If you have ever dreamed of travelling in Business Class on an aeroplane, wonder no more. Just buy yourself a BMW 730Ld, hire a driver, settle back in the massaging and reclining rear seats and enjoy the ride.
Ok! The down side is it will cost you more than a single plane ride but, like divorce, is something that can be shared forever. In the case of my test vehicle the base price was R1 669 400 and with the R306 150 of added options (including R80 000 worth of Bowers & Wilkens surround sound) came to an on-road price of R2 146 971,48 including VAT and CO2 tax (R3 921,50).
The latest iteration of the 7 Series also comes with a level of controversy surrounding it – carrying on a tradition started by the famous ‘Bangle Bungle’ of the fourth generation (E65) version that took the design styling way left of field.
Since then, BMW stylists have been somewhat more restrained returning the ‘7’ to its proper place as the head of the BMW sedan family and according it the respect it deserves. The latest styling is a jump to the left with the gaping maw front end copied from the X7.
Personally, I think the massive kidney grille detracts from the elegant lines of the long wheelbase executive cruiser and should have been more subtle. It works on the X7, but that, as they say, is a whole different pond of koi.
BMW is obviously extremely proud of the new generation – the clever marketing speak wordsmiths at BMW managed to generate a 30-page document describing its features, fixtures and fittings.
The short version – my test car – comes with a six-cylinder in-line diesel engine, eight-speed Steptronic transmission and has an engine capacity of 2 993 cc. Power output is 195 kW at 4 000 r/min with maximum torque of 620 Nm coming in from 2 000 r/min to provide acceleration to 100 km/h in 6,2 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h.
Fuel consumption on a combined average is 5,5 l/100 km and this is quite impressive for such a large car weighing in at 1 945 kilograms – and this is also where BMW has been rather clever, using aluminium construction for the engine and a ‘Carbon Core’ in the body.
The body structure developed for the BMW 7 Series combines maximised occupant protection with optimised weight. This is made possible by a material mix of high-strength steels, aluminium and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The Carbon Core used for the passenger cell makes a major contribution not only to the high level of safety but also to the agile handling characteristics of the BMW 7 Series.
The longer version of the luxury sedan has a wheelbase extended by 14 centimetres over the standard car – to 3 210 millimetres – and gives rear-seat passengers the extra space to match. The standard 7 Series (5 120 mm) and its long-wheelbase twin (5 260 mm) are both 22 millimetres longer than their respective predecessors. The new model’s width (1 902 mm) and height (1 467 mm / long-wheelbase version: 1 479 mm) remain unchanged.
The extensive design refresh at the front-end means expanded surfacing at the front of the car, which now rises around 50 millimetres taller at its foremost point. The BMW kidney grille, now framed by a single-piece surround whose surface area has grown by some 40%.
Standard equipment includes Adaptive LED headlights with variable light distribution, adaptive and cornering light functions and the BMW Selective Beam non-dazzling high-beam assistant. BMW Laserlight can be ordered as an option.
The rear design makeover has upped the dominance of horizontal lines, emphasising the stance of the sedan and the three-dimensional rear lights are 35 millimetres slimmer than on the outgoing car. Their light sources are all-LED and are positioned behind red and black surfaces.
Depending on the model variant, tit comes as standard with 19-inch or 20-inch light-alloy wheels. Additional light-alloy wheels in 20-inch to 21-inch formats are included on the options list and in the Original BMW Accessories range.
The car comes as standard with Dakota leather upholstery, available in five different colours. A choice of six colour variants is offered for the optional Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery, while Exclusive Nappa leather with extended quilting is now available as a further option.
The level of tyre noise reaching the rear compartment has been reduced by shielding the rear wheel arches and further reduction in the interior noise level is attained through sound insulation elements in the B-pillar area, the seatbelt outlet covers and the rear seat backrest.
Laminated glass with an increased thickness of 5,1 millimetres is now used not only for the windscreen, but also for the side windows and rear window too. This new construction for the side and rear windows is standard for the BMW 750Li xDrive and BMW M760Li xDrive models and is available for the other model variants as a component of the Rear Comfort Glass option.
Available exclusively for the long-wheelbase versions of the new BMW 7 Series, the Executive Lounge appointments offer four-zone automatic climate control, electrically adjustable comfort seats and a massage function in the rear along with active seat ventilation for all seats.
The Rear-seat entertainment system comprises two 10-inch full-HD touchscreen displays complete with a Blu-ray player. The system allows users to access the entertainment, navigation and online functions of the vehicle from the rear seats. The removable tablet can be used from any seat and even outside the vehicle.
The driver can use the Driving Experience Control switch buttons to select a set-up option to suit the situation – and configure that set-up individually in part. The set-up options cover the car’s drive functions and the manner in which its chassis systems go about their work.
In Adaptive mode, the overall set-up adapts automatically to the driving style and situation, responding to movements of the accelerator pedal and steering wheel, the position of the gear selector lever and data from the navigation system to instantly select the right set-up as the car moves from city driving to higher-speed roads, for example, or approaches a corner – so the command “Home James” can be as sedate or wild as the mood of the issuer.
It is not often I volunteer to be a rear seat passenger but it was more than worth effort to see just how some of the other half lives. Still, driving is the place I prefer to be and on that score, the Beemer did not disappoint.
All variants feature, as standard, adaptive suspension including electronically controlled dampers and two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling. Plus, the Driving Experience Control switch can be used to activate a range of damper settings to shift the emphasis of the driving experience further towards either comfort or sportiness.
The car moves with gracious ease, the actual progression up the speed table sometimes coming as a bit of a surprise and, while it is not designed as a robot dragster, will dominate (as it should) lesser motors when the need arises.
The ride quality is sublime and general responsiveness to steering and throttle inputs above par but it will object at being hurled into a 90-degree right-hander like a go-kart – however, so kitted out with ‘nanny’ systems, even the worst driver can be made to look good.
And, perhaps, that is a fault of modern technology where the systems have just about eliminated any need to know how to DRIVE a car.
The suspension’s air supply is controlled individually for each wheel, making it possible to balance out an unevenly loaded car. Moreover, the height of the body can be adjusted manually. For example, it can be raised by 20 millimetres at the touch of a button on bumpy road surfaces or steeply angled ramps on the way into garages.
It has a comprehensive range of standard and optional driver assistance systems. They ease the driver’s workload in monotonous driving conditions, such as traffic jams and heavy flowing traffic and make it easier to stay in complete control in awkward traffic situations. Camera images and the data gathered by radar and ultrasonic sensors are used to monitor the vehicle’s surrounding area and either alert the driver to hazards or minimise the risk of an accident by means of corrective braking and steering.
The list of items and options is so long it is easy to understand the 30-page media document – the best option is to discuss all the possibilities at the dealership.
For example, an item on the list of optional extras is the BMW Night Vision system comprising pedestrian and animal detection as well as a marker light. It relays a real-time video image to the Control Display showing persons, larger animals and other heat-emitting objects. Any objects detected are additionally illuminated using the headlights’ marker light function.
Standard specification for the BMW 7 Series includes the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, an intelligent, digital helper who responds to the prompt “Hey BMW” and is an intrinsic element of the operating system.
The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant learns routines and habits, and is subsequently able to apply them in the appropriate context. It helps the driver, learns their preferences and is familiar with the settings they like to have for the seat heating, for example, or the places they navigate to frequently (“Take me home”).
One unique feature compared with other digital assistants is the option of giving it a personally selected name (such as “Charlie”) to lend it even greater individuality and personality (is this starting to get weird?).
Not only does the assistant await the driver’s every command, it is always there to assist and even provide casual conversation. Saying, “Hey BMW, I’m cold” will prompt the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant to adjust the temperature inside the car accordingly.
There is no question the new ‘7’ takes technology to even greater heights to combine to produce a car that is actually super-efficient and an absolute pleasure to drive (even if it does not fit in my garage).