Twin-turbo V12 monster nails its brief, but less than the sum of its parts
This is the quickest and most powerful BMW road car ever – until the M5 arrives, at least
THE snappily-titled BMW M760Li xDrive is the quickest, most powerful and most expensive BMW ever built.
We’d forgive your scepticism, for little about this plain white limo suggests a particularly fearsome performance machine. It would be like being told that Kerry
Packer was Australia’s greatest sportsman; he was definitely a physically imposing presence but nothing suggested an elite athlete.
The M760Li has an equally imposing presence. In longwheelbase guise it measures an immense 5238mm end-to-end with a 3210mm wheelbase (an entire Kia Picanto is 3595mm long), which provides sufficient space for the rear-passenger-side occupant to enjoy business class-style executive seating.
It’s not difficult to imagine owners spending the vast majority of their time in the rear pews and in many ways it’s the place to be. The plush seats will heat, cool, massage or even exercise you, there are screens and headphones for audio-visual entertainment and a fridge for sustenance.
Helping keep the champagne in the glass are air springs and active anti-roll bars that offer an incredibly serene ride in almost all circumstances; Sport mode improves body control at the expense of some bump absorption but even so it’s extremely comfortable.
The driver is equally wellcatered for with seats that do everything bar your tax return and more toys than Legoland – adjusting the volume with a twirl of your hand using gesture control might be a gimmick, but you’re guaranteed to use it more than the buttons on the steering wheel.
As an M Performance model, BMW has attempted to cater for the driver’s enthusiast tendencies as well, with the aforementioned trick suspension, bigger brakes, all-wheel steering and, of course, the 448kW/800Nm 6.6-litre twinturbo V12 under the bonnet.
With such an outrageous level of grunt, it’s just as well that the M760Li is the first BMW sedan on-sale in Australia to feature allwheel drive. With all four tyres gripping, BMW claims the 2180kg M760Li fires to 100km/h in 3.7sec, making it the quickest BMW ever (until the new M5 arrives), while the top speed is electronicallylimited to 305km/h with the M Driver’s Package.
In truth, it doesn’t feel as quick as claimed; this isn’t to say it’s not ludicrously fast, possessing seemingly inexhaustible acceleration, but it feels more RS3 than 911 Turbo. That massive engine is a curious beast: it’s very
smooth with an incredibly linear power curve, but is an acoustic disappointment.
We’re not expecting it to sound like a 1990s F1 car, but aside from a hint of V8-like burble down low it sounds little different to BMW’s 3.0-litre turbo six.
In corners the M760Li is composed but heavy; the Bridgestone RE001 tyres (245/40 front; 275/35 rear) simply aren’t wide or sticky enough to control this amount of car moving this quickly. You’re able to cover ground at a staggering rate, but nudge up against the limit and while you can move the rear slightly by trailing the brake, eventually it will fall into understeer.
Unless, that is, you’re on a slippery surface with the DSC deactivated, as then a controlled entry speed and hefty helping of throttle will send the rear into a beautiful arc. Yes, this 2.2tonne, 5.2-metre-long limo power oversteers like a champion – utterly irrelevant, but a lot of fun.
This unusual, slightly confused mash-up of abilities neatly sums up the M760Li. It’s built to appeal to a very specific buyer and we suspect those buyers will absolutely love it; it’s very fast, very comfortable and very exclusive.
However, it’s no better at being a limousine than a $200,000-cheaper 740Li nor, bar its searing speed, is it any better to drive – the brakes are soft, the steering lifeless and it carries an extra 410kg in the corners. And the constant intervention by the various assistance systems is annoying enough to have them switched off in short order.
Crucially, for a car costing $425,000, it lacks any sense of occasion. A Porsche Panamera Turbo murders it for driver appeal, while the Mercedes-Maybach S600 offers an even grander rearseat experience.
Or, if you really want a fast 7 Series, there’s the 447kW/880Nm Alpina B7, which is cheaper, more exclusive, every bit as quick and comes complete with a V8 soundtrack.
The engine is a curious beast: very smooth with an incredibly linear curve
Those who like to occasionally kick the chauffeur out of the driver's seat will find more satisfying driver's limos elsewhere