othing speaks financial success like a full- size luxury sedan. They are rolling lounges for corporate highflyers and very often seen as technological spearheads for the rest of the segments. The battle for the crown in this segment has been closely contested by the triad of German saloons, with the incredibly competent Mercedes- Benz S- Class leading the way. But since its launch a couple of years ago, Bavarian Motor Works ( BMW) have had the time to reassess, redesign and re- engineer their flagship 7- Series, which is our car of the week.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
Back in 1997, British spy James Bond digressed from British motoring when he chose the gorgeous BMW 750i as his wheeled ally in the film Tomorrow Never Dies. It was a long, steely and beautiful German sedan that left an imprint on the walls of my mind. What we have here is the 6th generation car. At 5,238mm, it’s the longest it’s ever been. It bears several BMW styling signatures, making it both handsome and instantly recognisable.
It is a technological tour de force with new active airstream kidney grilles that open up and close to reduce warm- up times, improve aerodynamics, and so on. If the sheer size and many chrome elements of the 7- Series can’t get your attention, the dazzle of the laser- light technology embedded in the signature dual headlamps will: they’re capable of throwing brighter light, twice the distance, and will surely turn your night into day.
The silhouette of the 7 is now so sports sedan- like that some may confuse it for being an engorged 5- series. We aren’t big fans of the hockey stick detail along the door, but the rear design is crisp and well- executed, thanks to the chrome strip that connects the red LED tail lamps. And, this time, they’ve got the shape of the bumper- infused tail pipes just right.
The smart key fob itself has a 2.2- inch touch screen through which you can browse vehicle status, check range and even control the car remotely — i. e., go forward and backward. On your way into the cabin, if you have left the door ajar, the system shuts the door, albeit softly. Now that is luxury!
The seats aren’t just seats; they are comfort- bound sofas, quilted and embroidered with Italian panache. The front seats suit all kinds of frames, accommodating both the skinny mid-
management over- achiever and the fat boss who has gotten too comfortable for his chair.
The cabin architecture is best described as familiar luxury. Think of it as one of your favourite photos from your Facebook album, this time with a different filter. It works in terms of aesthetics and functionality, but something new would be nice.
While the dashboard design may have remained stuck in the early part of the 21st century, BMW has pushed its technology into the future, with things like gesture control. There are five gestures in all. Simply rotate or roll your finger, like Harry Potter wielding a wand, and you can increase or decrease volume. You can accept a call by poking the screen mid- air or cancel the call by slapping your palm across the screen. Use poke action with two fingers and get a new function defined. I wonder whether it will brew me coffee.
The 10.25- inch LCD colour tablet- style infotainment screen isn’t the biggest in class, but it comes with impeccably laid out menus and tasteful graphics. And what was previously only controlled by idrive can also be done via the new touch screen functionality. Pinch and zoom if you will!
The rear cabin is a whole new ballgame. There is an Android- based tablet which controls everything — from the ambient lighting, to closing the blinds, to adjusting recline on the seat. You can even summon those invisible hands to give you many kinds of massages; the Vitality programme gives you tips for exercises within the car. The gimmicks don’t end there — but I should before this turns into a catalogue.
How about the luxury of space and comfort back there, important concerns for the possibly 40- something who would buy this car? There is not ample, but with acres of legroom and headroom for two rear occupants, you can actually stretch out your legs, like your flying first class. Having three onboard is easy, but there will be shoulders rubbing; and the centre passenger won’t necessarily like the perched posture.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
On the road, the BMW 7- Series is a sanctuary for those who like to travel in speed and silence. Doublepane glass protects you from the harsh rays of the sun as well as blocks your eardrums from the clamour. And thanks to the standard 2- axle, self- levelling air suspension, the ride is kept nice and floaty, but without annoyance of suspension recoil.
Even in the near- base model, the 7- Series will cover ground with grace and pace. Dab the throttle and the car is enthused and willing, easily scooting away from wannabe racers at an impromptu traffic light drag, clocking just 5.5 seconds to a 100 km/ h. Give it the ‘ Full Monty’ and a wave of torque will carry you deep into the triple digits in moments.
As much as a cruiser it may seem, this is still ‘ the ultimate driving machine’ — this is still BMW. The steering feel is creamy butter but accurate, making it easy to steer this two- ton vehicle of gigantic proportions in the city. Same goes for its braking performance. Rest assured, the confidence in the pedal is one thing, but the way it sheds speed without a wavering moment is remarkable, even life- saving.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
It’s no surprise that the BMW 7- Series comes with a boot as large as 515 litres. Forget golf bags, you can place some large suitcases in there with space to spare. To help with the loading is a wide opening, but there is a load lip to overcome.
As standard comes a 4- zone climate control, which is important, because the rich have fine taste and the element of control is necessary for each individual. You can also incorporate perfumed aroma into the draft to suit your mood just at the click of a button.
A little slot in the central cubby lets you charge your phone wirelessly, which helps, especially if some of you are in the habit of playing music off Youtube or via streaming Bluetooth. USBS are the other way to do it. Hitting every note and filling all relevant frequencies is a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system with a 1,400- watt output to keep you entertained while on the move or add to the visuals of a movie running on the rear seat screens. If discretion is required, you can use the wireless headphones too.
That brings us to safety. The usual suspects like ABS, airbags, traction control, stability control are present. In addition, you also get blind spot warning, lane departure and an advanced bird’s eye view, that renders a third party perspective. There is also an auto parking function, but unlike in other cars, you don’t need to apply throttle or steering input. The car parks itself completely; it even shifts gears!
The many functions that come with the Bmwconcierge and Connecteddrive apps let you do things like find your car, unlock the car and even transfer navigation points from phone to car navigation.
Winning the ‘ World Luxury Car’ at the 2016 World Car Awards is no big accomplishment for the BMW 7- Series. The handsome but conservative styling of the exterior and interiors may leave some unfazed, but the badge won’t. And its technologically gimmickry is sure to baffle. At the end of our test, we found a stately but sporty luxo- cruiser that is built like a rock and will pamper even the most disgruntled occupants into relaxation. Why disgruntled? Prices start at Dh385,000!