Power play

BMW’s V12 boss wagon i s built to im­press

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE - Jeremy Clark­son

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.

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