A DRIVING EXPERIENCE THAT GOES BEYOND TAKING THE WHEEL
Remember the times when your old man took you for a spin in his car before the word digital was coined for the gadgets we used. All the entertainment you had was a rickety radio that required a tap or two and an adjustment to the antenna to hear a song clearly. If someone said a twirl of my fingers in the air would change the volume, I’d check that person into an asylum. But this is 2017 and look how things have changed. I get the keys to a BMW 7 Series and all it wants to
do is impress. It’s like I’m the hot guy on our first date and Miss Seven wants to fast-track to first base. Confused? Let me explain.
The Seven comes with two keys, a regular one and a digital one. That digital key is somewhat like a smartphone. It shows you the range on the fuel left in the gas tank, you can remotely turn the lights on and off, and even set a timer for the air conditioner to turn on so that the cabin is cool before you enter it. Then there is my favourite party trick. A swipe on the screen will take you to the car’s remote parking function. You can start the engine, move it forward or backward and turn the car off after you have found your desired parking spot, all while you are staring at the beauty from the outside. That’s right the car parks itself with its key. Still not impressed?
After getting in, I fire up the engine and don’t like the song playing on the infotainment system so I point two fingers in the air at the screen and move them forward like I’m casting a spell. Voila, next track. So that’s cool I think, and after a twirl of my fingers to increase the volume, I glance at a button on the centre console. It’s there to add some fragrance in the cabin. Inside the glove box are a set of car perfumes that come in a pack BMW called the ‘Ambient car package’. The perfumes, in varying degrees of intensity, will fill the cabin with a freshness you need after a long day in the boardroom.
It is just about rush hour on my way to work and the roads in town are as bad as they come these days. So I sift through the menus to get a nice back massage. The things she does to spoil you silly, it’s a bit over the top. But Germans being German, found some sense of responsibility and included an exercise package too in the seats where you have to perform a series of tasks that require some force. All the while you are seated in one of the finest examples of leather thrones I’ve experienced in my life. It’s not just the massagers that will take care of your back though. Unlike the previous generations of the 7 Series that only had adaptive air suspension in the rear axle, the new one has it up front too. In its most comfortable setting, the ride is like applying hot butter on a crunchy piece of toast. It evens off the hard edges and drives you with a regality that only a flagship luxury sedan will offer.
The 7 Series is genuinely regal, every bit of it built with the finest materials, every technology offering an excess to what you need and even the headlights have laser beams that illuminate 600 metres of the earth in front of your eyes, just because it can. You don’t need searchlights like these or a set of fragrances or gesture controls, but they are there to pamper you.
For a car guy like me, anything with over 300 horsepower usually means one thing. I get in, find a empty stretch of road and bury the right foot in the firewall. But a couple of hours into the drive, I was just enjoying the experience. My spa treatment ended when we finally came upon a switchback that led on to a snaking mountain road. Under the hood is BMW’S finest straight six turbo-petrol engine in this 740Li trim. It makes 322bhp of power and 450Nm of torque and is an award winning engine that is known for its refinement and efficiency. A subconscious appreciation of the engine’s refinement is how unobtrusive it is while driving. Its presence isn’t felt unless it revs over 3000rpm and even then, the fine rumble is more music to the ears than anything.
Power is laid down smoothly and surely all the way from as low as 1400rpm, when the turbo gives a slight shove of torque, and it carries on well over 5000rpm. It will even kiss 7000rpm if you stay on the gas in one gear but it’s best to shift up a gear by then to keep proceedings smooth. That 8-speed automatic gearbox is a peach, always picking the right gear and if it finds a variation in driving style, it quickly adapts to it. You could drive like a lead footed driver or with the calmness of a monk and either way, the 7 Series will fit you like a glove in the way it responds to your inputs. For a car that weighs 1.85 tonnes, the 7 Series will do the 0-100kmph sprint in 5.6 seconds and hit a top speed of 250kmph if you find a closed road long enough for it. It lacks some sense of speed when you are nestled in its cocoon though. There is a slight disconnect to the outside world that is a luxury sedan’s essential attribute, but present it a set of twisties and it requires a recalibration of the mind. You could enter a corner harder than you think you have and shaving off all that speed requires some heavy braking because of its weight.
The 7 Series however has excellent weight distribution and a lift off the accelerator to point it into a corner and then an induced oversteer will turn it into a much more agile car than its appearance suggests. Acres of prime BMW real estate can handle bends like a charm. It’s no sportscar mind you, but if you had to pick one flagship for some fun on a winding road, it would be this. The 7 Series is a technological tour-de-force, and that’s the car’s first takeaway, but it’ also a car you’d want to drive instead of being driven in.
Photography: Rohit G Mane