SMART TO THE CORE

WITH A BMW AS TECH­NO­LOG­I­CALLY AD­VANCED AS THE 7 SE­RIES, AP­PLE CAN EAT ITS HEART OUT.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - Stephen Corby

If Ap­ple re­ally is pre­par­ing its own truly mo­bile de­vice, with wheels, then you can bet the de­sign­ers whammed their heads against the draw­ing boards, or their iPad Pros at least, af­ter read­ing the specs for the new tech­ni­cal knock­out that is the BMW 7 Se­ries.

Its Dis­play Key is un­can­nily like an iPhone, for a start, with swipey screens that al­low you to check your range, set the car’s tem­per­a­ture be­fore you get to it, or even, in less para­noid mar­kets than our own, al­low you to park the big Beemer re­motely. This is handy if your garage isn’t big enough for the barn doors to open on this hefty, 5.2m-long and 1.5m-wide limo. Most im­por­tantly, the Dis­play Key looks and feels lushly lovely, and makes all car keys that came be­fore it look hope­lessly re­dun­dant and passé.

Then there’s the ges­ture-con­trol tech­nol­ogy, which is so geek-tas­tic it would seem more at home in an Ap­ple Car. Mo­tion sen­sors on the dash al­low you to ac­cept or re­ject calls with a wave of your hand, ad­just the stereo vol­ume by wig­gling your fin­ger in the air, or pinch and spin the freak­ish 3D cam­era view you can sum­mon up while park­ing the car.

If you pre­fer to sit in the back you’ll be too far from the dash to use the Jazz Hands func­tion, as it will surely come to be known. For you, there’s the car world’s first in­te­grated tablet, which pops out of the arm rest and al­lows you to do just about ev­ery­thing but drive: change the re­lax­ing scents be­ing pumped into the cabin, ad­just the mood light­ing, an­noy the front-seat pas­sen­ger by mov­ing them back and forth, all at the touch of a screen. (It’s a Sam­sung, not an iPad).

If that’s not enough, you can also spec the 7 Se­ries with “laser lights”, tak­ing your ef­fec­tive high-beam dis­tance from 300m to 600m, or Ex­ec­u­tive Drive Pro, which scans the road ahead for bumps and pot­holes and pre-ten­sions your sus­pen­sion ap­pro­pri­ately, to pro­vide the kind of magic-car­pet ride pre­vi­ously only as­so­ci­ated with Rolls-Royce (a com­pany BMW just hap­pens to own). All this, and more, come close to jus­ti­fy­ing the com­pany’s claims that the 7 Se­ries is the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced ve­hi­cle on the road to­day (though the Mercedes-Benz S Class and Tesla peo­ple might want to ar­gue the toss).

And be­ing tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced in to­day’s world means a car that can drive it­self, or damn close to it. Sure enough, BMW of­fers a “Steer­ing and Lane Con­trol” func­tion, which it refers to as “semi­au­tonomous driv­ing”. This in­ge­nious tech­nol­ogy uses cam­eras, radar, GPS, road mark­ings, sat­nav data and servo mo­tors to do the steer­ing for you. You can take your hands off and watch this magic in ac­tion, but af­ter 10 sec­onds the car will beep and en­cour­age you to lightly rest your hands back on the wheel. Put the au­to­matic cruise con­trol on at the same time, and you gen­uinely don’t have to drive, you just sit with one hand on the wheel and make it look like you are.

As clever as it is, Steer­ing and Lane Con­trol is not yet in­fal­li­ble, and may oc­ca­sion­ally fol­low lines it shouldn’t. It’s also not the smoothest of steer­ers, tak­ing a few bites at some bends and bring­ing to mind some of the more ADHD cab driv­ers I’ve en­dured.

All this can dis­tract you from the fact that the 7 Se­ries can still be driven by the owner, if he or she so de­sires. For­tu­nately, it’s very good at this as well, partly be­cause of yet an­other tech­no­log­i­cal first in a car of this size: a car­bon-fi­bre core. This su­per-light­weight, strong and su­per-ex­pen­sive con­struc­tion was pre­vi­ously only seen in su­per­cars — in­clud­ing the tech de force BMW i8 — and it saves up to 130kg in some mod­els.

That’s part of the rea­son the car feels so light on its feet, with in­vig­o­rat­ing per­for­mance from the new 3.0L turbo diesel in the 730d (0 to 100 in 6.1 sec­onds) and the also new twin-turbo straight six in the petrol 740i (just 5.5 sec­onds). Sound dead­en­ing, which in­cludes car­pets sourced from Rolls-Royce, helps negate the thrum of th­ese en­gines, un­less you’re whip­ping them to the point of non-ex­is­tence, and the ride, which of­fers two Com­fort set­tings, is fab­u­lous.

Most mirac­u­lously, de­spite be­ing a big unit, the 7 Se­ries can get up and dance if you ask it to. The steer­ing is ex­tremely sporty for a car of this type and the su­per-stiff chas­sis means it sits flat and be­haves well through cor­ners. Bet­ter, in fact, than it re­ally needs to.

Sporti­ness is what the Aus­tralian mar­ket de­sires, as 85per cent of buy­ers of the last model opted for the M Sport pack­age, at $10,000 a pop. Such de­mand has led BMW Aus­tralia to make that add-on pack of sporty bits and badges a no-cost op­tion on the new 7 range, which starts at $217,500 for the 730d, rises to $224,200 for the 740i and hits $289,600 for the range-top­ping 750i.

The Ap­ple Car, if and when it comes, will no doubt be cheaper and smaller, but it’s go­ing to have to get its geek on pretty hard to match this über-BMW.

The BMW 7 Se­ries is a big unit with a wealth of tech whizzery that is also smooth and sporty to drive.

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