What is it?
BMW’s latest executive express, the new long-wheelbase 7-series. Now in its fifth generation, the Seven’s brief remains unchanged: offer limo comfort, but drive like a purposeful sporting saloon.
The new 7 Series uses BMW’s latest 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, in place of the old petrol V12. It also has four-wheel-steering in an effort to improve the 7’s dynamic ability.
And there’s a host of new technology – including a new iDrive system – which will eventually filter through to the rest of the BMW range.
Demure, high-quality fabrics and dark, polished wood panelling swathe the 750Li’s elegant, serious and slightly intimidating cabin. That functional ethos is a running theme. According to the man who designed it, the new Seven’s exterior – which isn’t flattered by photos – is meant to blend purposeful aggression with elegance.
This all stands the 7 Series apart from its more obviously opulent key rivals, the Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS. This BMW is a boardroom on wheels, not a boudoir.
What’s it like?
The 4.4-litre V8 petrol powerplant offers an almighty 406bhp and not so much of a torque curve as a 442lb ft flat line from 1750 to 4500rpm. Zero to 62mph takes 5.2sec, but it’s the way the 750 pins your shoulders back as the speedo sweeps past licence-losing numbers that’s really epic. The 750Li can demolish distances like few other cars can.
It is, you may also argue, a profligate waste of time. This saloon returns 24mpg (at an optimistic best) and pumps out 266g/km of CO2. BMW admits the 750Li will make up a tiny proportion of European sales compared with the diesel 730d (which we’ll be thoroughly testing soon).
Still, if you can afford to run it, fuel costs may not trouble you. But the ride quality will.
The new 7 Series gets three-position adjustable dampers, but we found the ride fidgety and unsettled in all three settings (comfort, normal and sport). Our test car had big 18-inch wheels. We tried another with 17s and felt some improvement – but not enough.
The 7 Series is also too noisy for a luxury car of this ilk. Above 70mph, both tyre roar and wind noise intrude on the cabin to a surprising degree.
But the 7 Series does top the class for handling, with a fine chassis and excellent body control. Compared to old V12, this 750’s weight has been kept in check by aluminium doors, bonnet and wings and of course by four fewer cylinders. This undoubtedly aids its athleticism. A four-wheel steering system also improves low-speed manoeuvrability.
Technological highlights include a much-improved iDrive system, reverse and side-view cameras, a very useful heads-up display and an ability to read and display road signs. But is it right that buyers can easily add £15k-plus of options to this already expensive car? Still, we’re looking forward to getting that iDrive on the 3 and 5 Series.
Should I buy one?
The new 7 Series would make us think twice about an S-Class. It certainly steers better than any other car in this class. Refinement, however, should be better; both ride quality and cabin noise are not good enough. And, in these tight times, this mighty 750Li model and its wonderful engine may end up as a very low-volume irrelevance.