My ageing Land Rover had to go into the shop for major work the other week. A relative, seeing how I have an allergy to public transport, lent me his previous generation 740Li to tide me over. Munich’s ﬁnest proved brilliant. Other than its propensity for sticking a foot or two out of even the most generous parking spaces, it was fast, quiet, comfortable and, unlike its more ﬂashy competition, discreet.
But perhaps a bit overly so. When I picked up a friend in the car, he commented on how nicely appointed and spacious it was… for a 5 Series.
While petrolheads will never commit this faux pas, outside of the most avid car-spotter circles this is too easy a case of mistaken identity. Who could blame them? If you put a 3, 5 and 7 Series from the last era side by side, it appears as if the draughtsmen simply started with the smallest car, scaled up the blueprint by 15 percent, selected “Save as new ﬁle” from the menu and repeated the process once more. Then called it a day and headed to the pub for bier and Schweinshaxe.
LET’S FACE IT
Which is great for the smaller car – it makes you look like you bought something more expensive. But not so fantastic if you had actually ponied up for the range-topper. At some point the design honchos up at headquarters must have put a stop to this indolence. That is the only reason I could think of why the carmaker had gone to town with the new grille on the G11/G12 “life cycle impulse” (BMW-speak for “mid-life revamp”). While most facelifts involve a jab of botox, the one done on the 7 Series was more like reconstructive surgery, including a full-on nose job: That honker of a grille now boasts 40 percent more acreage than before.
And as if unsure whether the enlarged snout does adequately address the differentiation issue, BMW proceeded to ﬂatten the headlights, ﬂanking it down to mere slits. This further exaggerates its already portly proportions. Expectedly, the new front end hogged the conversation and polarised the public. When I saw the publicity photos, I too had unkind things to say about it.
I must admit, though, that when I saw the car in person at its Portugal launch, the dimensions started to grow on me. Just like how Chris Bangle’s controversial “ﬂame surfaced” ’90s BMW models were ﬁ rst met with derision; today, these have aged well and are now widely acknowledged as some of the boldest designs in recent BMW history.
Although it might not have been intended that way, I felt that the car’s mien resembles a great white with mouth agape in mid-attack, a second take on the shark-nose design language BMW adopted in the ’70s and ’80s but expressed in a modern – and far more aggressive – way.
The facelift arrived at a strategic time: The Audi A8 and Lexus LS were just completely overhauled last year, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class had its own nip and tuck in the same period. The latter, being this category’s hottest seller globally by far, is evidently the one that BMW is aiming to beat. (Fun fact: In the United States, it is another “S” – the one made by Tesla – that is the large car market leader instead.)
The changes address common complaints about the model, says BMW, which reveals that it is responding to feedback from its Asian customers; four out of every 10 7 Series are shipped to the People’s Republic alone, so this is a market it cannot afford to ignore.
The not-grand-enough exterior has been dealt with by adding restyled bumpers and air ducts that also improve aerodynamics. The redesigned tail lamps are now linked across the boot lid by a thin 6mm light strip. Overall, these give the car a more imposing and sporty appearance.
THE INSIDER NEWS
The interior has also beneﬁ ted from a host of upgrades. If you spring for the top-end “Pure Excellence Visionary” trim, you’ll get upholstery in a posh quilted pattern, in soft Nappa leather, not unlike what you would ﬁnd in a Bentley.
While you are enjoying the newfound quietness of the car, which results from thicker glass windows and sound-engineered rear wheel arches and B-pillars, your driver can relish the redesigned cockpit. It receives a new instrument binnacle with the main dials now represented digitally and the infotainment system upgraded to BMW’s latest operating system, which presents a customisable tile-based interface.
You would also ﬁnd all the semi-autonomous features one would expect in a 2019 model, such as the various traffic jam and lane-keeping assistances. One fun, but useful feature: Reversing assistant, which “records” the path the car took in the last 50 metres, so that you can “playback” the same route backwards to easily get out of tricky dead-ends.
Then again, it is probably not just the chauffeur who proﬁts, either: One of the biggest selling points of the BMW is that it handles like a proper sports sedan, so if you bought one, you are quite likely to ﬁnd yourself behind the wheel during weekends and outside of the daily commute. This is borne out on the roads of southern Portugal, where I had the opportunity to stretch the legs of an xDrive-equipped 750Li.
On the winding mountain roads, the car tracked around corners in a planted fashion, with scant body roll and precise turn-in. It behaved as if it was much smaller, hiding its not inconsiderable girth brilliantly. The excellent chassis set-up is carried over from the pre-facelifted model, including the adaptive two-axle air suspension, active roll stabilisation and rear-wheel steering.
Unfortunately, that lovely V8 engine will not be offered in Singapore. Instead, the line-up here consists of the four-cylinder 730Li and the six-cylinder 740Li. The rare, over-the-top V12-powered M760Li is available on special order.
There is one further indent-only option: the 745Le plug-in hybrid, which I took for a quick half-hour spin on the B-roads around the hotel in Portugal. An upgrade of the previous 740Le, this car now deploys a beeﬁer battery on the electric side of the powertrain, and two more cylinders (now six) on the petrol side. The latter improves noise and vibration levels by a noticeable margin, while the former increases the all-electric range by about 30 percent to a claimed maximum of 58km. That number is optimistic, though; watching the reserve during testing, I reckon one should expect no more than 30km in real life circumstances.
As a big business bruiser, the 7 Series continues as a solid choice, especially if you see yourself driving the car often. The latest upgrades are only the icing on the cake – unless, of course, you are trying to hide your wealth from your less-savvy friends.
Performance Motors, 315 Alexandra Road. www.bmw.com.sg
01 SO LONG, SHORTY
Starting from this generation, only the long-wheelbase models will be offered.
02 CHIN UP
The largest change, literally, is the outsized grille.
MOTOR: BMW 750Li xDrive
ENGINE: 4.4-litre, V8 twin-turbo petrol
POWER: 530 hp between 5,500 and 6,000 rpm
TORQUE: 750 Nm between 1,800 and 4,600 rpm
0-100KMH: 4.0 sec
TOP SPEED: 250 km/h (governed)
03 TAIL HAPPY
The rear lights are 35mm slimmer than those on the outgoing car.
O4 BACK SEAT DRIVER
Those with OCD can control almost all the car’s features using the tablet.
WARP SPEED AHEAD
New eight-speed transmission brings sportier gear shifts without sacriﬁcing comfort or efﬁciency.
3 FEATURES TO NOTE IN THE BMW 7 SERIES
01 VOICE CONTROL
Augmenting gesture control that debuted in the last generation car, the new model understands natural language, so you can say, “Hey BMW, I’m tired” and the car will adjust the ambient lighting, music and temperature to keep you from falling asleep.
02 DIGITAL DASHBOARD
The main dials are now digitally represented, which allows various possibilities for customisation. What we are not too enamoured with, though, is the rev-counter, which now sweeps anti-clockwise, contrary to convention.
03 WIRELESS CHARGING
Compatible smartphones can be juiced up by simply placing them on the induction mat. And unlike some other manufacturers, which require you to continue to plug your iPhone into the USB cable for Apple Carplay, BMW’s system works wirelessly.
PHOTOGRAPHY DANIEL KRAUS FOR BMW