Is this the most tech savvy BMW saloon yet?
It’s the BMW 7 Series, the German company’s big flagship saloon, loaded with more technology than ever before. The 7 Series has traditionally been the driver's car in the big limo segment, but now it’s claiming to match the mighty Mercedes-Benz S-Class for comfort and refinement too. Can the big 7 please both those sat in the back and in the front?
|Body Style: Saloon||Seats: 5||
MRP from £64,020 - £132,310
Did You Know? The 7 Series uses some of the same carbon-fibre technology as the i8 sports car and i3 electric car.
Verdict: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8.1/10)
The BMW 7 Series pulls off the remarkable feat of being both a sharp-edged, rewarding driver's car and a smooth, sumptuous limousine. You do need to alter driving settings to achieve one or the other, and you can’t have both at once, but it’s quite the achievement nonetheless. The range runs the gamut from running-cost-friendly 730d to high-tech plug-in hybrid and the remarkable 609hp M760Li V12.
|Design & Exterior||
|Interior & Comfort||★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)|
|Technology & Connectivity||★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)|
|Performance & Handling||★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)|
|Safety Features||★★★★★★★★★★ (10/10)|
|Specs & Trims||★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)|
|Running Costs & Fuel Economy||★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)|
|Comfort and refinement|
|Sharp driving in Sport mode|
We don’t like
|Standard model short on rear space|
|Styling looks anonymous|
Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)
There is something of a split argument about the 7 Series’ styling. Does it strike just the right imposing, classy tone while managing to look understated and discreet? Or is it just a bit big and bland? We lean towards the latter. You could never describe the 7 as ugly, but it’s not doing anything to excite the visual senses. It falls into the trap that has snared almost all previous 7s: it looks too much like a slightly bigger 5 Series.
Even so, thanks to its sheer size (especially in long-wheelbase form) the 7 Series does project a suitably plutocratic image, which perhaps avoids the worst sort of attention that more show-off styling might bring with it. It also singles the driver out as someone who really cares about vehicle dynamics, as opposed to those comfort-seekers who might prefer an S-Class, a Lexus LS or an Audi A8.
Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
It’s hard to get away from the ‘bigger 5 Series’ vibe inside, especially since the arrival of the 2017 5 Series, which shares a lot of its cabin and interior components with the 7.
Even so, this is a hugely luxurious and comfortable car, with stunning long-range abilities. The front seats come with standard-fit massage function, so endless motorway miles need not result in a numb bum. All the surfaces, whether wood, metal or plastic, are lustrous and high-quality to the fingertip although the fake-aluminium finish to some of the plastic buttons seems a little tacky at this price level.
How practical the 7 Series is depends on which version you buy. If you go for a standard-wheelbase model, you may find that the space in the back is less than generous for a car of this size and this price. Indeed, it’s only a little better in the rear than you’d find in a 5 Series.
Upgrade to the stretched long-wheelbase model, however, and your rear-seat passengers get ample legroom, with the option for multi-adjustable seats and even motorised footrests. At that point, the rear cabin of the 7 Series becomes more like a ground-bound executive jet than a car, although it’s worth noting that the hefty centre rear armrest (which contains the controls for the rear seats and infotainment system) effectively makes it a four-seater. Anyone perching in the space left by the folded-up armrest is going to be rather uncomfortable.
The boot is a relatively small 515 litres whichever version you go for – big enough for a few bags and suitcases, but a little ungenerous when you consider what bigger boots are available in less pricey cars.
Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
While the 7 doesn’t yet have full autonomous driving capabilities, there are some systems that do take the strain out of longer journeys including radar-guided cruise control and a lane-keeping function in the steering. There’s also a low-speed traffic management system that can control steering and braking in heavy traffic, plus a stereoscopic camera mounted in the windscreen that feeds into multiple systems. These include emergency braking functions and a system which tells the suspension what kind of road surface is coming up, readying it to deal with bumps, potholes and other traumas.
The four-zone air conditioning system can be fitted with an air purifier, while the rear seats can be tricked out with electric adjustment, heating, cooling and massaging functions, TV screens, a DVD player, HDMI connections, and even an Android software-driven tablet that controls the infotainment system.
You can fit your 7 with laser headlights, BMW Connected Services which include app integration into the infotainment system, an on-call concierge service, and journey planning which can send sat-nav directions to the car from your phone or home devices. There’s hands-off ‘gesture control’ for the stereo (which is, in fairness, mostly useless), infra-red night vision with pedestrian recognition, driver tiredness recognition and a head-up display. Neatest of all is a remote parking system that enables you, using the big touch-screen key, to shuffle the 7 in and out of a tight parking space while standing outside the car. Oddly, given all this tech (much of which is, of course, optional) Apple CarPlay is only available as an option, or is standard only on top-spec models.
Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
If this BMW 7 Series isn’t quite as sharp to drive as previous versions have been, then it is still one of the better cars to drive in its lofty luxury saloon class. You can tell that BMW has been busy chasing the Mercedes S-Class for its comfort and refinement crown (and in both areas the 7 is close to unimpeachable) because, unless you select Sport mode, the steering and suspension can actually feel a bit soft and distant. That was previously anathema to a 7 Series.
Trigger the menu option for Comfort Plus mode and the 7 Series’ air suspension allows the car's body to gently rise and fall over bumps in the manner of a big, motorised sofa. It’s rather lovely. Hit Sport mode instead, and it all tightens up to become much more agile – exceptionally so for a car so big.
The secret to this duality is that the 7 is light by the standards of its class. It uses some of the same carbonfibre technology as found in the BMW i3 and i8 to keep the weight down, and that makes for some driving fun on a twisty road. It’s not very dignified for your rear seat passengers, but you can’t have everything.
Most buyers will go for the 265hp 730d or 320hp 740d 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel models, but you can look beyond the default choice. There’s a 321bhp 740e plugin petrol-electric hybrid model, a 3.0-litre turbo straight-six 740i petrol with 326hp, or a turbocharged 4.4 V8 petrol 750i with 450hp. Or how about the range-topping V12 6.6-litre 609hp M760Li xDrive ultra-luxury, ultra-high performance version, which can demolish the 0-62mph run in just 3.7 seconds? You’ll need a lottery win for that one, though…
Recommended engine: 740Ld xDrive
|0-62 MPH||5.3 seconds|
|Fuel Economy||54.3 mpg|
The 7 Series hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP for crash safety, but it comes with a battery of standard and optional safety systems which should help to keep both occupants and those around the car safe. We’ve already mentioned the self-driving functions and pedestrian detection and autonomous braking, but added to those are adaptive headlights, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-limit recognition camera, cross-traffic warning when reversing, run-flat tyres and a surround-view camera system.
Specs & Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)
The 7 Series is only available in Jet Black or Alpine White if you want a non-metallic finish. Metallic colours include Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Glacier Silver, Cashmere Silver, Magellan Grey, Arctic Grey Xirallic, Imperial Blue Xirallic, Jatoba, Sophisto Grey Xirallic, Atlas Cedar, Carbon Black, Singapore Grey, Individual Moonstone Metallic, Individual Almandine Brown Metallic, Individual Ruby Black Metallic, Individual Azurite Black Metallic, Individual Brilliant White Metallic, Individual Pure Metal Silver, Individual Aventurine Red Metallic, Individual Frozen Dark Brown Metallic, and Individual Frozen Grey Metallic.
There are three basic versions of the 7 Series; an un-badged basic model, roughly equivalent to SE, and an Exclusive trim that includes Gesture Control, soft-close doors, 19-inch alloy wheels, and some extra chrome finishing to the exterior.
M Sport cars gets 19-inch wheels too, with dark cabin trim and headlining, illuminated door sill plates, black-finished wood, an M Sport body kit, and a sportier automatic transmission. All models are sub-divided into standard wheelbase and 'L' long wheelbase versions. Four-wheel drive (called 'xDrive' by BMW) is available as an option and is standard on the 740d.
Standard equipment on all models includes 18-inch alloys, four-zone air conditioning, a touch-screen key, LED brake lights, front comfort heated massaging seats, 10.2-inch infotainment screen, DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB ports, automatic high-beam LED headlights, sat-nav, front and rear Park Distance Control, and rain-sensing wipers.
The options list is close to endless, from remote-control parking through high-gloss wood cabin trims, uprated leather trim, sports exhausts, active variable-rate steering, a heat-absorbing windscreen, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, wifi hotspot, TVs front and rear, and so much more.
How deep is your wallet? Seriously, thanks to BMW’s Individual service, there really are few limits to what you can do in terms of spec, if you have the ready cash.
On a more sensible level, we’d go for the 740e if most of our mileage was in town, or the 740d xDrive if your life is spent pounding up and down main roads and motorways. Make sure you go for the long-wheelbase model in either instance, and stick to a dark metallic colour. Definitely splash out on driver assistance systems such as lane-keeping and active cruise control, but such items as night vision are probably, realistically, a bit of a gimmick. The rear seat comfort pack and rear TV screens are a must, though, if you’re to keep your passengers happy.
Size and dimensions
It is pretty massive, especially in long-wheelbase form, and all the cameras, parking sensors and automated parking systems will only get you so far.
|Length||5238mm (long wheelbase)|
|Max towing weight without brake||750kg|
|Max towing weight with brake||2300kg|
Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
Go for the 740e 'iPerformance' plugin hybrid and you’ll have an enormous luxury car with official CO2 emissions as low as 49g/km and fuel economy of 134mpg. Meeting that figure in real life is all but impossible, but if you do most of your driving in town and keep the batteries topped up, it could be a good choice.
The main diesel models vary between 60mpg and 124g/km for a 730d to 54mpg and 137g/km for a long-wheelbase four-wheel drive 740d xDrive.
If you prefer petrol, then the 740i has surprisingly frugal official figures of 41mpg and 159g/km, but the 750i is far less parsimonious with 35mpg and 186g/km. And the M760Li? Well if you can afford one, you probably don’t care, but it gets 22mpg and emits a whopping 294g/km.
Reliability and servicing
There have been no recalls for the current 7 Series as yet, and its six-cylinder engines have avoided the timing chain issues that plagued BMW's 2.0-litre diesel engine. Major systems such as the 740e’s hybrid setup are unproven at the moment, but given that the 7 is BMW’s high-priced flagship one would hope that the company has expended the requisite effort to make the whole car relatively bomb-proof. (Indeed, you can actually buy a bomb-proof armoured version…)
BMW’s Service Inclusive package, which covers the first five years’ or 50,000 miles worth of servicing, is included in the cost of all models.
Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
A basic 730d standard-wheelbase starts at £64,020, which seems like not too much of a stretch beyond a well-specified 5 Series, but then who wants to drive around in a basic 7, even if it is relatively well-equipped as standard?
Long-wheelbase prices start at £67,970 and a 740d xDrive, at its cheapest, is £71,550.
A 740e iPerformance will set you back £68,940 in standard form, while the 740Li costs £71,555. The 750i is priced at £75,820, while the range-topping M760Li xDrive will set you back a considerable £132,310.
|GreenCarbuyer||740e – or how to have extreme luxury with sub-50g/km CO2 emissions.|
|Car Enthusiast||M760Li – not exactly affordable, but a towering performance car if you can stretch it.|
|Tech Junky||All models – there’s so much tech on offer it’s like driving a mobile Apple Store.|
|Luxury Seeker||All models – comfort and refinement are off-the-scale.|
|Audi A8||Handsome A8 has stunning cabin quality, but it’s not as good to drive as the 7 Series|
|Jaguar XJ||Slinky styling and potentially even sweeter to drive than the BMW. Limited engine line-up though.|
|Lexus LS||Big Japanese saloon is ageing now, but still offers unrivalled quality and refinement.|
|Maserati Quattroporte||In quality and dynamic terms, it’s off the pace, but it is dead sexy.|
|Mercedes-Benz S-Class||The king of the luxury saloon segment and deservedly so.|
What others say
|What Car?||“Inside, the quality is top notch and there’s lots of standard equipment, including the latest infotainment and safety tech.”|
|Car Buyer||“The BMW 7 Series offers limousine-like luxury, state-of-the-art technology and a genuinely enjoyable driving experience.”|