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Speed

WKND - - O N T H E R O A D - BY GE­ORGE KURUVILLA • The low­down on the hottest rides in town

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.

VERDICT

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!

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