BMW’s latest flagship is finally polished enough to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
ONE of the standout cars for me last year is the Mercedes- Benz S-Class. As far as self-drive limousines go, its exceptional opulence is an eye-opener for someone more used to economy-class motoring. I could see why it is the default choice for business leaders in Singapore. Aiming to knock the S-Class off its prestigious perch is BMW’s new 7 Series flagship. Excellent dynamics aside, the outgoing model has always lacked the grandeur and immense comfort of the S-Class. But this sixth-generation model promises to change all that.
Top-of-the-line cars like these let manufacturers show off their most advanced technological wares, and the 7 Series is no diff erent. Using expertise from the firm’s i3 and i8 electric cars, the saloon is the world’s first series-production car to utilise carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) in its body construction. But unlike the i vehicles, the Carbon Core structure of the 7 Series has been combined with steel and aluminum to create the perfect balance of lightness, rigidity and sound insulation. Incidentally, carbon fibre is a poor insulator of sound, according to BMW, which is why the car’s frame isn’t made entirely of CFRP.
The newcomer is a considerable 130kg lighter than its predecessor – 40kg of which is from the structure alone. The rest of the weight saved comes from “OCD” measures such as lighter brakes, lighter wheels and lighter suspension, reducing unsprung mass by up to 15 percent.
Another world’s first is Remote Control Parking. Unlike regular park assist systems, the 7 Series can be controlled via an optional display key (that looks like a mini smartphone), allowing you to manoeuvre the massive saloon into a carpark lot without being behind the wheel. Whether this clever new gadget will be approved by the local authorities remains to be seen. If it isn’t, you can still use the display key to check on vehicle info like oil levels and range, and even pre-cool the cabin before you set off .
Design-wise, the 7 Series is more evolutionary than revolutionary. The car looks less boxy now from the side, thanks to a slightly more sloping bonnet and a boot line that’s more level with the shoulder lines. The front is more purposeful as a result of larger kidney grilles and sharper headlamps, which now extend from the grilles themselves. The rear lights have been tweaked, too.
The 4.4-litre V8-powered 7 pampers like a private jet, yet performs like a big fighter jet.
From certain angles (especially from the front three-quarter), the 7 Series resembles a stretched 3 Series. That’s good if you find the 3 Series attractive, but that’s not good if you’re a senior executive who doesn’t like your first-class Bimmer to be compared with the “minus-four” saloon meant for junior execs.
Nonetheless, this car is supposed to pamper and, like (almost) all BMWs, thrill its occupants. All variants have air suspension, with automatic self-levelling as standard (the first BMW to off er allround air suspension). Alongside the familiar Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport drive modes is a new Adaptive mode, which adjusts throttle, steering and suspension responses to match your driving style, saving you the hassle of switching between Sport and Comfort in varied terrain.
This car is supposed to pamper and, like (almost) all bmws, thrill its occupants.
Alongside the familiar Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport drive modes is a new Adaptive mode, which adjusts throttle, steering and suspension responses to match your driving style, saving you the hassle of switching between Sport and Comfort in varied terrain. Opt for Executive Drive Pro and the car will scan the tarmac ahead and utilise your GPS coordinates to prep the suspension accordingly.
If this sounds like the Magic Body Control system of the S-Class, that’s because the concept is similar. The diff erence is, unlike Mercedes’ system and Airmatic suspension, which are mutually exclusive, you can opt for Executive Drive Pro together with the standard air suspension.
The layout would be familiar to Bimmer drivers, but the sky-high quality, advanced amenities and ultrasophisticated technology wouldn’t be.
All this translates to opulent levels of comfort on the road. The 7 Series off ers a wonderfully cushioned ride that’s as good as, if not better than, the S-Class – evident when the Bimmer made mincemeat of the unforgiving cobbled roads in Porto’s city centre. The sheer comfort, however, does not come at the expense of handling. The 730d variant handles like a BMW should, displaying an agility and composure its biggest rivals (literally and competitively) can only dream about.
The 730d’s all-new 265bhp turbo-diesel engine is both muscular and refined, smoothly pulling past 200km/h on the motorway without visible strain. Pair that with the faultless 8-speed Steptronic transmission and the car feels much quicker than its power figure suggests. It sounds surprisingly sporty, too, emitting a soundtrack that’s characteristic of BMW’s creamy inline-6 petrol engines. It only gives its oil-burning addiction away when you’re outside the car – the diesel chatter is intolerably conspicuous at idle. If you consider yourself upper-crust, the long-wheelbase all-wheel-drive 750Li xDrive is the 7 to have. Though slightly less fluid around road bends, the car cocoons passengers with unmatched serenity.
For businessmen who only travel in business class or first, the classy new 7 is German heaven.
Wind and road noise is almost absent at speeds up to 160km/h – unless you stomp on the accelerator and awaken the stonking 450bhp V8 powerplant, which propels you to 100km/h from a standstill in an incredible 4.5 seconds (0.3 of a second faster than its predecessor, and merely 0.4 of a second slower than the M3 Sedan). The best thing is, the extra performance doesn’t put a dent on effi ciency. The 750Li is more economical (12km per litre versus 11.6km) and cleaner (192g/km versus 199g/km) than before. If you’re a thrifty towkay who’s really looking to stretch his dollar, the fuel-sipping diesel figures are even more impressive: 22.2km per litre and 119g/km of CO2.
Like all the other dashboard controls, the iDrive cluster looks expensive and works beautifully.
Inside the cabin, the layout is clearly modern BMW. The main diff erence is that the quality and technology in here are unlike in any other model before. The iDrive system has gained a touch display, meaning you can select functions on the screen directly, or pinch and pull, to enlarge map views instead of manipulating the iDrive knob. The centre console switches are either furnished in aluminium or have gone touchscreen as well, while the head-up display is 75 percent larger than before.
Also new is BMW’s gimmicky gesture control. Although this feature has already been seen in cars like the new Toyota Camry, BMW’s version actually works. Twirl a finger clockwise/anticlockwise in front of the iDrive screen to adjust music volume, point/swipe away to accept/reject calls, or program a specific gesture to activate your favourite function. But sorry, you cannot program your non-friendly finger to activate the horn and high beam if another motorist cuts in front of you (I took the liberty to check).
While gestures for phone/audio functions are more an exercise in technological ability than practicality (there are buttons on the wheel for these), surround view is where it gets freakishly high-tech. Select it and the screen shows a fully rendered 3-D image of the car, which you rotate using a circling motion, enabling you to look around the vehicle when in tight situations. No doubt beneficial for a limo of this size. Towkays who enjoy basking in their success and leaving the driving to a hired hand can opt for the Executive Lounge configuration.
With a press of a button, or with the 7-inch in-car tablet that controls everything bar the chauff eur’s choice of cologne, you can configure any seat (including the one in front) until you’re happily sprawled like a snoozing tycoon. Helping to set the perfect mood are 15,000 interior lights, including ambient lighting from the B-pillars and a “starry night” impression from the panoramic sunroof, the latter inspired by Rolls- Royce’s Starlight headliner
Bmw’s flagship has finally bridged the gap to the mercedes s-class in terms of towkayness.
It’s a close call, but there will be towkays who think the rival S-Class’ extravagant cabin is an even more special place to relax in. However, there’s no doubt the interior of the 7 Series is right up there in terms of luxury, indulgence and quality. It all comes down to personal preference when it comes to colour theme and interior design. Equipment-wise, the 7 Series has all the bells and whistles you’d expect of a flagship – LED laser headlights, crossing traffi c warning, steering and lane control assistant, active side collision protection, rear collision prevention, adaptive cruise control and traffi c jam assist. The last “bell/whistle” facilitates semi-automated driving at low speeds.
Occupants can lounge like royalty in their massage seats, served by a multitude of electronic “aides” and surrounded by a regal, perfumed ambience.
Three models are available in Singapore from this month (November): the diesel 730d, the petrol 740i and the rangetopping 750i. Every variant can be specified with the long wheelbase, but only the 750i gets xDrive (BMW’s four-wheeldrive system) as standard. Slated to arrive later is the 740e with eDrive plug-in hybrid technology, perfect for technopreneurs with an eco conscience.
After years of playing second fiddle in the tycoon saloon stakes, BMW’s flagship has finally bridged the gap to the Mercedes S-Class in terms of stateliness, luxuriousness and towkayness. Furthermore, the newgeneration 7 Series boasts an athleticism that is characteristically BMW, should the big boss need to rush for that boardroom meeting. Traditional towkays who swear by their S-Classes probably still won’t switch to the latest 7 Series, but the BMW will at least put their allegiance under pressure like never before.