BMW’s 7 Series remains the company’s flagship model and it continues to be the one that debuts a raft of technological features, which later trickle down the product range. It was the first model in the company’s product portfolio to introduce the now standard iDrive and remains the only modern-day BMW available with a bespoke V12 engine.
Now in its sixth generation, the new model looks set to once again to bring a host of new technological advancements to the segment. For many, the Mercedes S-Class continues to be the benchmark of the segment. When Mark returned from driving the new 7 at its international launch last year, he came away suitably impressed, so I was keen to see for myself whether BMW has done enough to challenge — and even beat — the S-Class at its own game.
Dubbed in-house as the G11, the model comes to the market 130kg lighter than its predecessor, the F01, thanks to its Carbon Core carbon fibre construction, which means that the safety cell of the vehicle utilises a hybrid of carbon fibre and high tensile steel to create a strong yet light monocell structure.
Featuring a much tidier and leaner design with liberal lashings of chrome, the exterior design team, led by Adrian Van Hooydonk, has dressed the new 7 Series in an executive suit that looks more purposeful. The rear has been given a wider design without looking bulbous, thanks to the chrome strip that connects the rear light clusters.
With technology foremost in the new model, it comes standard with LED headlights, while laser lights that first debuted in the i8 sportscar are now available as an option. The interior shows the latest design theme by melding both leather and satin silver finishes with digital controls for the climate settings, while the instrument cluster also a gets a full digital readout. Meanwhile, finger gesture recognition has been introduced and one can now control things such as volume by making circular, magic wand-style finger movements to adjust it.
The rear quarters in particular are most impressive. One can lounge in the rear with the entertainment screens and a tablet located in the centre armrest that gives you access to various vehicle applications and you can easily move menus from there to the entertainment screens on demand.
However, the most impressive party trick is the Remote Parking control that lets you alley dock park your car remotely with the use of the key fob to move the vehicle in or out of a parking bay.
Available in four engine derivatives including the 730d (195kW and 620Nm), 740i (240kW and 450Nm) and 750i (330kW and 650Nm) — the latter also available in Li (long wheelbase) variant — the range will appease various tastes and preferences. There will also be a plug-in hybrid available later in the year, dubbed the 740e, which combines a four-cylinder combustion engine and 70kW electric motor to give a total system output of 240kW. It has a claimed consumption figure of 2.1l/100km and emits only 49g/km of carbon.
Now available with a two-axle, self-levelling adaptive suspension and dynamic damper control, in conjunction with the new adaptive mode setting on the Driving Experience Control, the vehicle can adjust the suspension according to driving style and road conditions. Overall damping in this mode is relatively good, but slight ripples on the road managed to filter into the cabin.
While the vehicle is a thoroughly accomplished executive limo on the one hand, it also has a sporty streak, and both the 730d and particularly the 740i we drove replete with M-Sport package were fun to hurl into the corners. The steering is on the light side when pressing on but, being an executive, one cannot expect M5 levels of steering feel. Even so the big saloon remains one of the sportiest models in the segment.
Coming in April, the 750Li with its 140mm longer wheelbase (5,238mm) yields more legroom for the rear occupants. Combined with the Executive Lounge Seating option, which allows the rear occupants to move the front passenger seat by 19mm, you also get integrated foot rest and foldable tray tables to give you that executive boardroom feel while on the move. The semi-autonomous driving function, which gently steers the vehicle through a curve — provided your hands are resting on the steering wheel — is a step closer to fully autonomous cars. The adaptive cruise control, meanwhile, lets the vehicle automatically accelerate or come to a complete stop depending on traffic.
No doubt the 750Li will be the model for plutocrats looking for ultimate comfort. While the 740i is impressive in its own right, it is the 730d with its smooth, torque-rich delivery that would be my pick of the two. The 7 Series has raised the bar considerably with a host of new technology and that makes the model a technological tour de force.
Pricing starts at R1,365,500 for the 730d up to R1,893,500 for the 750Li.