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The sinful new 7!

| Updated on: Sep 10, 2015
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BMW’s new flagship is more than just an upgrade. It now gets neck-to-neck with the S-Class. And it will be here early next year.

Though the market for flagship luxury sedans may not be as big as their smaller siblings, the segment still sees fierce competition. This is also a segment that is constantly attempting to nip at the heels of the uber luxury class populated by the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The flagship sedans, especially from the trio of German brands, have in the last few years seen a refreshes and long wheelbase versions thanks largely to the meteoric rise in demand from China and Gulf countries.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class continues to dominate the segment. But, the new, sixth generation BMW 7 Series has just been launched and it looks like the battle for the flagship crown will now start all over again. We travelled to New York to witness the international launch of the new 7 Series and drive it on the road and track.

Design

The new 7 Series, which will be available only in long wheelbase form in many markets, is too important a car for BMW. While every generation of the car has attempted to break new ground with its in-car tech, being a flagship, the German brand’s designers and engineers have always worked towards creating a high benchmark. The sixth generation is a similar attempt. BMW’s promo material talks about 25 new tech additions in the new 7 Series.

But, what is a bit surprising is how conservative BMW’s designers have been with the changes to the new Gen model. What seems evident is an over-cautious approach to the redesign which makes the new 7 Series very familiar from the side and to an extent from the rear. Changes to the front are more pronounced, with the shark-nose style slope in the bonnet and the new headlamps giving it a special character.

The new headlamps now merge into the kidney grille on either side and the combination includes daytime running lights that have been inspired by the i8. Optional laser lights, also first seen in the i8, are now available in the new 7 Series. The new design is more ‘edgy’ and features more surfaces, though the side profile and its proportions are classic 7 Series. The classic Hoffmeister kink at the edge of the rear door is highlighted by the chrome lining and is offset by a body side character line in chrome which starts off from the vent just behind the front wheel arch and runs along the bottom of the doors.

Construction

The new 7 Series is a little over 5 inches longer than the outgoing model. But, its width is nearly the same. The new design focuses a lot of attention on visually emphasising the width of the car. Just like the front airdam, the rear fender also features a chrome surround for the dual twin exhausts. Another chrome garnish cuts into the tail-lamps on either side, again attempting to emphasise the new 7’s width. The tail-lamps themselves are familiar, though they feature a new design and combination of LED lights. Some design elements vary from one variant to another.

The new 7 Series has seen considerable light-weighting (down about 130 kgs), with much more of materials like carbon-fibre, aluminium and high-tensile steel going into the construction. A lot of new materials also find their way into the cabin of the new 7 Series. Just open the doors of the new 7 Series and you can immediately sense a leap in its quality and opulence. There is a sense of déjà vu in that the interior designers have here too been very careful not to break away from the BMW trademark dashboard design. But, it is clear that each and every element in the cabin has been carefully reconstructed to reach a fit and finish that shines through. Despite the familiarity, the sheer execution quality is way above what we have seen in the past. There is also a lot of new tech including the new touch-sensitive iDrive controller and screen, the 360-degree parking assist, the softer, plush leather seats and roof lining, the massage and vitality program functions for the seats, six colour ambient lighting and the panoramic glass roof. The jewel in the crown is the new Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system.

The new 7’s cabin is also heavily focused on enhancing the comfort for the rear occupants – will get a big thumbs-up from Indian buyers. There are independent controls via a dedicated tablet for the seats, music system, privacy sheers and even the mood lighting. The tab’s interface, though, could have been more intuitive.

Performance

The new 7 Series version that we test drove on the road and track was the 750i, which is powered by the 4.4-litre, V8 twin-turbocharged petrol engine. The engine generates a peak power of 450hp and a peak torque of 650Nm. It is paired with an 8-speed gearbox. The engine is expectedly ultra refined and acceleration is linear, at times bordering on being unreal for a vehicle of this size. Drive modes on offer include comfort, sport and sport+.

The variants that are most likely to make it to India early next year will be the 750i and the 730d. The latter will feature a 3-litre, turbocharged diesel engine capable of 265hp and 620Nm. For other markets, there is also a 3-litre, petrol V6 that will be on offer in the 740i, and a 740e which will be a hybrid combination of a 2-litre petrol and a BMW eDrive tech electric motor.

The ride quality of the new 7 Series was another most surprise. Some of the rural roads around the town of Monticello, which is about a half-hour chopper ride from New York, were patchy and broken. While some of our roads can put them to shame, these single lane state highways and roads winding through wooded countryside were still quite bad in places. The new 7 Series sailed over all of them with a surprisingly calm and composed demeanour, while we were having our backsides massaged. Our thanks must go to the new self-levelling air suspension and dynamic damper control.

Bottomline

The new 7 Series is a big step up in quality and trim levels, even if the design doesn’t quite seem like a dramatic departure. There is a lot of new equipment and the interior quality has taken a leap to Mercedes-Benz S-Class levels. Just like the latter, the new 7 even has foot rests for rear passengers. There are also enough high-tech additions like the Adaptive mode, which also takes the assistance of GPS guided gear-change strategy.

There is more novelty to be had in the gesture controlled infotainment system, in which you can just poke your finger to go to the next track or crank up the volume. And the new 7’s key with its own touchscreen can be used to literally automatically park your car into the garage by lining up the car and swiping up on the key’s pad to then let it creep into the garage. Just make sure you get a larger pocket stitched on to that Armani suit.

Published on January 22, 2018

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