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Beijing show: BMW previews next 7 Series

Smell of success: An opportunity to travel in the next-generation 7 Series is not to be sniffed at, judging by the wide nostrils of BMW's Vision Future Luxury concept.

Vision Future Luxury concept points to upcoming BMW flagships


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21 Apr 2014

PLUTOCRATS planning for when their Mercedes-Benz S-Class becomes old hat should turn their attention toward the Beijing motor show, where BMW has previewed its next 7 Series.

Contrary to speculation that the Vision Future Luxury concept would point to a mooted new 9 Series flagship, overseas reports confirm it is a sneak peek at a replacement for the ageing 7 Series limousine, which will be replaced late next year.

Taking obvious styling cues from the one-off Pininfarina-penned Gran Lusso coupe concept unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este car show in Italy 11 months ago, the Vision Future Luxury contrasts bold, bluff surfaces with swooping curves and elegantly slim head- and tail-lights.

Striking similarities include the oversized kidney grille flanked by comparatively tiny headlights, the two-tone alloy wheel design, the fastback-like rake of the rear windscreen and large twin exhaust outlets integrated with the rear bumper.

But where the Vision Future Luxury goes further is the series of air ducts along its sides.

Whereas the Gran Lusso featured vents behind the front wheels like a Jaguar XFR-S or VF Commodore, the Vision Future Luxury bathes these in chrome, which extends like an underscore along a recess along the sills before disappearing into air intakes on the rear doors.

The conclusion of these air channels emerge to book-end the car's rear, where unlike the Gran Lusso, complex surfaces clash in a way not seen on a BMW since design boss Chris Bangle departed.

While luxury flagships are designed to make a statement on the outside, it is the inside where each manufacturer's definition of luxury is explored, and BMW has clearly taken some inspiration from its Rolls-Royce subsidiary while remaining true to its German heritage.

Like a Rolls-Royce, entry for those who wish to be driven is via rear-hinged 'suicide' doors but crucially, the B-pillar is integrated with the front seat supports and extends across the cabin's width, housing twin rear-seat entertainment screens.

This is made possible by carbon-fibre construction as used on the eco-friendly i3 and i8 models, which enables BMW to integrate the seat frames into the load-bearing structure, along with the sills and centre console.

Traditional luxury cues like wood, metal and leather are combined with forward-looking technologies to achieve what BMW design head Karim Habib describes as “our philosophy of modern luxury”.

While luxury limousines are usually associated with heaviness, BMW has applied “subtractive modelling” to create a look in which recesses appear to reveal the layers of wood and metal beneath the leather upholstery.

In the case of the full-length centre console, this culminates in hollowed-out storage areas where the layers of leather, wood and metal are pared back to reveal carbon-fibre innards.

A minimalist look for the dashboard is achieved by hidden air vents and a swathe of large multi-function digital displays – including head-up display – culminating in the instrument panel, controlled via the next, touch-sensitive, iteration of BMW's i-Drive system, touch-screens and steering wheel buttons.

Rear passengers get a detachable tablet that can communicate with the front displays and access BMW's ConnectedDrive services to download speed, journey time, concierge options and of course Internet video, music streaming and gaming.

Beating Audi at its own game of innovative lighting are LaserLight headlights, which BMW claims are up to 10 times more intense than LED systems and set new standards in terms of brightness and range while using even less energy – making them a “prime candidate for use in future vehicles”.

Organic LEDs enable BMW to sculpt the shape and lighting pattern of the tail-lights and also improve interior lighting.

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