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BMW 7 Series Review: Better than the Flagship

S Muralidhar | Updated on April 04, 2019 Published on April 04, 2019

The 2020 BMW 7 Series gets an extensive facelift that takes it many notches closer to being the best luxury sedan out there

For years, BMW’s flagship sedan had been overshadowed by Mercedes-Benz’s flagship in the key comparison of which one has the most comfortable rear seat. Both of them — the Mercedes S-Class and the BMW 7 Series — have been fending off competition from other luxury marques that are known for pampering backbenchers even better than the German duo. But the 7 Series has done well for itself over the last few years, including in India, though the single largest market for the sedan with a whopping 44 per cent of volumes is China. The current 7 Series is still a fresh and good looking flagship, but BMW designers have their ears to the ground in China, a market that is increasingly influencing global design trends. And the verdict from the feedback seems to have been that we all like our cars to look beefier and more aggressive, even the ones that are meant to be stately and understated like the 7 Series. The result is the new refreshed 2020 model of the BMW flagship, which even at first glance seems to deliver the intended impact.

Design

If the trademark kidney grille on the new X7 was thought to be oversized, the one on the new 7 Series will be considered equally ‘nosy’. It is a 40 per cent larger single-piece kidney grille and is also placed even higher than in the predecessor model. That’s also because the foremost point of the nose is about 50 mm higher, leading to its beefier, more upright stance. Viewed straight from the front, the new grille is a little on your face, though from the side it is still the classic 7 Series profile. The bonnet has more sculpted contour lines and the entire front bumper is new with larger surfaces and more focussed air inlets. There are also more chrome trim elements at the front including the ones surrounding the new vertical air breathers on the front side panels. Both the headlamps and tail-lamps are slimmer units in the new 7 Series. The new units feature three-dimensional exterior construction and variations to the LED light signatures. In fact, at the rear, in addition to the chrome bar that connects the two tail-lamps, there is a new 6 mm LED light strip that adds a touch of class to the design. The rear fender and apron design mimics the front and the integral dual tail-pipes mirror the design of the top half of the new 7 Series’ rear. One key design element that is still there in the new model though many other BMW models have moved on is the Hoffmeister kink for the rear window line.

Cabin

Last month, I travelled to Faro, Portugal, for BMW’s international media test drive of the new 7 Series. The model on offer was the 750Li xDrive; in BMW terminology that means it is the long wheelbase, V8 petrol engine model. At well over five metres, this is a really long car and its rear doors are appropriately longer and perfect for getting in with ease. Once inside, the cabin exudes a warm, super luxurious ambience. The smell of leather can be a tad overwhelming when you get in, but you quickly get into the environment. The strong aroma is inevitable given that there is so much fine quality leather all around; quilted nappa leather seats, and door and dashboard panels too clad in the same classy stuff. The new steering wheel with its fresh arrangement of controls is also clad in leather. The seats are extensively quilted and are absolutely like thrones to sit on; and that includes the two seats at the rear. Obviously, the tall transmission tunnel in the middle makes this a four-seater.

All the traditional luxury elements have been bettered, including the suite of controls for seat adjustments and the comfort and wellness programme that was already on offer in the predecessor model. But the new 7 Series also gets more tech-y stuff like wireless charging at the front of the centre console, and more versatility for the rear seat entertainment package and touch command tablet; the latter can now be used outside the car too for accessing comfort functions within the car.

One big improvement in the new 7 Series is cabin isolation and low noise levels. It is remarkably quiet and comfortable in the rear seat, thanks to optimised shielding of the rear wheel arches and a further increase in insulation for the B-pillar, rear seat backrests and seat-belt outlets. All of the windows and rear glass now feature 5.1 mm thicker, laminated glass for better sound and heat insulation (standard in the top three variants and optional for others). The passenger cell construction has also been improved with a mix of aluminium, high strength steel and carbon fibre making it lighter, yet more rigid. There are a few aero improvements too, like the active air flaps and completely covered underbody, that contribute to a quieter cabin.

Performance

The new 7 Series is being offered with a choice of three petrol (V12, V8 and straight-six) and three diesel (all straight-six) engines. The inline six-cylinder petrol engine is offered only in the 745e and 745Le xDrive, which are both plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The petrol options also include the 6.6-litre V12 in the 760Li xDrive delivering a humongous 585 hp and capable of touching 100 kmph in 3.8 seconds. The 750Li xDrive that I was driving featured a completely overhauled version of the 4.4-litre BMW V8 engine. With changes to the engine management system in place, the engine now generates 530 hp of power (80 hp more) and 750 Nm of torque (100 Nm more). All the engines are mated to an eight-speed steptronic transmission. The V8 powertrain in the long wheelbase I was driving can do the 0-100 kmph sprint in 4.1 seconds, not bad at all for a heavyset flagship.

With wider ratios and a quick shifting style, this V8 powertrain displays a dual character. It is quiet, silky smooth and comfortable at slow speeds and can be quick and agile, delivering a muted growl inside the cabin, under hard acceleration. On the fantastic, winding roads wrapping the hills near Faro and the long straights below, the new 7 Series comes alive reminding me that it is really capable of delivering a sprightly performance that defies the bulky outer image. Straight line acceleration is effortless and even though I can feel the extra length of the 750Li while taking corners at speed, it is still surprisingly agile. The steering set-up in sport mode is perfect offering precise control and a nice, centre-weighted feel, though it’s a bit lacking in feedback. The ride quality is cushy and uncharacteristically pliant for a BMW in comfort mode, turns firm in sport mode and is best experienced in Adaptive mode if one is doing a mix of slow and fast sections. Air suspension, all-wheel drive and adaptive anti-roll bars combine with cameras and navigation information to preemptively change the settings in Adaptive mode.

Bottom Line

Though the new 7 Series is a sedan that is meant to be chauffeured in, there is a lot of new and updated self-drive safety tech including the auto parking assist and backup assist that help in parking into and backing out of tight parking spots. Other safety tech include lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and auto emergency braking. Similarly, BMW’s intelligent personal assistant helps the driver control navigation, entertainment and climate settings without taking hands off the wheel.

The BMW 7 Series was always meant to be a luxury cruiser. The 2020 model just got so much better at doing that and should bridge the gap set against the Merc S-Class. The new BMW flagship should be launched by early 2020 and pricing is expected to be just above the range for the current model.

Published on April 04, 2019
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