02 Mar 2016 | 04.07 pm
Roadtest: BMW 7 Series
New class-leading diesel engine is impressive
02 Mar 2016 | 04.07 pm
Olive Keogh is impressed with the new diesel engine, though somewhat daunted by the bells and whistles
BMW first launched the 7 Series back in 1977, a few years after Mercedes had taken the wraps off its first S-Class. Since then the pair have been locked in combat for the wallets of the wealthy. That said the S-Class has always had the upper hand. It outsells the 7 Series by some margin (two to one worldwide in 2014) and is still the go-to model for governments, embassies, big corporates and high net worth individuals.
The latest generation 7 Series was launched at the end of 2015 and BMW spent heavily on its development. There’s an all-new platform with a new carbon fibre construction and a fully air-sprung chassis. There’s also a new iteration of the trademark kidney grille, laser headlights that double the operating range of the high beam, and a multimedia system that can be operated by gestures, heated armrests, ambient air control and 360 degree view cameras that bring camera assisted visibility to a new level.
The options list is as long as your arm and covers every conceivable ‘want’ from seats that heat/cool and massage to in-car tablets that act as web browsers, TV screens and as controllers for different functions within the car. There are colour options for the ambient lighting, an integral active steering system that reduces the turning circle, and predictive active suspension. BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive is also offered for the first time on a 7 Series.
What hasn’t changed much is the styling. It remains resolutely conservative, so BMW’s focus groups have clearly told the company that no frills formal styling and lots of chrome goes down best with 7 Series buyers. What’s undeniable, however, is that the 7 Series has road presence, not least because of its sheer size.
The upfront accommodation is roomy while the rear passengers also get a good deal in the space stakes. The boot is a substantial 515 litres. The cabin is undoubtedly very comfortable and designed to meet the driver’s every need, but there’s nothing about the feel of the interior that would blow you away.
What is far more impressive is the new class-leading diesel engine on board. It is one of BMW’s next generation of higher output but more efficient six-cylinder petrol and diesel units and it is extremely powerful but hushed. Everything about it is controlled yet flexible and while it has poise in spades for those who prize ride smoothness and comfort, there is still enough of an edge to please those who like a little sporty engagement with their vehicle and will drive this car themselves. That’s actually fewer than you might think, as many are chauffeur driven, especially in European markets. A PHEV (plug in hybrid electric vehicle) version will be added to the line-up this year.
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the multiplicity of gadgets and driver assistance systems on board the new 7 Series. But look beyond the techno fest and there’s an assured and potentially fun car to drive hiding underneath.
Model: BMW 730d
Engine: 3.0 litre diesel, 265bhp
Safety: Carbon core, head/curtain airbags, dynamic safety system, optional laser headlights, driver assistant safety package
Price: from €96,880
Fuel consumption: 4.9 to 4.5 litres per 100 km (5.2 to 4.8 litres per 100 km with xDrive)
Verdict: A technological and comfort tour de force.