Technophobes beware! This sixth-generation 7 Series is a technological tour de force. Gesture control, wireless mobile-phone charging, iDrive version 5.0 and a fancy-looking display key are bound to give you a panic attack. Technophiles will be left salivating by the flagship, but with all the whizbangery has BMW forgotten that the big saloon has to be great to drive?
With a potent 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 under the bonnet and a superb chassis, the answer is a resounding no. However, the Roundel doesn’t just signify performance – it stands for luxury, too, and the 750Li you see here is as lavish as it gets. Step inside and you feel a massive sense of grandeur. The quality is top-class; you won’t find a single piece of black plastic in here as every surface has been trimmed in either Merino leather, Alcantara or varnished wood. Heck, you can’t even see the rubber weather seals on the windows. The fit and finish is exemplary, it is spacious and opulent, and beyond comfortable.
The back-seat headrests are better than your pillows at home, while the multi-contour front seats can be adjusted in 20 (yes, 20!) ways, so every single body type and shape can sit comfortably. The driver’s seat has eight massage programmes (with three levels of intensity) and those in the back have a variety of luxurious features including a removable Samsung tablet (it allows you to surf the net, adjust the AC and a whole lot more), two 9.2in display screens and power-sliding sunshades for the side windows.
Throw in ambient lighting (there’s a choice of six colours), optional panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof (the lights create what looks like a star-lit canopy at night), and two fold-out tables and footrests, and it’s clear just how sophisticated this new 7 Series is. But you’ll be left wide-eyed even before you reach the door as BMW rolls out an LED ‘light carpet’ that illuminates the ground. The welcome is of royal proportions and it’s a taste of what’s to come.
Some of the new tech, gesture control in particular, is mind-boggling. It’s rude to point, but you’ll be doing that a lot when using this remarkable new feature; a mere twirl of the finger in a clockwise motion turns up the volume on the crystal clear Bowers & Wilkins system, anti-clockwise turns it down, flick two fingers at it (palm facing down or you could land yourself in hot water) and the audio will skip to the next track if you’re listening to songs on your USB, or will change stations if you have the radio on.
It even allows you to answer or decline calls when your phone is hooked up, with a swipe of the hand. It’s very clever and not the least bit distracting. After a few seconds it feels like second nature. The 7 Series, remember, was the first production car with on-board navigation and a moving map, and the first saloon with a six-speed automatic. Now, it is the first production car with gesture control and it’s a feature that not even its closest rival, the S-Class, offers. There’s also a new head-up display, which has a whopping 75 per cent larger projection area, and offers information like current speed and even the posted speed limit, plus navigation information. In spite of its larger dimensions, somehow it doesn’t distract either. Below it sits a 12.3in TFT instrument cluster, which changes colour depending on your driving mode. I was mostly in Sport and the hue was an angry red, but it turns into a soothing blue when you are in Eco, and a calming white in Comfort.
The display of incredible in-vehicle technology continues with the car’s ability to wirelessly recharge your mobile; you do so by placing it in a folder inside the centre console, which acts as an inducting station. There’s loads more; even the infotainment system has been improved, with a pinch-to-zoom feature that makes iDrive more like an iPad.
But the new display key left me a little disappointed. Its party trick – to be able to park by itself without you in the car – had been deactivated on our tester. So all it could do was display my fuel range, and reassure me that the doors were locked and the lights were off. Do I really need to carry the chunky device just for that?
For those more interested in the drive, there’s good news. Since BMW has saved up to 130kg compared to the predecessor thanks to the Carbon Core, the 750Li feels sprightly even though it tips the scales at 1,990kg. It isn’t as heavy as it looks and that’s partly down to the 650Nm of torque on tap (fed to all four corners) making it powerful, and since it added four-wheel steering to xDrive-equipped cars, it’s nimble, too.
There’s no body roll, as the dynamic stability control, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bars, and adaptive suspension system see to that; and the fact that it can hit 100kph from rest in just 4.5 seconds tells you what a force of nature it is. The eight-speed automatic is silky smooth and the electric power-assisted steering has just the right feel.
It isn’t drastically different visually from its predecessor but is sleeker and more refined. The creased bonnet and piercing LED laser headlights give the front end a pointier appearance, while a flap behind the kidney grille can open up to feed more air to the radiator if the 450bhp motor needs extra cooling. If not, it stays shut and aids aerodynamics.
A lot has been said about cars of tomorrow and, most of the time, the remarks are negative. This 7 Series allows us a peek into the future, and if every new car is as good as this, then tomorrow can’t come soon enough.