Car reviews - BMW - 7 Series - range
Performance, styling, dynamics, packaging
Room for improvement
Price, ride still too firm for some
8 Jun 2005
BMW knows good driving and the earlier E65 7 Series was no exception.
No matter what you thought of the styling inside and out or the iDrive interface, from behind the wheel this was king of the luxury cars.
Superb V8 and V12 engines married to ZF’s slick new six-speed automatic transmission, a balanced chassis for outstanding body control and a very focused driving environment saw to that.
And if you were that way inclined, it was probably enough to make you forget about the early electrical glitches with the many and sophisticated computer controlled systems in the cabin minor but irritating steering rack rattle and the occasional firm ride.
Of course BMW’s claims were right all along – time has been kind to the Chris Bangle-led looks – and the E65 is now a familiar and even welcome sight on our roads… hire cars and all.
From the 7 Series’ outset back in the middle of 2001 it was clear the barely two-and-a-half-year-old Mercedes S-class, not-yet year-old Lexus LS430, and upcoming Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ suddenly seemed very 20th Century in style.
So today’s 7 Series facelift is just that – a smoothing of the nose, a tightening of the side sill’s curves, a bit of extra glitter about those enhanced tail-lights.
The original’s design essence remains – down to the distinctive bustle- booted tail.
The Germans were also right about iDrive – familiarity soon vindicated its initial complication that seemingly daunted so many.
Now BMW has added the convenience of separate audio control buttons (addressing what was arguably its most annoying aspect), more colour and even some 3D imagery for greater clarity and communication.
Fresher trim and materials also enhance the 2005 Seven, securing a feeling of luxury and occasion wrapped in a high degree of techno ability.
Take the ConnectedDrive function, with its subscription-service telematics and (low-level) Internet information display.
The former is a boon in that all it takes is a press of a button above the rear -vision mirror to connect you to a live operator ready to send you info on where to go and how, either verbally, as a text message or straight into the satellite navigation system.
It doesn’t take too long, beats getting lost in the dark with one hand inside a road directory, and you can always call back the friendly and helpful operator. Easy.
Meanwhile the latter Online function lets you tap into news/weather and a host of other basic but essential info you need when in your car. Like how your Poseidon shares are holding up.
You can log in before your trip to a special website and send yourself data, or read and briefly reply to messages from your home or work desktop – and then transport these functions and your stored info to the next so-equipped Bimmer. Handy.
But here’s the rub. How many morons will read emails and stockmarket results when on the move?
BMW says it strongly warns against such practices, advising passengers not to operate the system on the move. A voice readout system is on the horizon but for now the potential for distraction is a very real danger. And the temptation for the driver is very real.
All this is secondary though. As are the fabulously comfy seats, crystal-clear instruments, beautifully weighted controls and wonderfully hushed environment that well and truly isolates you from the outside world.
Because the Seven is more than ever the driver’s choice.
The new 225kW 4.0-litre 740iL as sampled boasts a creamy, revvy little V8 that hustles the BMW along as smoothly and as swiftly as you’d ever want.
That ZF auto trannie must take some credit for just how effortlessly and responsively power is transmitted to the rear wheels.
Nicely measured steering telegraphs everything you want to know about where the wheels are and what they’re up to.
There’s only a hint of rack rattle on rougher roads while the ride is only ‘heard’ rather than felt in the way the suspension pretty much smothers the path ahead.
But really, the 270kW 750i’s 100Nm extra torque (390 Vs 290) over its smaller V8 sibling makes all the difference.
It stirs the Seven into a long-striding grand tourer with no peer as far as overall dynamic packaging is concerned – so strong and accessible is its performance.
Over tight mountain road passes the gargantuan mobile lifted her skirt and stuck to the curves like a much smaller sedan, powering out of corners with impressive poise and body control.
Luxury car buyers seeking sportiness as much as salubriousness and spaciousness take heed: you really don’t have anywhere higher to go at the moment than here.
Buying a new-generation model often means you’re participating as an unpaid Final Development Phase tester in that vehicle’s gestation period.
And that’s probably true in the case of the earlier E65 7 Series.
The 2005 Series II is the car the 2001 original should have been all along, and with more besides.
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