a star at last
THE REAR DOOR HANDLES ARE BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED AND WORTHY OF A GALLERY
Along with regaining common sense in design and its operating controls, the 7 Series also has some helpful chassis technology. It has a more sophisticated wishbone suspension arrangement and an electrically driven four-wheel steering system that not only helps handling agility, but cuts 0.7m from a U-turn.
The system turns in the opposite direction from the front wheels at low speed and, at about 50km/h, switches to run parallel.
Combine this with air suspension (standard on petrol cars) and the result is a limousine with 3-Series agility.
THE new Seven is a charming large car. Drive it in its most aggressive settings and you’ll think it’s a charming small car. The inside makes a welcome return to good design. The rear door handles, for example, are beautifully crafted and worthy of a gallery. Plastic no longer dominates the dashboard. Everything, even the centre console, faces the driver.
BMW has followed Audi’s lead and switched to a round satnav alphabet and a ‘‘Back’’ button on the i-Drive — something which people have pleaded for.
There’s a head-up display for the vitals, the second generation of BMW’s night-vision technology and a few other tricks, some of which are Europe-only at present. They include a system that uses a combination of camera and satnav data to warn you of speed-limit changes.
A thermal-imaging camera tucked in front of the rear-view mirror feeds into a computer with frightening calculating power to save pedestrian lives.
BMW safety boffin Artur Russ says the system produces very few false alarms and will save lives.
‘‘If the system computes a risk of collision with a pedestrian the driver gets an automatic warning with a pedestrian symbol on the head-up display,’’ Russ says. ‘‘It indicates the relevant side of the road and comes on only if the pedestrian starts moving towards the car.
‘‘It distinguishes between pedestrians walking along the footpath and pedestrians who have turned towards the road. Then, as soon as there is a move in a lateral direction, there is a warning.’’
But it’s not such a priority that BMW has made it standard. In fact, it comes only with the optional nightvision package.
It also needs a lot of numbercrunching and algorithms to find the difference between a kangaroo and a human, Russ says.
‘‘Humans have several defining features such as shoulders, head and legs that distinguish them from anything else,’’ he says. ‘‘The camera reads 300m and the warning corridor depends on speed, steering angle and approach rate.’’
Other innovations include active aerodynamics that restrict airflow under the bonnet when it’s not needed for cooling, lane-departure warnings and detection of fast-approaching traffic that is in your blind spot.
Yet, for all that, success for the 7 Series may hinge on its looks inside and out and its return to the superior driving dynamics that earned BMW its reputation.