IN SEV­ENTH HEAVEN WITH NEW BMW

Four decades af­ter the 7 Se­ries was launched, lux­ury Ger­man mo­tor just keeps get­ting bet­ter

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

BMW’S 7 Se­ries has been with us four decades now, with the first gen­er­a­tion car hav­ing gone on sale back in 1977. Ini­tially avail­able in one length with a six cylin­der en­gine, a V12 was of­fered back in 1987 on the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion car with a long wheel base model avail­able, too.

As the Nineties be­came the Naugh­ties, in­creased en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns saw the in­tro­duc­tion of diesels for the UK mar­ket as the list of avail­able equip­ment grew along with the car’s size and weight.

For the sixth gen­er­a­tion car, BMW knew they had to not only of­fer even more in­te­rior room and on-board gad­getry but also put the car on a crash diet.

Through the use of car­bon fi­bre, the Bavar­ian mar­que has been able to de­liver on the con­flict­ing de­mands of less weight but more kit, in­clud­ing firsts such as a four wheel steer­ing sys­tem. As a re­sult, this should be the best 7 ever.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

The 7 Se­ries has al­ways sold it­self as the driver’s choice in lux­ury limos and that doesn’t look to be chang­ing any time soon. Even the most sen­si­ble (and slow­est) six cylin­der 730d pumps out 265bhp, enough for 0-62mph in a scant 6.1 sec­onds.

BMW’S xdrive 4WD sys­tem is now an op­tion on this model — and you have to have it if you opt for the pok­ier 320bhp 740d, which makes the 62mph bench­mark in 5.2s. The petrol range starts with the 326bhp 740i model and pro­gresses to the 449bhp V8-pow­ered 750i which makes 62mph in just 4.7s.

Should you want to be as green as pos­si­ble — or just es­cape the Lon­don con­ges­tion charge — there’s a 326bhp 740e plug-in hy­brid that can travel up to 25 miles on elec­tric power alone. All mod­els re­ceive an eight speed au­to­matic gear­box and air sus­pen­sion for both

front and rear axles that al­lows you to switch from soft to sporty and the touch of a but­ton. As the ul­ti­mate party trick, you can even get out of the car and set it to park it­self from your smart phone. Very James Bond.

De­sign and Build

BMW have learned a lot re­gard­ing the use of car­bon fi­bre from their elec­tric i3 and i8 mod­els; the 7 Se­ries is the first main­stream BMW to ben­e­fit from this. Al­though steel is still at the core of the car’s struc­ture, car­bon fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic is used to help add strength and re­duce weight.

To fur­ther as­sist, a greater amount of alu­minium is used for sus­pen­sion com­po­nents to cut 200kg from the rolling chas­sis. The ad­di­tion of an ex­tra 70kg of equip­ment brings this weight loss down to a max­i­mum 130kg how­ever.

Out­side the changes are far less dra­matic. The lat­est and largest ver­sion of BMW’S kid­ney grille sits up front with the head­lights (LEDS as stan­dard, with laser lights as an op­tion) flow­ing from this.

Al­though the shoul­der line has been sharp­ened up, changes to the rear screen and boot area make the car seem sleeker over­all. Inside is plusher than ever with a fifth gen­er­a­tion idrive sys­tem and even greater con­nec­tiv­ity for your mo­bile de­vices.

For the first time, there’s also a ges­ture con­trol sys­tem that uses a 3D sen­sor in the head­lin­ing to in­ter­pret your swipes, pinches and ro­ta­tional move­ments to con­trol a va­ri­ety of func­tions.

Mar­ket and Model

With the 7 Se­ries act­ing as BMW’S flag­ship saloon, it’s no sur­prise that you’ll have to dig deep to af­ford one. The range kicks off with the stan­dard length and spec­i­fi­ca­tion 730d at around £65,000. If you’re af­ter max­i­mum rear legroom, the long wheel­base ‘L’ chas­sis is nearly £4,000, with xdrive 4WD an­other £3,000 or so.

If you want to avoid the black pump, the petrol range starts at ap­prox­i­mately £72,000 for a long wheel­base 740Li. Those that want a harder, more ag­gres­sive edge will want the M Sport trim at an­other £4,000 to get a racy bodykit and in­te­rior flour­ishes.

If lux­ury is your game, the ‘De­sign Pure Ex­cel­lence’ pack­age is the trim for you thanks to ad­di­tional — yet taste­ful — chrome trim plus ex­tra wood inside. Al­ter­na­tively for those with the deep­est of pock­ets, there are ‘In­di­vid­ual’ mod­els that give the max­i­mum of cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions.

Still, even the lowli­est vari­ants get leather seats, four-zone cli­mate con­trol, a Blue­tooth in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with sat nav, wire­less phone charg­ing, a rear view cam­era and auto head­lights and wipers. Safety is cov­ered by wall-to-wall airbags, ad­vanced ABS and sta­bil­ity con­trol, brake as­sist, anti-whiplash head­rests, run-flat tyres and even heated washer jets.

Cost of Own­er­ship

Just be­cause you’re spend­ing £65,000 on your lux­ury au­to­mo­bile doesn’t mean you’ll be pay­ing through the nose to keep it on the road. Even the 740Li with its tur­bocharged petrol six is ca­pa­ble of be­tween 41.5mpg on the com­bined cy­cle, while emit­ting 159g/km of car­bon diox­ide. Those car­bon emis­sions are bet­ter than a num­ber of hot hatch­backs, a great achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the size of the en­gine and weight of the car. Ben­e­fit in kind is 26%.

Nat­u­rally the con­sump­tion cham­pion here is the diesel 730d which posts a stag­ger­ing 60.1mpg fig­ure, plus a CO2 re­turn of 124g/ km. Long wheel­base mod­els add 3g/km, 1% to BIK and re­duce fuel con­sump­tion by a lit­tle over a

mile per gal­lon: not too shabby at all. It’s xdrive that gives a big­ger hit to econ­omy, knock­ing nearly 4mpg off the rear drive model and adding 8g/km of car­bon emis­sions. Even so, these are fig­ures that a su­per­mini would have been proud of not long ago. To think a saloon of such stature could man­aged them is im­pres­sive stuff.

Pre­dictably best of the bunch is the 740e plug-in petrol/elec­tric hy­brid. This claims 122.8mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and 53g/km of CO2.

Sum­mary

The 7 Se­ries has al­ways of­fered a slightly dif­fer­ent take on the large lux­ury saloon. Al­though other ve­hi­cles may ar­guably of­fer greater pas­sen­ger com­fort, the big BMW has al­ways made sure its driv­ers could en­joy them­selves should the fancy take them.

With this MK7 model, BMW look to have im­proved on this dual per­son­al­ity with the lat­est in switch­able sus­pen­sion tech and cutting edge car­bon-en­hanced con­struc­tion.

You could ar­gue that the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion model doesn’t look dif­fer­ent enough to the old ver­sion but then this is quite a cau­tious sec­tion of the mar­ket. It’s also un­doubt­edly bet­ter look­ing than the old car, manag­ing to seem both more stately and ath­letic at the same time.

Whether it’s enough to edge out the BMWS arch neme­sis the Mercedes S- Class is an­other ques­tion though. You’ll en­joy de­cid­ing.

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