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Future models - BMW - 7 Series - 735iL

I spy seventh wonder

New face: The styling of the upcoming fourth generation 7 Series shows the way for future BMW models.

BMW introduces its innovative iDrive vehicle control concept with the new 7 Series

22 Jun 2001

THIS is one of the first official pictures of BMW's next generation 7 Series flagship, showing the fresh face that will be a feature of upcoming models from the German car-maker.

The all-new 7 Series - designated E65 - will be launched in Europe in November this year before going on sale in Australia next March.

We may get our first glimpse of the car in the metal at October's Sydney motor show, a month after its international debut in Frankfurt.

The fourth generation of the large sedan is the platform for the introduction of BMW's new iDrive concept, which relocates the car's important controls closer to the driver.

iDrive abandons the conventional locations of the gear lever and ignition key. These functions have been incorporated in and around the steering wheel.

Other frequently used controls are located in the centre of the instrument panel, while lesser used functions are found on the centre console.

The new styling takes a number of cues from the recent Z9 concept car - particularly the design of the headlights, raised boot lid and tail-lights - while the overall profile is more streamlined than its predecessor with a pronounced sweep to the roofline.

Only two short wheelbase models will be available initially - the 735i and 745i - while the long wheelbase versions should follow a few months after their European launch in the second quarter of 2002.

"The short wheelbase (version) of 735i and 745i is almost as long as the current long wheelbase, so we don't foresee any (sales) problems in not being able to offer the long wheelbase versions straight away," BMW Australia corporate communications general manager John Kananghinis said.

Pricing is not yet available for the new models but BMW hopes to keep it lineball with the current range, which means around $165,000 for the 735i and just under $200,000 for the 745i.

"Our objective is to keep it as close to the outgoing prices as possible, although there is a host of new features and equipment on the car and the model positioning with the new engines is a little bit of a different," Mr Kananghinis said.

A new generation of V8 engines has been developed for the 7 Series with more power and improved fuel efficiency.

The 3.6-litre powerplant in the 735i produces 200kW and 360Nm of torque, while the 4.4-litre unit in the 745i develops 245kW of power and 450Nm of torque, increases of 35kW and 10Nm on the existing engine.

The increased outputs are courtesy of revised variable valve timing (Bi-Vanos), variable valve stroke (Valvetronic) and a new variable intake tube length system. BMW claims fuel consumption has also been reduced by 14 per cent.

And as is now the trend with the nomenclatures on BMW's models, the numbers no longer necessarily indicate the size of the engine under the bonnet.

The world's first production six-speed automatic transmission is another feature of the new 7 Series, controlled with "shift-by-wire" technology using a selector at the steering wheel and Steptronic buttons housed in the steering wheel rim.

Other new technical developments include a full aluminium suspension with continuously variable electronic damper control and pneumatic suspension with self levelling for the rear axle. The ITS head airbag system has been revised and there are new active headrests for the front seats.

The 7 Series was once the buyer's choice of luxury flagship models from Europe's car-makers, but sales have slowed in recent years, largely due to the arrival of Mercedes-Benz's current S-class line-up in April, 1999.

The release of the new 7 Series will be BMW's chance to tackle the top-selling S-class head on and possibly reclaim the title of the "world's best car".

"Anytime you've got a new product in the marketplace you expect to have a significant uplift in interest and in sales and we expect that the substance of the car will be very attractive once people get to appreciate the new looks," Mr Kananghinis said.

In the seven years since the current E38 7 Series was released, the technology it introduced - such as the multi-function steering wheel, head airbags and navigation system - has progressively filtered down through the BMW range and is now found in the 3 Series Compact.

A similar course of progression can be expected with the innovations offered in the new 7 Series.

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