a star at last

THE REAR DOOR HAN­DLES ARE BEAU­TI­FULLY CRAFTED AND WOR­THY OF A GALLERY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

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