigger proportions. I know, they all do this, and Audi are even worse with the A8/A4. Merc at least start their latest designs with the S-Class, then filter it down to the lower saloons, rather than the other way around.

I'm not sure it makes a lot of difference which way the design cues filter, particularly considering how quickly the latest C-class appeared after the launch of the S-class.

I get what you mean, but I would have thought it would be better to have the range topping saloon be the start of a new generation of styling, rather than the other way around. This 7-Series looks so much like a 3-series, and that has been out for 3 or more years now. Perhaps BMW got scared after the Bangle 7-series (2 generations ago now?) that was a monstrosity.

You are right that the S & C now look alike, but the S came first, which makes the C look better in terms of marketing. I know it is all a moot point really, but it just seems a more logical way of doing it.

20 October 2015
Yes, I take your point. My complaint is not about individual styling cues filtering up or down, but the "Xerox" approach, where pretty much every detail is reproduced. Having said that, maybe many S-class buyers (mainly corporate) appreciate the relative anonymity and discretion achieved by this (otherwise, they would buy RR Ghosts!) and it's certainly a big plus for C-class buyers. The problem is, for the rest of us, its sooooo boring!

20 October 2015
Over the last 18 years I have spent a lot of time being driven around the City and West End in both the BMW and the Merc of various generations. Yes, the Merc has always rode better whichever generation it happened to be and from the customer's point of view that really matters. The Mercs have also always been more spacious and have great reputation among the drivers for longevity. I well remember being taken around in a 200,000 mile Merc S Class that still felt fresh. As a result, the used values of the S Class have always been higher, so when the driver turns up in a BMW you know they have done a deal or taken advantage of the depreciation.

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