What is it?
Nine months after it was launched, BMW’s fifth generation 7 Series gains a range topping V12 version, in the shape of the 760Li; also BMW’s most expensive production road car.
Although the V12’s swept capacity is identical to that of the previous generation, BMW claims this all-aluminium engine to be ‘all-new’. The big news is that, in a first for BMW, a V12 is combined with twin-turbos (one for each bank of cylinders) to produce 532bhp and 553lb ft.
The 760Li is also the first model to get BMW’s new eight-speed automatic transmission (developed in conjunction with ZF) also due on the 5 Series GT.
Although BMW is producing the 760i in both short and long wheelbase versions, in the UK we will get only the latter. There is however the choice of regular (as tested here) or M Sport specification.
What is it like?
So how do you distinguish a V12 7 Series from the lesser versions? Other than the badges there are a few tell-tale exterior signs, the most obvious being the quad exhausts, but also V12 labels next to indicator repeaters, and additional chrome detailing. And as with some previous versions, the kidney grille is also more prominent, this time by increasing the thickness of the chrome surround rather than actually enlarging the grille itself.
Inside, as you would expect the interior is packed with toys otherwise optional on other 7 Series models. Bespoke to the 760Li is a particularly plush looking leather and alcantara roof lining and wood trim featuring walnut inlays (other trims are available).
To drive it is, as you would expect given the outputs, very brisk indeed. BMW claims 4.6 second to 62mph, which seems completely believable. Top speed is as usual limited to 155mph, and as a measure of the performance when the limiter kicks in, even doing so gradually, the reduction in acceleration is marked. What the 760Li isn’t though, is a hot-rod in the vein of Mercedes’ similarly priced and S63AMG.
For the most part the BMW’s V12 remains almost completely silent, whether at idle or low to mid range revs, and unless you have an awful amount of space available, you will rarely get the engine spinning much beyond 4000rpm.
Such is the effectiveness of the turbochargers - peak torque is available from 1500rpm onwards and doesn’t let up until 5000rpm - that unless you use the manual mode to lock the gearbox in an unnaturally low ratio, trying to exercise the engine results in so much speed that you are forced to back off before the engine gets even remotely vocal. And for a turbo-charged engine the response is extremely clean and immediate, the only real sign of forced induction the faintest distant hiss.
What of the gearbox? Well it’s excellent: smooth, incisive and discrete. It retains a conventional torque converter function for smooth slow speed manoeuvring, but on the move the gearbox locks up for efficiency, speed of shift and control.
Again, unless you operate the gearbox in its manual mode (possible only through toggling the lever for there are no steering wheel paddles), you’re hard pushed to realise this gearbox had any more than the regular six ratios. So what’s the benefit of eight speeds if you don’t notice them? Economy and refinement at the high speeds possible in Germany. Whether it makes quite so much sense in the UK is more questionable.
In other respects the 760Li is much like the regular 7. Along with switchable dampers, Dynamic Drive (active roll bars) and four-wheel steering is standard on the 760Li. In most circumstances it is comfortable, only the occasional tremble at slow speeds over rougher urban roads spoiling things. Move the control to Sport or Sport+ and the 760Li becomes more agile than its weight and size would suggest, but it is still a car to drive quickly but tidily rather than hustle.
Should I buy one?
It’s likely that the very few people who will buy the 760Li will have already decided to do so. Other than the marginal extra refinement, objectively the 760Li doesn’t do a great deal that the 750Li doesn’t already, or for that matter that the new 740d. What the 760Li does do rather well though, is fill the role of flagship, and for a certain type of buyer that will be reason enough to have one.