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A significant improvement over its predecessor, but excessive windnoise disappoints

Our Verdict

BMW 7 Series

Technology-laden BMW 7 Series looks better than its predecessors, but is ultimately disappointing

Richard Bremner Autocar
19 September 2008

What is it?

The fifth generation of BMW’s flagship saloon. The 7 Series has always played the dual role of limo and sporting saloon, and the new car is no exception.

As befits its flagship status atop the range, it comes laden with equipment – or the extra-cost option of such kit – much of which will later cascade throughout the rest of the BMW range.

In design terms, this 7 Series has moved on from the controversial design language of the previous-generation model, which also gave BMW’s one-knob-triggers-all ‘iDrive’ system its debut, and this has been substantially redesigned for the new car.

Although the exterior styling is clearly a refinement of what went before, the whole gels more effectively and carries with it a subtle muscularity that gives the car a sporty, athletic visual dynamic.

That’s justified, too – because the substantially new engine range delivers more performance and also because BMW is fielding yet more trick hardware in the quest for added dynamism.

BMW has revived four-wheel steering and standardised three-position electronic dampers. And, as quick reactions are vital to these systems, this 7 Series also features a potent new data transmission network called FlexRay.

What’s it like?

The fresh technology has been impressively well integrated, with the buttons and switchgear feeling far less intimidating than the previous car’s unduly complex turn-and-click controller.

The i-Drive controller is now smaller, and surrounded by a cluster of switches that make it easier to access each sub-system.

The screen itself, previously housed beneath a bulbously ugly binnacle, is more cleanly integrated into the centre of the dash.

The result is a vastly more streamlined and elegant dashboard, an effect reinforced by door trims styled to coordinate more completely with an interior that’s modern, inviting and fluently sculpted.

So the new 7 Series is better to sit in and less daunting to master. But the diesel version isn’t short of muscle, either.

The 730d is sure to be the most popular UK model thanks to it’s class-leading 192g/km CO2 emissions, and it feels lively from the off thanks to strong torque that persists to the relatively high engine speeds that this free-revving and sporty sounding diesel is happy to reach.

The transmission is fairly canny too, although you can be hit with the occasional tremor of a thumped change.

Switching through comfort to normal and sport via a rocker switch on the centre console has the gears hanging on for longer and the throttle sharpening to complement the tauter damper action, lending the car a more athletic demeanour that is generally enhanced by the optional active steering.

So this big car dives into bends with sufficient zeal to encourage you to do it some more, its resistance to roll and pleasing balance allowing you to chuck it about like a car far smaller.

But there are some dynamic flaws, too: the 7’s ride gets bothered on badly surfaced ‘B’ roads at low-to-middling speeds, but curiously, improves if you travel either much slower or dangerously quickly.

Much worse is the discovery that this car is noisy at speed, the peace disturbed from as little as 65mph by the rush of wind noise and at speeds not much higher, the general commotion of motion too.

At motorway cruising speeds the cabin feels louder than it does in the latest family hatchbacks – not what you’d expect from a range-topping exec with aspirations to be regarded as a luxurious limo.

Should I buy one?

The 730d is the only 7 Series to be considered if running costs enter the equation. It’s the most fuel-and-CO2-efficient car in its class, and manages this while still serving performance strong enough to entertain and to make use of an impressively able chassis.

It’s good looking, well-engineered and the cabin is great. But the noise level at cruising speed is a significant disappointment, especially as motorways and Autobahns are the car’s intended habitat.

It’s certainly enough to make us think twice.

Join the debate

Comments
13

21 September 2008

Loads of equipment and nice to drive it may be. But the looks. THE LOOKS! Are BMW''s customers so indifferent to the appearance of the 7-Series that they are willing to buy a car that looks like it was designed in two halves and joined in the middle?

21 September 2008

Is this the same block that goes into the 3? If so BMW please, please please may we have this power output in the 3 series touring?

Thank you!

21 September 2008

Flipping heck, this has gone beyond a joke. Are they all blind in BMW's Design department? Not a single flatout good-looking BMW in the last ten years. Get rid of that plant Bangle before he brings down BMW singlehandedly.

At this rate BMW had better give up on car-making and return to engines, which they excel at.

21 September 2008

Autocar tests are just great, this car is horrible to look at, apparently has awful ride quality and is noisy, but their conclusion just says "it's a bit loud so we will think twice before saying it's the best car we've ever driven"........

And we can now look forward each week for the next three months to a road test of every possible engine, trim and colour option, in the same way as we have had three series tests recently because they have changed the bumper design.

21 September 2008

As for the design, it's like a facelift of the facelift...hehe. It isn't pretty or really good-looking, but not that bad either (although I agree there are better-looking luxury saloons). Engines are impressive as always. However, Autocar are mistaken in saying that is the best in class when it comes to its CO2 output; the Mercedes S400 BlueHybrid which they have just road tested pumps out 2g/km of CO2 less than this 730d...also very worrying tht BMW got 2 crucial points of a luxury car (ride and noise) relatively wrong.

 

- Follow your own star -

21 September 2008

I think it looks alright. Not brilliant, but a damn sight better than the previous version. Still, you'd expect BMW to do a better job in the styling department.

More of concern are the ride and noise issues. 7-series has often among the best handling, if not THE best handling, car in its class, but in this (luxury) class ride comfort and overall refinement are probably more important than outright handling. The previous 7 came up short in these important areas, so it's disappointing to read that the new car has similar issues.

Having said that, when Autocar first had a go at driving the car about month ago (albeit it was a brief drive), the writer said the new 7 rode excellently and that we could be looking at the new class leader! Why such disparity in the two articles?

21 September 2008

Not only is the overall 'theme' of the car incoherent, being an Infiniti like rear and a can't escape from twin kidneys, quad headlamps yet another design iteration syndrome front, but the detailing too is poor. Take a look at picture five in Autocar's 27 pic gallery. Look at the join/junction of front bonnet corner to front apron over the headlight. The bonnet edge is pronounced over the apron, looking like it is flairing up, not following the apron's curve. There will be a reason for this, clearance over headlight unit and so on, but it looks terrible.

21 September 2008

[quote Sids dad]

Is this the same block that goes into the 3? If so BMW please, please please may we have this power output in the 3 series touring?

[/quote]

Its a different block and significantly, 7kg lighter

21 September 2008

Isn't it odd that the 535d / 335d engine isn't put in the 7 series ?

21 September 2008

[quote Winston]And we can now look forward each week for the next three months to a road test of every possible engine, trim and colour option, in the same way as we have had three series tests recently because they have changed the bumper design.[/quote]

I have to agree with this statement, and its one of the smartest comments in a long time, 1 review is enough looking at it anymore may make me sick :(

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