New models - BMW - 7 Series
First drive: BMW's second Seven's away
True to BMW form, the facelifted 7 Series pleases drivers, not armchair critics
10 Jun 2005
A DEFIANT BMW has massaged, but not significantly altered, the appearance of its controversial E65/E66 7 Series for its mid-cycle facelift.
Instead, a pair of powerful new V8 engines, better handling, improved ergonomics and higher levels of interactivity aim to keep the big BMW competitive in an increasingly crowded luxury car segment.
There are also more standard features – chiefly ConnectedDrive, a fully integrated telematics service that brings the benefits of the Internet inside the car for the first time in Australia.
BMW says it all adds up to greater value-for-money despite a $6000 price hike for the base model.
On sale now in both regular and long-wheelbase (Li) guises, the 7 Series’ revisions adhere closely to BMW’s long-time driver-focus philosophy.
Visually the nose has been reshaped with a sleeker bonnet incorporating a wider ‘kidney’ grille and flanked by larger and more integrated headlights behind a peanut-shaped housing.
The latter now features bi-xenon for low as well as high beam.
And while the tail-lights are now twice the size and glow brighter the harder the driver brakes, the much talked-about (and since copied) boot retains its bustle-back profile despite a redesign.
Other body changes include new bumpers, side sills, exterior trim and rear valance.
At the heart of the 2005 E65/E66 range are two new V8 engines, as well as the return of the existing 327kW/600Nm 6.0-litre direct petrol-injection V12 in the flagship 760Li.
All boast Valvetronic variable valve control and Double VANOS variable camshaft control for improved efficiencies and lower emissions.
The smaller 740i/740Li’s 4.0-litre V8 replaces the previous 200kW/360Nm 3.6-litre 735i/735Li unit.
It produces 225kW of power at 6300rpm and 390Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
This represents a 13 and eight per cent jump in power and torque respectively, translating to a nine per cent drop in the 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds.
Despite an 11 per cent increase in engine capacity, fuel consumption rises less than one per cent (to 11.2l/100km according to EU combined cycle figures).
Similarly the outgoing 245kW/450Nm 4.4-litre 745i/745Li makes way for the nine per cent larger-engined 4799cc 750i/750Li – badges that from 1988 to 2002 suggested a V12, specifically the E32 and E38 generation 750iL.
In E65/66 facelift form the 4.8-litre V8 is 10 per cent more powerful (270kW at 6300rpm), nine per cent torquier (490Nm at 3400rpm) and 0.4 seconds faster (5.9s/6.0s Li) to the metric ton than the old 4.4-litre, while fuel use remains at 11.4l/100km.
The 750i’s 0-100km/h effort is only 0.3 seconds shy (but also 2.5l/100km better) than the 5972cc V12 760Li. All three motors are electronically limited to 250km/h.
The sole transmission choice continues to be ZF’s acclaimed six-speed automatic transmission with BMW’s Steptronic sequential shift facility first seen in the 2001 E65.
In Europe there is also a 730d turbo-diesel variant, while a 170kW/520Nm 735d model powered by BMW’s award-winning 200kW/560Nm 3.0-litre twin turbo six-cylinder unit is likely.
However there is little likelihood of any diesel 7 Series arriving here anytime soon.
Keeping the engines in check are aluminium chassis and suspension componentry featuring enhanced axel kinematics and a rear track that’s wider by 14mm than before.
Two chassis set-up solutions are available in lieu of the standard set-up.
"Adaptive Drive" suspension marries Dynamic Drive to BMW’s variable damper settings, catchingly called EDC-C. It literally is the soft option, although it does also incorporate a sporty firm mode too.
Dynamic Drive, by the way, electronically variates the actions of the anti-roll bars at both ends of the car for minimal body roll through corners. Benefits include greater overall vehicle control and reduced low-frequency vibrations for added refinement.
Conversely the Sports Package available in non-Li models integrates Dynamic Drive to BMW’s firmer suspension (harder springs and dampers) settings that comprise of 20mm-lower front and 10mm-lower rear ride height.
Sports-equipped 7s feature 19-inch alloy wheels and sports seats on the 740i as standard while the 750Li’s standard Adaptive Drive application includes self-levelling suspension.
A series of interior changes are aimed at improving the car’s interface with its user.
The much-criticised (or misunderstood – depending on your point of view) iDrive system, which groups entertainment, communication, vehicle settings, climate and trip computer data, has been rebooted for greater ease – even down to the redesigned controller. It features colour coding menus, new graphics and greater resolution.
It also now fulfils its role as the platform for the ConnectedDrive on-line telematics services – more of which will be outlined shortly in Enews. Active services are in 3D display.
There’s now a separate console-sited menu button, improved audio/radio access, and MP3 compatibility.
Upgraded audio with digital as well as analogue television reception (the latter kicks in when the former’s signal is too weak) has also been implemented.
Trim changes include new softer-feel finishes designed to lift the quality ambience inside, while the use of lighter materials give the cabin a more upbeat and contemporary feel.
For safety all models are fitted with advanced electronics for the brakes, traction and stability functions and front, side and curtain/torso airbags.
Even the most basic 740i has Adaptive Headlights (that illuminate up to 90 per cent more road) as standard.
Climate control air-conditioning, voice-recognition controls, TV, satellite navigation, leather upholstery, electric seat adjustment, bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking radar, a sunroof, telephone, powered steering column, six-stack CD changer and an alarm are also included.
The current generation model is the most controversially styled BMW in living memory, dividing observers worldwide with its flagrant adherence to American designer Chris Bangle’s "flame surfacing" methodology.
Yet BMW says the 7 Series has been its most successful version ever, with almost 160,000 delivered worldwide since 2001.
BMW expects to shift around 300 7 Series this year – about a quarter of its segment – with the 740i and 750i each commanding about 30 per cent 20 per cent should be the 740Li, 15 per cent for the 750Li and approximately five per cent for the 760Li.
Last year it sold 311 here – down from 2003’s 392 and 2002’s record 492 units but ahead of traditional segment leader Mercedes-Benz for the first time.
Rivals’ 2004 Vs 2003 results saw Audi’s A8s achieve 86 (up 20), Mercedes move 289 S-classes (a 138-unit slide) and Jaguar 108 XJs (down 24).
The outgoing 7 Series was always its segments’ choice for driver enjoyment.
BMW’s development of more efficient engines and a honed driving experience should only enhance this.
7 Series pricing:(with the corresponding outgoing model pricing in brackets)
740i: $178,300 (735i: 172,300)
740i with Sport Package: $188,200 (735i Sport Pack: $185,900 including $5900 Dynamic Drive)
740Li: $189,900 (735Li: $182,300)
750i: $208,400 (745i: $201,200)
750i with Sport Package: $209,400 (745i Sport Pack: $208,100 including $5900 Dynamic Drive)
750Li: $227,400 (745Li: $216,500)
760Li: $335,600 (previously $321,300)
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