First-drive review: BMW 7-Series

30 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on First-drive review: BMW 7-Series
BMW 7-Series

Matt Campbell

Make BMW Family 760Li Series F01 MY0312 Year 2012 Badge Description LWB Steptronic Doors 4 Seats 5 Transmission Sports Automatic Engine Configuration Description V90 Gear Num 8 Cylinders 12 Build Country Origin Description GERMANY Car Size Large Overall Green Star Rating 3 Fuel Type Description Petrol – Premium ULP Drive Description Rear Wheel Drive

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It’s not often you start a car launch in the backseat of the previous model.

But BMW was out to make a point about the new 7-Series limousine and show off the new rear air suspension system that’s designed to make life even cushier for those lucky enough to have a chauffeur.

The old model is luxurious enough, sure, with climate controls, electric sun blinds and luscious leather #8211; but BMW promised the ride would be even better for those in the back of the new model, courtesy of the new suspension, more sound insulation and new smoother-riding run-flat tyres.

The pre-update one we were playing passenger in was surprisingly noisy in the back, and I felt plenty of the bumps.

Not so the back bench of the range-topping $391,500 version, the 760Li long-wheelbase model. It packs a whopping 6.0-litre V12 under its bonnet, producing a supercar-rivalling output of 400kW and 750Nm.

With someone else at the wheel, I had a fiddle with the rear-seat iDrive system mounted in the fold-down middle section of the pew, which controls (and can override) the stereo settings, including the volume.

It also allows two of those in the back to choose which digital TV channel they want to watch on the new slimline digital 9.2-inch monitors mounted on the backrests of the front seats. The reception was a bit touch-and-go, but I got my fill of the headlines.

You can surf the web via a connected mobile phone’s data plan, and even tell your driver where to go via a suggestion function on the sat-nav system that will flash up a new route map on the front screen.

The back seats of the top model also offer electric adjustment with memory settings, heating and cooling and even a massage function.

The space is excellent, although taller folk may find it lacking a little headroom as the sunroof cuts in to headspace a tad, particularly in the middle seat. The materials used are first-rate, including a plush velour hood-lining and soft leather on the seats, doors and dash.

The cabin has been quietened with extra sound insulation, and the ride felt more supple and comfortable, across a range of road surfaces, than my airport shuttle.

Stowage is good in the back and the front, but for a car that is 5.2 metres long, the boot space is a disappointing and narrow 500 litres #8211; smaller than some cars a metre shorter, and you can’t fold down the rear seats. But it opens with a wave of your foot under the bumper, making easy work of opening the boot when your hands are full.

In the driver’s seat, the V12 rewards in almost every situation. It has a well of torque that can either caress you forward smoothly or punch you in the back, and the eight-speed automatic makes the most of the power with smooth shifts and clever changes when under a bit more pressure.

It’s not good on fuel #8211; the claim is 13.0L/100km, down 0.4L compared to the pre-update model #8211; but given the cost of the car, a few extra bucks in petrol money isn’t likely to upset potential buyers too much.

And the pay-off for the thirst is a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.6 seconds #8211; brilliant, considering the weight of the car (2145 kilograms).

The 760Li misses out on the fuel-saving electric steering system, but the hydraulic unit does the job, with only some minor qualms about its speed in reacting to sharp cornering situations. It offers good feedback and weight, particularly in Sport mode (which sharpens steering feel, throttle response, suspension firmness and gear shifts).

Other modes include EcoPro, which calibrates everything for better fuel use and can even give you tips on the instrument panel if your car is fitted with the clever digital instrument cluster option (currently $600, will be standard later in 2013).

Comfort mode is, well, comfortable, but the Comfort + mode made the suspension feel wallowy over bumpy sections of road.

At the opposite end of the petrol models is the 740i, priced at $211,500 (add $15,000 for the long wheelbase).

The 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder engine is no more powerful than before (235kW/450Nm), but is 21 per cent more efficient, down from 9.9L/100km to a much more respectable 7.9L/100km.

The eight-speed auto also helps get its power down to the ground more effectively, cutting its 0-100km/h time by 0.3 seconds to 5.7s.

It’s a fantastic engine, and if you can live without the gutsy soundtrack of the pricier V8 and V12 models, it’s a great choice.

The 740i was the standard length #8211; still comfortable enough for two passengers in the back, although it does miss out on some of those comfort items such as massage, electric adjustment and cooling.

It was the first car we tested with the electric steering system, which#160;still offers good weight, direct response and decent driver feedback.

The 750i V8 has a 4.4-litre V8 with 330kW/650Nm and can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds #8211; that’s quicker than an M3, and half-a-second faster than before. It’s also more efficient, down from 11.4L/100km to just 8.6L (a drop of 25 per cent).

It’s a ludicrously good engine with the new eight-speed auto. BMW 5-Series buyers will be happy to hear this updated engine will be added to that model line-up next year, so you could save yourself a good $100,000 over the 750i’s $281,100 price-tag.

As with the other models, it was agile enough through the bends, with a composed ride that soaked up bumps well.

The last car on the launch was the 730d. It’s the base model, priced at $204,600, and is powered by a refined and very efficient 3.0-litre turbo diesel.

There’s just a hint of lag from a standstill, but with an admirable fuel-use figure of 5.6L/100km and a sprint time of just 6.1s, it offers an excellent alternative for those who prefer avoiding petrol stations.

Whether you’re in the back seat or the driver’s chair, the face-lifted 7-Series is an improvement over its precursor.

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