An ugly brute is miraculously reborn as a beautiful Beemer, writes MICHAEL TAYLOR in France
NO MODERN car has generated more controversy than the current BMW 7 Series. When it arrived, BMW’s flagship was a horrible shock to customers. It had confusing electronics, unworkable controls and a styling philosophy that became the laughing stock of the car industry.
The new 7 Series is different. We know because we have driven it.
We found the car to be a superb mix of clean styling, high technology and a back-to-basics driving feel that returns handling fun to the flagship.
But the biggest news on BMW’s biggest car isn’t the technology.
As much as BMW wanted to demonstrate all of its new features on a secret first drive of pre-production cars at its Miramas proving ground in southern France, the biggest story is that BMW is no longer ugly.
The 7 Series has a handsome, beautifully proportioned body interrupted only by its large grilles. Gone is the old 7 Series interior that had none of the brand’s trademark, asymmetric, driver-focused cabin design.
BMW now knows what people want and has returned to making the driver the centre of attention.
The twin-turbo engines include a 540Nm six-cylinder 730 diesel and the 3.0-litre six-cylinder 740i with 240kW and 450Nm, which made its debut in the 335i.
The heavy-hitting 750i uses the twin-turbo V8 from the X6 to produce sports-car performance with 300kW of power and 600Nm of torque — strength that signs the death warrant for BMW’s ageing 6.0-litre V12.
Obviously, force-feeding a V8 is not going to lead to brilliant fuel economy, but the 750i will use 11.4 litres/100km on its combined city/highway cycle (a 15 per cent improvement on the old car), in a car that’s lighter than its predecessor. It also punches the limo to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds, which is close to M3-style acceleration.
Though the twin-turbo six-cylinder uses only 9.9 litres/100km return, or about 232g CO2/km, it’s not much slower. It whips to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds and, like the V8, will easily run to the 250km/h limiter.
The diesel is flexible, strong and perfectly suited to cruising. Fuel use is 7.2 litres/100km (192g/km of CO2) even though it runs to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds on its way to 245km/h.
All these engines attach to a new version of the ZF six-speed auto, which is capable of changing gear 60 per cent faster than the old, and is remarkable for moving back to a conventional gear-shifter.