Driven: BMW's bolder, smarter 7 Series
According to BMW’s representatives, around 41% of all 7 Series cars sold in the world are purchased by customers in China. It’s the long (Li), of course, that they want, and to this end, Bayerische Motoren Werke has decided to refresh its flagship sedan to meet the tastes of Chinese customers in particular.
The biggest changes to the latest 7 Series take place up front and at the rear. In the front, you’ll immediately notice its engorged kidney grille, and its new narrow and wide (almost serpent-like) headlamps. All cars on show at the world launch were fitted with BMW’s Laser lighting technology.
At the back it’s been further sculpted, also featuring new light clusters that are narrower, wider and more intricate in terms of how its LEDs are arranged. There’s also this prominent light strip that runs across the entire boot, linking the left and right tail lamps with each other in a very Porsche 911-esque manner. The light clusters also ‘fade-in’ when the vehicle is unlocked to create a sense of drama.
When viewed from the side, you’ll immediately notice that the hockey stick that used to be fitted to the bottom of the doors is now less, er, hockey stick like. The lines around the car are now more horizontal, particularly around the sides and at the front. You’ll even notice that the new Air Curtain inlets on the front bumper are more vertical than swoopy in execution.
BMW’s head of the 7 Series project, Rainer Thoma, explained that the brief for refreshing the 7 was simple: ‘Keep it the same, but make it more bold, more imposing.’ This is why the car’s kidney grilles are so massive, to reflect sovereign status and to ensure that it stands out in the hyper-competitive ultra-luxury segment.
In fact, the kidney grilles are so massive that BMW’s designers had to increase the diameter of the propeller badge on the front bonnet, making it one of the largest ‘propellers’ ever fitted to a BMW passenger car.
Inside the new 7, you’ll immediately notice the group’s new multimedia systems, digital instrument binnacle, refined centre console and improved leather seats.
Drivers will appreciate the easy-to-read digital displays, while the boss at the back will enjoy fiddling around with either the large screens (now with touch input support) or the Samsung tablet that resides in between the rear passengers. The tablet can be used to control things like climate control, interior lighting, the roller blinds for the rear doors and back window, as well as the Connected Drive entertainment system.
Naturally, the 7 has also been upgraded to offer ‘Hey, BMW’ voice control support and we found that it worked quite well in terms of navigation functionality. In fact, we even told the car that we were bored during a highway-drive portion of our test, and the car said ‘You probably haven’t tried SPORT mode yet.’ To this end, the car switched itself into its sharpest settings and brought up a whole bunch of sport displays showing kW, torque, etc. on the main screen in the dashboard.
There’s so much functionality in the car that it was near impossible to make use of all the cool gadgets in a single day, but we did try out its Drive Assist modes and made good use of it Bowers & Wilkens premium audio package.
Seriously, though, if you are considering buying this car, don’t rush the walk-through, as you need every piece of technology explained, and there’s so much technology at that.
Variety of engines
We only got to experience the 750iL and the 754Le xDrive models. Both cars are simply astounding in terms of propulsion engineering; the V8 representing how a car can grunt like a sports machine while still remaining smooth, and the 6-pot with electric support highlighting the future, the potential that electrification brings with it.
The V8, you know it....it’s similar to the 4.4-litre TwinPower Turbo unit in the pre-facelift cars, but more honed thanks to sharpened electronic tuning and an Adaptive driving mode that ‘learns’ to automatically ensure the ‘best’ use of power and traction at all times.
Power and Torque? The 750i comes with 390kW and 750Nm while the hybrid will give you 290kW and 600Nm in combined grunt when you floor it in Sport mode.
Naturally, the V8 sipped around 14l/100km on our test drive around Faro in Portugal, but BMW reckons with a lighter approach to the throttle one could achieve sub-10 figures.
The 745Le is the one to go for if you’re looking to hyper-mile it though, using a claimed 2.2l/100km in a combined cycle. Yes, that’s right, a car the size of a small superyatch using less the three litres of fuel per 100 kilometres. On my 60km loop in the hybrid, the petrol engine stayed off for most of the journey. In fact, I preferred the serene, wafting nature that came with riding on electric current instead of charged gasoline.
Cars go on sale in South Africa in May, with the first units expected to hit local shores in June. You’ll only be able to order long-wheelbase versions too, and to be honest, there’s really no point in the short version anyway. Fortunately, BMW is retaining the range-topping V12 version of the 7 Series. Slightly fettled with by M division, it delivers a maniacal 430kW and 850Nm. The pick of the bunch, though, if you can afford it is the V12, but realistically, the hybrid is actually worth a shot this time.
Here’s the versions you can opt for, and respective prices (excluding carbon tax):
730Ld - R1 669 400
740Li - R1 638 400
745Le xDrive - R1 755 300
750Li xDrive - R2 156 700
M760Li xDrive - R2 806 400
* All cars come with BMW’s comprehensive five-year Motorplan maintenance contract.