From £56,325
Magnificent but more modest Seven

Our Verdict

BMW 7 Series

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

3 May 2005

Joni Mitchell famously crooned: ‘You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone’. After one look at the facelifted BMW 7-series I can see exactly what she meant. Four years ago, incoming design chief Chris Bangle’s highly controversial 7-series was our first opportunity to survey BMW’s new look. To many he instantly became the automotive Antichrist. A torrent of flame-surfaced models followed and just when we started to understand his strange design language, he got promoted and BMW aborted their ‘design revolution’. This mid-life facelift of the Seven was done without Bangle, and call me contrary, but the softening of lines and toning down of design details has me missing the old days. It’s not just the looks that have changed. Five of the six engines in the range have been updated, the most important of which is the completely revised 3.0-litre diesel tested here. An alloy crankcase shaves 20kg and the introduction of more-efficient piezo injectors allows the engine to churn out 231bhp with lower vibration and emissions. Torque is up 14lb ft over the old diesel to 383lb ft and the improvement in acceleration is pronounced. BMW claims a second has been shaved from the 730d’s 0-62mph time (it’s now down to 7.8sec), but it’s through the gears that the limo soars. It revs smoothly and cleanly all the way out to the red line, with the ZF Steptronic auto providing only the slightest of pauses between its six ratios. The 730d is now more frugal as well, with a 34.5mpg combined fuel consumption figure (up from 33.2mpg). The steering, though a bit overassisted, is as accurate as we’ve come to expect from BMW, and the Seven’s un-limo-like poise down a fast set of twisties makes its significant bulk easy to place on the road. Chauffeurs won’t be able to hide their smiles as they hustle their bosses cross-country in a 7-series. Especially if it’s equipped with the £2770 Adaptive Ride option, which uses active dampers and roll bars in an effort to mate better body control with a more cosseting ride. The cabin has faultless build quality and is a showcase for BMW’s technological excellence. Yet it feels cold and clinical. Many Sevens will be fully occupied, so the comfort should be focused on the spacious and supportive rear seats. But if I had just spent nearly 50 grand on a car whose confusing mass of buttons and iDrive menus made me feel unwelcome in the front seats, I’d be disappointed. On the whole, cars don’t come much more talented than the Seven – it’s refined, well-built, fast, agile and technological. Unlike Joni Mitchell, however, it hasn’t got much soul. More importantly, there are better luxury saloons on the market. Jack Galusha

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