BMW’s V12 boss wagon i s built to impress
Hello? Hellooooo? Is anyone still out there? Or has everyone glossed over these pages and become engrossed in the gardening? I only ask because you could be forgiven for thinking there are now fewer car enthusiasts in the world than there are registered ventriloquists.
Car magazine sales are down. Top Gear’s audience figures are down. When I go out to dinner these days, people often say: “If you’re going to talk about cars, I’ll sit somewhere else.” Seriously, being a car enthusiast is like being a Tory. You don’t admit it in polite company.
But then I met a car enthusiast last week – a young removalist who looked at the BMW M760Li xDrive V12 I was driving and said, quietly, so his mates couldn’t hear: “Why has that got less power than the M6?” I was staggered. So staggered that I didn’t correct him: the M760Li in fact has 448kW, which means it has more power than any BMW since the days of Nelson Piquet.
And that raises a question. Why? Because this is a long-wheelbase, comfortable limousine full of soft headrests and adjustable interior lighting. So why on earth has BMW fitted it with a bonkers turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 engine? Why has BMW made it accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in less than four seconds, which is faster than most Porsche 911s? Why has it given it four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, so that on country roads you can drive as if you’re in a Caterham? Surely the people who buy cars such as this ride around in the back, and any chauffeur who uses the launch control system would be sacked.
Well, that’s the thing, you see. If BMW had made it silent and smooth, above all else, what would be the point of spending even more on a Ghost from Rolls-Royce? Which is a BMW company, remember. And, let’s be honest, anyone who wants a silent and smooth car these days will choose a Mercedes S-Class.
BMW, then, was forced by marketing and its own history of making the “ultimate driving machine” to come up with something different. And they’ve succeeded. This car blows your mind with its turn of speed. Not because the turn of speed is so vivid (a Lamborghini or a McLaren is faster still) but because you just don’t expect it. I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but it reminded me of those bespectacled and rather fierce looking women in old-fashioned porn films. You cannot believe the transformation when she takes off her specs and lets her hair down.
And neither can you believe how planted it all feels when the going gets twisty. Some of this is down to the four-wheel-drive system and some to the clever suspension, but, whatever, as your passengers are vomiting into their handbags you’ll be left open-mouthed by the way BMW has made a 2.3-tonne limo handle, grip and go like a hot hatch.
But then, when I was leaning forward to adjust the massage-seat facility I accidentally hit a button and everything changed. The car slowed down. The readout from the satnav became a Prius-style diagram full of arrows and dotted lines telling me that the engine was off and I was charging the battery. Plainly, I had engaged some kind of eco-mode. Which is weird, because who cares about fuel efficiency in a turbocharged 6.6-litre boss wagon? The fact is, anyone who’s frugal would never in a million years buy a big-engined, super-complicated large Beemer. Because history has taught us that they depreciate like a piano falling down a mountain. The car was supposed to be collected the other day at eight. And I suspect the reason it’s still with me is that it’s now worth less than the cost of sending a man to pick it up.
So there we are. The M760Li is a very expensive, pointless car that will, in this world of speed cameras and silly insurance premiums, appeal only to one removal man who can’t afford it and who’d rather have an M6 anyway. But still, there’s nothing like going out in a blaze of glory, is there? For what it’s worth, I thought it was tremendous.