Car reviews - BMW - 7 Series - M760Li xDrive
Awesome power, silky engine, mind-boggling occupant features
Room for improvement
Subtle styling belies performance and price, rarified end of price market has lots of rivals
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24 Jul 2017
By NEIL DOWLING
THERE’S a lot about the air in the latest BMW flagship, the M760Li xDrive. In the airiness of the extensive 7 Series-based cabin, the breath-taking list of convenience and comfort features, the breathlessness of its powertrain and the way it slices through the scenery.
Even the BMW history has some important moments held in the air.
Based on the latest 7 Series but sharing much of the drivetrain with the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Wraith, the M760Li is the German brand’s Jekyll and Hyde model – a machine that will whisk occupants through cities without even a murmur of ambient chaos entering the cocoon, and yet on an open freeway, through a winding mountain pass or an unlimited section of an autobahn, it will bite the bitumen, roar its exhaust and reward the driver with its V12 performance.
Nothing from the BMW production line costs as much and not much from other manufacturers can catch it in a straight line. It is faster than a Porsche GT3 manual to 100km/h, clearing the sprint in 3.7 seconds compared with the GT3’s 3.9 seconds.
It seats four, rubbing against the similarly-priced – and equally as brisk – Porsche Panamera Turbo and Bentley Flying Spur V8 but may be hard to justify against Audi’s S8 Plus that offers similar performance for a saving of about $100,000.
But it’s more than wheels with an engine. The M letter before the numerals states it’s a serious road weapon and the 760 – well, it’s the biggest number BMW currently has on its books. The L is for the long wheelbase and the “i” is a carry over of the injection days but more refers to the sophistication of its onboard electronics.
It is BMW’s only V12 on the market and its only passenger sedan offered with all-wheel drive in Australia. Less impressive but similarly telling, it is the only BMW in Australia with a standard smoker’s kit. In contemporary language, ashtrays and cigarette lighters.
But it has a problem – its identity. Is this a sports-sedan that one buys because it’s such a rewarding car to drive, or is this one that you hand over the keys to someone you trust while you take up position in the rear?
Price and equipment
THIS is the star atop BMW’s Christmas tree, the object that is out of the reach of nearly all car buyers and yet tantalising because of its exclusivity and appointments.
The price is $425,000 plus on-road costs, living in the rarified air with brands including Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Porsche and Tesla.
Remarkably, the M760Li xDrive has few options – at least in comparison with lesser-priced rivals.
However, you may feel that the metal paint – it’s made of metal flakes that have to be lined up precisely on application otherwise the silver-foil effect is lost – will set you back about $22,000. There is a “sky lounge” headliner with a myriad of tiny LED lights to make it appear like stars, though standard gear is subtle cabin lights that bathe the interior in whatever colour the driver dials up.
There is also the Active Comfort Ride option that includes a camera-based predictive suspension system that screens the road ahead and ensures the suspension is prepared for any imperfections.
It will also self-park, using a small screen on the key fob for entering and exiting tight car bays. It is the penultimate step to the valet system that will drop off and pick up its owner and in the meantime, find a parking bay and settle itself in. The owner will electronically call for it when needed. For legislative reasons, valet remains pending.
The M760Li is based on the long-wheelbase 7 Series (there will be no short wheelbase M760 model) and picks up the carbon-fibre “core” technology used to surround the passenger cell, saving weight and improving structural strength and body rigidity.
It is definitely not the next rung up in the M division’s range, rather it’s a 750 with the lot. It compares with the BMW 750Li at $319,000 plus costs, delivering the $106,000 premium in the form of the more powerful drivetrain and a significant convenience upgrade.
For those onlookers who can’t judge the price package, there’s always the V12 badge on the C-pillars, the gruff sound of the four rectangular exhaust pipes and the aggressive stance of the 5.2 metre-plus saloon on its 20-inch wheels.
Want one? You have to pre-order it. BMW will bring them in only on demand, assuring the buyer of a substantial degree of exclusivity.
The largest BMW sedan targets the wealthy and, likely, the owner who wants to be driven. So the car revolves around the occupants and particularly, those two – or one – in the back seat.
It will accommodate passengers of Gough Whitlam status (size and importance) in the rear where leg and headroom are of prime importance. There’s fold-down foot rests, electrically-operated, for that purpose.
But it’s not just the spaciousness. The premium Merino leather – used not only for the upholstery facings but also for the hidden spaces – is soft to the point of appearing too delicate for the task.
The 10.25-inch glass centre screen and 12.3-inch panel ahead of the driver works with the head-up display to relay operational information but the 7.0-inch Samsung removable tablet in the armrest of the rear seats’ centre console controls the movement of all seats – yes, even the driver’s – and the seat cooling, heating and massage the entertainment and communications system and the satellite navigation to give directions to the driver.
The exhaustive standard equipment list also includes a Bowers and Wilkins 19-speaker audio, an infotainment centre with a television and two 10-inch rear-mounted video screens, a fridge between the rear seats for two bottles of wine, blinds on the rear window and two side windows, a footstool and work desk in the rear, 360-degree cameras, a heated steering wheel and the premium leather upholstery and trim with wood and alloy inlays.
The rear seats can be reclined and extended to almost flat position, perfect for a nap.
Behind the steering wheel, the car replicates all the features of the latest 7 Series saloon though there’s a lot of standard inclusions.
Many functions of the infotainment system can is controlled by gestures – spinning finger in a clockwise direction to turn up the volume, reversed to reduce the volume, swipe to ignore an incoming phone call and a pointed finger to accept, and so on. Through a smartphone and BMW ConnectedDrive, some functions can be accessed remotely, including the 360-degree cameras to check security.
The night vision is one feature that boosts safety while making life a lot easier for the driver. That is helped by adaptive laser headlights that in 2015 put BMW on the map and in 2016 was nominated with co-developer Osram for the German Future Prize.
The car’s role as a carriage for important people includes space for luggage, though the built-in fridge does tend to take a small bite out of the available 515 litres. In its favour, the boot lid is electric and has a hands-free mode.
Engine and transmission
BMW’s only car that uses its own V12 engine is this one. It shares the 6.6-litre twelve-pot with the two Rolls-Royce models, though in each application there is a different level of tune to suit the transmission and final purpose.
The Ghost has 420kW at 5250rpm and 780Nm of torque at 1500rpm, while the quicker Wraith ups that to 465kW at 5600rpm and 800Nm of torque at 1500-5500rpm.
The BMW, with the same 6.6-litres, two turbochargers and 10:1 compression ratio, pumps 448Nm at 6500rpm and torque of 800Nm at 1550-5000rpm.
In acceleration, the M760Li is the fastest of its cousins. It will clear the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.7 seconds despite its 2121kg tare weight.
Even the Wraith, with more power, can’t match that and sprints in a more leisurely 4.6 seconds, held back primarily by its predetermined gearing and an extra 184kg of body weight.
The engine mates to an upgraded ZF eight-speed automatic, with heavy-duty internals to cope with the 800Nm of torque. The power line then drives through BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system with on-demand torque distribution.
Despite its 2.12-tonne dry weight, the saloon is remarkably adept, almost nimble. The size of the body takes some getting used to, particularly when parking or crawling through heavy traffic, but remarkably starts to shrink around the driver after a few kilometres on the road.
Drive select modes include an Eco Pro level (traffic crawls and country touring), Comfort (normal), Adaptive (allowing individual tuning of suspension and engine) and Sport. The latter includes launch control – seriously, in a car of this status – which is responsible for the 3.7 second acceleration figure.
It’s also the noisy setting.
Driven sedately in its Comfort mode, the car is almost silent. There is a muted hum under acceleration but the cabin is insulated from any vibration and ambient noise. For cruising the highway, punting through a city or taking on suburbia, it is the default setting.
The Sport mode awakens the car and validates the M label. There is prolonged gear up-changes, a meaty burble from the exhaust at idle rising to a roar through to the 7000rpm red line – itself a glorious ride culminating in a V12 at full pitch.
But always there is a seamless flow of stress-free power from the engine. It literally cascades from the front of the car through to the wheels and it is so effective that for most of the ride, the passengers would barely be aware of just how fast this car gathers speed.
BMW claim an average of 12.6 litres per 100 kilometres from this car, but don’t bet on it. A combination of freeways, a country run, city and suburban conditions left us with 20.2 L/100km average. The range is 620km at the claimed fuel average, draining from a rather small 78-litre tank. Porsche’s Panamera and the Bentley Flying Spur each have a 90-litre tank.
Ride and handling
The biggest Beemer sits on a rather gregarious 3210mm wheelbase, giving up most to the people in the back though giving it a long footprint.
Match that to the car’s 1902mm width and subsequent fat track and you have a car that really wants to dominate the road between the white lines.
BMW’s drive-select Sport mode extracts the best from the drivetrain but also tightens the suspension, engages the adaptive ride that bolts the car to the bitumen and leans into the corner like a speedboat tugging a champion skier.
At low speeds the steering is light, almost free of communication. But it tightens beautifully, balancing the car’s poise through bends and complementing the awesome grip of the broad tyres (275mm wide at the rear) while retaining a supple ride. That’s the match-point advantage of adaptive electronic air suspension.
Plug in Sport and there’s meat behind the heated steering wheel and a sense – true or not – that you’re feeling the road surface through the fingertips.
Alas, those days are gone as new cars embrace electric-assist steering but at least you can dream.
Technically, the M760Li copies the regular 7 Series siblings with a double wishbone (A-arm) front end and a multi-link rear, all resting on air springs that are electronically adjustable. The steering is electric-assist that, like the suspension, is subject to being manipulated through the drive-select options.
Safety and servicing
The BMW flagship gets all the goodies from the manufacturer’s top shelf, starting with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), then to lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, surround cameras, head-up display, six airbags, night vision that picks up pedestrians and animals, and even the remote parking system.
Helping out are the intense laser headlights with the adaptive beam that masks the car ahead (approaching or following) to give a clear view of the surrounding countryside.
The wheels are run flats, so there’s no spare wheel or aerosol repair kit.
BMW will give owners three years of free servicing to go with the three-year unlimited distance warranty and three years of roadside assistance.
Service intervals are conditional to the car’s use and the self-diagnostics that pick up oil degradation.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the car will have a three year resale value at 42 per cent of its purchase price.
It is hard to dislike this supremely smooth and unnervingly rapid machine that is equally as tempting to an enthusiastic driver as it is to a rear-seat passenger.
It comes up almost nose to nose with the Mercedes-Benz S600 yet they are different animals. Likewise, the rival Porsche Panamera suits a driver and the Bentley suits someone who prefers to be chauffeured.
It’s the complete package of the elegance and dynamic performance of the BMW that makes it so alluring.
Mercedes-Benz S600 LWB from $419,715 plus on-road costs
Beautiful limousine that grabs attention for its presence and the exclusivity of the V12 engine.
The S600 is only available as a long wheelbase – 45mm shorter than the BMW – but shares similar convenience, performance, safety and comfort features. The 6.0-litre bi-turbo V12 pumps 390kW/830Nm for a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds and a claimed fuel average of 11.3 L/100km. Standard gear includes night vision, two rear screens, Nappa leather interior, massage seats and active ride suspension. Resale is 48 per cent after three years.
Porsche Panamera Turbo from $384,800 plus on-road costs
An incredibly agile and fast interstate express car for four occupants. Now in its vastly superior second generation, the top-shelf Turbo all-wheel drive gets a 404kW/770Nm bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that sprints in only 3.8 seconds and claims 9.4 L/100km.
Standard equipment includes 14-speaker audio, leather upholstery, 10 airbags, composite ceramic brakes and 20-inch wheels. Glass’s Guide estimates resale after three years at 57 per cent of the purchase price, the highest here.
Bentley Flying Spur from $378,197 plus on-road costs
Limousine from the UK runs Volkswagen Group (Audi) drivetrains tweaked for its chauffeur-drive status. The 388kW/680Nm 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 (there is a W12 engine option) claims 10.9 L/100km and acceleration to 100km/h of 4.9 seconds. Its feature list is modest in comparison to the Germans but the sedan version of the Continental GT gets full leather with woodgrain trim, nine airbags, 20-inch wheels and satellite navigation. Glass’s Guide does not have an estimated resale value.
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