Car reviews - BMW - 7 Series - 750i & 750Li
Generous standard equipment, size-defying dynamics, impressive V8 performance, innovative technology, eerily calm cabin
Room for improvement
Expensive options, no bright paint options
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1 Mar 2016
LIKE the six-cylinder petrol 740i, the new 750i is available with a standard wheelbase for $289,600 before on-road costs (or negotiating the options list), or the $312,700 stretched 750Li with more space and equipment for second-row passengers.
The longer version has historically found a larger audience in markets such as China where there is a more prevalent culture of being driven rather than an owner getting their hands on the wheel, but Australia is a different market.
Here, the short-wheelbase 7 Series is expected to be the main seller with a greater number of owners investing in a 7 as much for the driving experience as for the extensive comfort equipment – precisely why BMW is marketing the new range as the most driver-focused model to date.
The G11 and G12 (short- and long-wheelbase respectively) both benefit from BMW’s Carbon Core construction, which in combination with extensive use of aluminium and high-strength steel, has kept weight to a minimum.
Its body is more than just functional and carries an air of suave BMW without looking too much like any other model. The company says most customers will tick the no-cost option M Sport exterior and we can see why.
The larger air intakes, beefy wheels and gloss-black bits suit the imposing sedan perfectly, although we would have loved to see the G11 in some lurid and unapologetic M-colours that previous 7 Series’ were offered in. Did someone say Imola Red and Estoril Blue?Underneath the lighter shell (up to 130kg, says BMW) is an all-new suspension system with Executive Drive Pro adaptive electro-hydraulic damping, active anti-roll bars and rear-wheel steering.
All those capitals and marketing product terms look very impressive in the brochure but they are meaningless until you get the new 7 Series out on to the sweeping Victorian country roads and open up its forced-induction donk.
After we had made ourselves comfortable in the serene cabin, adjusted the plush heavily leather-upholstered seats, flicked the climate to individually control each seating spot and made a few swift inputs to the information system via the iDrive controller, it was the accomplished V8 engine that drew attention.
For a large luxury sedan weighted down with all the cowhide, electronics, electric motors and heavy-duty mechanicals, high performance might not strike you as a high priority, but the 750i is surprisingly rapid.
BMW says it can get to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds, which is smack in the middle of sportscar territory and even supercars of a decade ago. Acceleration is strong and sustained from low down in the torque range but persists all the way to the red line for thrilling pace every time the loud pedal is pressed.
Speaking of which, the 750i does a good job of straddling the line between a pleasant soundtrack and smooth relaxing motoring. With hard acceleration and the Driving Experience Control set to Sport, the exhaust note was noticeable with a satisfying splutter on gear changes. In all other modes the engine was barely perceptible. Maybe just a comforting purr.
The 7 Series cabin is an eerily quiet place to spend time, and on a smooth surface we recorded a background noise level of just over 70dB. Wind noise was negligible and even sizeable imperfections were absorbed admirably by the Dynamic Damper Control system, which can see approaching lumps and adjust the suspension before hitting the rough patch.
No mean feat considering the 20-inch alloy wheels.
A combination of effortless pace and an insulated cabin feel has the potential to allow a driver to arrive at a corner too fast, but that is not a problem for the 7 Series. With careful chassis tuning, the lightweight construction and rear-wheel drive, handling and road-holding is surprisingly good for a large luxury car.
Steering feel is generally communicative except for a strange heaviness about dead-ahead when in Sport mode, that suddenly lightened when turned.
The accomplished chassis resisted roll with stubbornness but recovered well from large lumps both mid-corner and on the straights. Even in Sport mode with the dampers set to their most aggressive and the silky eight-speed automatic shifting most urgently, the 7 Series’ firmest mode is still more comfortable than many rivals’ most relaxing mode.
One heavy application of the brakes revealed the 7 Series can also haul-up as easily as it accelerates, with the large four-piston callipers biting confidently on the rotors with composure.
There are a number of competitors that are encroaching on BMW’s mantra of ‘the ultimate driving machine’ in other segments, but it seems in the highest end of luxury transport, the Munich car-maker still has the edge.
The 750i is certainly fun to drive, but to spend an entire journey at the wheel or red line would not do the model justice because its comfort features are just as impressive and enjoyable.
It would take many weeks to become fully accustomed to all the standard equipment, which is why BMW says it effectively hands over a 7 Series three times. With so much to learn and enjoy, the 750i needs several sessions to get acclimatised.
Most premium brands are now offering a bird’s eye manoeuvring view for parking using a camera on each side of the vehicle and clever algorithms to change the perspective of the various images and piece them together into one.
The 7 Series however, takes this technology to a different level, allowing occupants to manipulate the image in three dimensions. While moving at low speed, the driver can move the simulated camera angle to get a close up-view of any part of the car and the effect is almost unbelievable. We found ourselves almost looking for the invisible camera tripod outside the car.
Almost as impressive as the imaginary camera operator is the way the image is manipulated using BMW’s gesture control. A simple pinch motion in front of the screen is detected by another camera — this time inside the cabin — and sensors, which allows the image to be rotated and manipulated.
The same tech can be used to mute the sound system, answer or reject calls and control the volume. It’s very clever and no gimmick.
Another method of navigating the extensive systems is by using the latest version of BMW’s voice control. On several occasions we tried our luck by asking the system a naturally spoken but obscure question as one might with another passenger and not once did the system fail to understand the instructions.
BMW has done a sterling job with cabin design and the 7 Series interior is both a demonstration of restraint and also exuberance. We loved the waxy black leather upholstery throughout our test car, fine finish and top quality materials as well as ample head, leg and shoulder-room in all seats.
Standard heated arm-rests, seats and steering wheel were welcome on a chilly start to the day and a versatile massage function is surprisingly effective for a sore back. The same seat-integrated actuator system is also used for the Vitality Program.
Rear-seat passengers of Li variants can access the feature through the 10-inch monitors or the smaller removable tablet mounted between the seats. The program guides participants through an exercise regime to maintain blood-flow on long drives. Trying to reach the maximum score for each elements was genuinely challenging and good fun. Dare we say a little hard work?Our day with the 7 Series flagship concluded with a chauffeur-driven night ride through the country to demonstrate some features that are impossible to appreciate in the day.
Laserlight headlights use a clever combination of ultra-high-intensity LEDs in the main beam lights to pick out the road ahead with clean white light and a range of 600 meters, but when another car approaches or is approached from behind, individual diodes adapt to prevent dazzling the other road user.
But visible frequencies can only be so useful at night, so the 750i has a standard infrared camera for spotting warm objects long before the human eye can detect them.
Ghostly objects appear out of the dark on the central screen and, if a hazard such as an animal or pedestrian in close proximity is detected, the driver is given a warning via the head-up display and a beam of light picks out the potential danger.
Unfortunately we didn’t encounter any wildlife threatening enough for the system to activate but the adaptive headlights are hugely effective by themselves and it would be good to have the night vision as a safety back up.
The lack of drama allowed us to sit back, relax and enjoy the magic carpet ride in ambient-lit comfort, with a choice of lighting colour themes to pinstripe the interior and even a selection of air fragrances. Could the 7 Series get any more pleasant?The new 750i and longer 750Li are not cheap cars in price terms or the way they are put together, but outstanding quality, a rewarding drive, extensive comfort features, safety and opulent luxury abound from the moment you step aboard.
Where some competitors may focus on one element of ownership experience for a large premium sedan, with the BMW the combination of cruising comfort, sharp styling and impressive driving dynamics, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
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