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Driven: BMW aims for the top with 7 Series

Tech centre: BMW has packed the all-new 7 Series with a load of on-board and under-skin technology in an attempt to re-pass Mercedes-Benz for the number one spot in the luxury sedan segment.

New G-code 7 Series marks beginning of new era for BMW’s flagship sedan range

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BMW logo10 Nov 2015

By TIM ROBSON

THE sedan segment may be shrinking locally, but its importance in other world markets has led BMW to pack its latest large sedan – the sixth-generation 7 Series – with technology borrowed from its cutting-edge i8 and i3 eco-cars.

While some of the headline tech items – like the gesture control for instrument operation and 360-degree cameras – may garner the headlines, it is the construction of the 7 Series’ body that sets it apart, not just from its segment rivals but from mass-produced sedans across the industry.

BMW has taken the lessons learnt from building its i-cars around a platform made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) and applied it to the 7 Series’ chassis in what, according to the manufacturer, is the first example of CFRP being produced for vehicles on such an industrial scale.

While the bodyshell itself still resembles a traditional structure in many ways, the strategic use of CFRP in key areas like the roof sills, roof supports, B- and C-pillars and chassis rails has allowed the company to decrease weight while increasing stiffness and strength.

Referred to as a ‘Carbon Core’ by BMW, CFRP is used in conjunction with high-strength steel, regular steel and aluminium, resulting in a bodyshell that is up to 38kg lighter and a total body weight that is up to 128kg lower than the previous model. Aluminium is also used for the roof, bonnet, front guards and bootlid to save weight.

“It’s a landmark vehicle for the BMW brand,” said BMW Australia CEO Marc Werner. “As the BMW Group’s flagship vehicle, the 7 Series has a strong role to play representing the luxury, elegance, agility and performance that the BMW brand has to offer.

“This vehicle will transform the way we interact with our vehicles through its game-changing technology which includes gesture control, which is a first ever in the automotive industry, and the transfer of the carbon fibre technology introduced in the BMW i-series.

“With all this technology, there is no doubt that the BMW 7 Series is the most technologically advanced production vehicle in the world.” As well as the new technology under the skin, BMW has debuted other new equipment for the 7 Series, including new engines, an updated chassis control system and suspension technology – and more.

Available in two body styles, the standard G11 version measures 5018mm in length, while the long-wheelbase G12 version available in both 740 and 750 spec is 140mm longer at 5238mm.

The sixth-generation G11 is 19mm longer in standard form, but essentially identical in width (1902mm) and height (1478mm standard, 1485mm long wheelbase) than the outgoing model.

The new 7 Series retains the same dual-nostril kidney grille, said by BMW to be the largest version ever created. Thermally controlled grille flaps carry over, closing at start-up to facilitate engine warming, opening when cooling is required and closing again for aerodynamic efficiency.

BMW is offering its Laserlight system from the i8 on the 7 Series as an option, distinguished via a blue bar in the centre of the light cluster. The high beam range of the highly concentrated LED light array extends from 300m to 600m, according to BMW. The tail-lights also feature LED globes.

An M Sport package is also available as a no-cost option. Previously a $10,200 uptick, the package includes front and rear bumper extensions, side skirts, 20-inch wheels, black-painted brake callipers and illuminated door sill plates.

Both straight-six engines in the 7 Series are new, while the range-topping twin-turbo V8 has been heavily revised. All engines are backed by BMW’s own eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 730d diesel produces 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque, and can dash to 100km/h from rest in 6.1 seconds, while its fuel consumption is rated at 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres.

A twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine that makes 240kW and 450Nm pushes the 740i to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, or 5.6 seconds in the case of the long-wheelbase model. Fuel economy is rated at 7.0L/100km in both variants.

The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 powering the 750i and 750iL, meanwhile, makes 330kW and 650Nm, and can dash to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, returning a fuel economy reading of 8.1L/100km for the 750i, and 8.3L/100km for the 750Li.

The 7 Series comes with air-spring suspension front and rear, while optional adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars combine with an ‘adaptive’ driving mode for the first time in a BMW to ‘read’ the forthcoming terrain via sensor inputs and a front-mounted camera, adjusting the suspension accordingly ahead of time. The system is $5500.

The so-called Driving Experience Control is standard on 750i/Li, and optional on other models. A switch next to the gearlever can be toggled between eco pro, comfort, comfort plus, sport, sport plus and adaptive modes, with damper and steering behaviour and spring rates being adjusted accordingly.

The active anti-roll bars disconnect themselves from the chassis during straight-ahead driving, instantly re-engaging during cornering.

BMW is also offering four-wheel steering as a $3600 option on the 7 Series, which works in conjunction with a revised steering rack ratio up front.

On the inside, the 7 Series has also benefited from a realignment of the flagship’s standard inclusion list. Items like nappa leather, once an optional upgrade, have been included as standard.

BMW’s i-drive system has been updated with touch functionality on its 12.3-inch screen for the first time, while the instant-access button array has been modified to include ‘map’ and ‘com’ functions.

The much-vaunted gesture control is standard across the range, and uses a 3D sensor to read pre-programmed hand gestures – a twirling finger to control audio volume, a pinch gesture to move a camera display, or a wave to dismiss a phone call – and act on them.

A two-finger ‘prod’ gesture can also be assigned to a list of pre-determined functions, like setting the satellite navigation to ‘home’ or turning off the display.

A large head-up display has also been incorporated into the 7 Series, with turn-by-turn navigation and other information displayed in colour.

In the rear, meanwhile, BMW has incorporated a 7.0-inch tablet made by Samsung that can be used to control an array of functions in the car from inside and out. Seat and climate adjustment, infotainment and navigation functions can all be operated by the tablet which is housed in a recessed charge bay on the rear centre armrest.

BMW’s Standard Driving Assistant Plus now includes rear collision prevention, lane change warning, speed limit info and rear crossing traffic warning functions. Steering and lane control assistant, lane keeping assistant with active side collision protection and traffic jam assistant are also standard.

A new 360-dgree camera in the roof allows an above-roof perspective and a 3D view that can be moved via swipe gestures on the touchscreen, while additional views at the front and rear can be selected.

At this stage, the remote parking function seen on overseas variants is not available in Australia, but the car is fitted with a parking assistant function that can steer it into a parking space. Remote parking is expected to be made available next year.

Night Vision is also standard on the 750 variants, along with massaging seats, TV and a rear entertainment centre with a pair of 10-inch headrest screens, HDMI ports and a Blu-Ray player on the 750Li.

Prices have risen across the board the 730d is up $11,130, the 740i $11,925 and the LI $10,725, while the 750i is up $6670 and the Li $13,070. All variants have, according to BMW, received upgrades over the previous car in excess of $20,000 per vehicle.

2015 BMW 7 Series pricing*
730d (a) $217,500
740i (a) $224,200
740Li (a) $238,000
750i (a) $289,600
750Li (a) $312,700
*Excludes on-road costs

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