The M760Li boasts a duality of character that makes it every bit as convincing cruising along wide open boulevards as a limousine as when it is charging hard along challenging back roads. First impressions are of an outstandingly refined and endlessly powerful car, boasting exceptional agility for its size and high levels of comfort.
On top of this, it offers a suitably high-quality interior with impressive accommodation and all the various features you’d expect in a car at this end of the market, including some of the most supportive yet cosseting front seats I’ve ever come across.
At low revs, in comfort mode around town, its engine remains commendably hushed and the automatic gearbox operates with near imperceptibly, making it terrifically soothing and appealing both to drive and, perhaps best of all in such conditions, be driven in. However, switch into Sport and the big BMW’s character changes quite dramatically. With more aggressive software mapping and a more free flowing exhaust, the V12 becomes far more vocal and responsive. There’s an inherent silkiness and defining linearity to the delivery all the way to the 6800rpm cutout. Moreover, there’s immense urgency and vast potency when you go searching for it, too.
As its official performance figures suggest, the M760Li is staggeringly quick in a straight line. But this comes as no great surprise. With such a vast amount of torque concentrated low down in the rev range and BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system ready to dole it all out with the help of a specially developed M Performance software program providing a distinctly rearward bias, the leather-lined luxury saloon fires out of the blocks with great accelerative intensity and a truly alluring but never overwhelming exhaust note.
Even with the traction control left on, there’s still a brief moment of squirming before the tyres gain traction and the heady reserves produced by its engine are placed to the road. When they are, the big BMW delivers crushing acceleration on a wide open throttle, reeling in the horizon with tremendous authority when the conditions permit. It’s the sort of car that will double maximum speed limits without ever feeling remotely taxed. While the V8 powered 750i may provide the feeling it is consummate cross-continent cruiser, but the V12 touting M760Li operates on an altogether higher and more convincing performance plane.
Where it is at its best, though, is from a rolling start. Plant the throttle at moderate speeds and the smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, imbued with its own M Performance software mapping to speed shifts, will shed up to four ratios before you’re fired forward with tremendous force. The longitudinal stability, aided by an active rear wheel steer system, is exceptionally good, helping to give the M760Li a wonderful rock solid feel at high speeds. Out on the motorway, you can tick off great distances at tremendous speed and security and with marvellous refinement and comfort.
The official combined cycle figure of 22.4mpg gives the new BMW an average CO2 rating of 294g/km. In the real world, you struggle to get near this, even when tootling around town. Not that anyone in the market for such a car is likely to care, though. As a means of comparison, the 621bhp twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 powered Mercedes-AMG S65 delivers an official 23.7mpg and 279g/km.
The real achievement is the outright level of agility and sheer dynamic prowess BMW’s M division has managed to bestow upon its latest M Performance model. The M760Li is an incredibly capable car, with a broad set of dynamic abilities. Its rapid nature may grab the headlines, but it is the way it goes about its business that really defines it. Just don’t expect it to serve up sport car levels of handling prowess. After all, it stretches to well over 5000mm and weighs well beyond two tonnes, and no amount of contemporary chassis systems and specific suspension tuning are going to make up for this.
Given its dimensions, though, it is surprisingly fleet-footed through corners. Indeed, the big luxury saloon is capable of changing direction with all the adroitness of a much smaller executive class car. The steering, with an active rear steer function both to improve low-speed manoeuvrability as well as to heighten the handling out on the open road, is predictably light in feel and wonderfully direct but predictably it lacks for any meaningful feedback or worthy communication.
Entering corners at speed reveals exceptional grip from the standard 245/40 R20 and 275/35 R20 tyres, and with the air suspension switched to sport mode, the body control is rather special, with great resistance to pitch and dive under braking along with progressive movement and lack of the usual luxury car tendency to lurch as lateral forces increase.
The M760Li also does a very good job of isolating its occupants when running in comfort mode. The overall ride, while not quite as cosseting nor as smooth for big bump absorption as you’ll find in the Mercedes-AMG S65, is highly commendable given the new BMW’s sporting brief. Part of this can be traced back to the body structure, which uses an intriguing mixture of materials, including carbon fibre, and is claimed to be among the stiffest in its class.