Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: May 2, 2016
It’s a tale of two fighters: the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series. This luxury sedan duo have been going head-to-head and battling it out for decades, but I wouldn’t go so far as to compare them as the same type of fruit. You see, these two German brands tackle the luxury sedan formula in rather different ways. Hear me out.
Whereas Mercedes-Benz imbues a more comfort and luxury oriented design to their S-Class, BMW takes the more dynamic, innovative, and technological approach to their sixth-generation flagship. In fact, the new 7 Series is one of those luxury sedans where I would be just as happy in the rear passenger seat, as I would be in the front driver’s seat.
But before I get into the why, let’s take a step back and look at what’s new about the 7 Series. Currently in Canada, there are only two different flavours: a standard length wheelbase (not available in the U.S.) and a long wheelbase variant, both equipped with BMW’s all-wheel drive system, xDrive.
No matter the guise, the 7 is a few millimetres longer than the outgoing model – height and width have hardly changed. The exterior design has also been remodeled with a bolder front end and trimmed down buttock (clearly some of the bangle butt DNA has been passed on through the gene pool).
The new 7 looks rather subtle. Even with its gargantuan twin-kidney grill – the largest on any BMW in fact – the 7 isn’t exactly a car that promotes double-takes and gawks, especially when compared to the elegant and look-at-me road presence of the S-Class. If the Merc was Kate Upton in a bikini, then the BMW would be Kate Upton in a business suit.
But take those conservative clothes off, hop inside, and you’re thrown into a businessman’s private jet. There is a lot going on inside the 7, and at first it’s quite daunting: heated armrests, massaging seats, headrest pillows, adjustable footrests, a folding work table, cocooning sunshades, a detachable 7-inch Samsung tablet, a lit-up sunroof, and thick carpet mats that are worthy of your pedicured feet. And yes, there is a button for everything, accompanied by a dozen flashing lights worthy of a first-class cabin. Even after spending a week with the 7, we felt like there were features we haven’t even yet discovered.
Roll your eyes and dismiss it as a gimmick if you like, but I think it’s kind of cool. It may not be very responsive to inputs, nor is the most practical feature today, but it’s just a starting point of what is to come, and it’s nice to see an automaker have the balls to pilot it first. Hopefully this kind of tech will find its way into less expensive BMWs down the road.
Another avant-garde item is the Display Key, a chunky key fob with a built-in LCD screen. Remember how James Bond used his phone to control his 7 Series in Tomorrow Never Dies? Yeah think of it like that. With it, you can drive your 7 via remote control, but there is one catch. You can only command your 7 to move front and back, and it will only move at slow parking speeds. Be that as it may, sensors will detect barriers and walls and will automatically pull the brakes if the car is about to come into contact. The only instance where I would find this useful would be when trying to fit the 7 into a tight parking spot.
While you won’t have access to rocket launchers and be able to slide sideways via the Display Key, you are able to remote start the 7, check the remaining fuel range and service intervals, and double check if you left any lights or windows open. Oh, and the key fob serves as quite a hefty paperweight. It runs on a battery as well, so you’ll have to plug it in every now and then to keep it charged.
But enough about the clever tech, what does the rest of the interior feel like? Well from the driver’s seat, you will notice a brand new gear shifter fresh outta’ BMW graduation that feels expensive under grip, though it’s oddly shaped like a Japanese meat cleaver. The steering wheel has been given a new face, and I rather like the departure from the M Sport wheel that every BMW seems to be adopting.
Whether you’re sitting in the front or the back, the seats are cosseting and sumptuous. Tilt your head up and you’ll also notice a pattern of lights etched into the sunroof made to mimic the stars in the night sky. There are 15,000 of those starry lights merged into the glass, and you can customize which colour you want them to emanate.
Opt for the Ambient Air Package ($500) and the air vents will pump the interior with fragrant ionized air, with your choice of eight different aromas to choose from. It’s a nice alternative to putting those tacky ones from P-Mall on your dashboard, albeit I believe the S-Class introduced this feature first. But as they say, if you’re going to copy someone, copy from the best.
Are there any downsides to the 7’s sophisticated cabin? When we received the test car, it had already racked up around 10,000 km and swapped hands with a handful of journalists, so it’s been through quite a rough time. As such, we could hear some rattles coming from the front center air vents and sunroof. Even the rear storage lid wouldn’t close properly. I wouldn’t assert the blame on build quality, but mainly on thoughtless wear and tear. Furthermore, the 7 lacks an optional cooler box to store your refrigerated beverages, and those magnificent laser headlights that we’ve seen in European models haven’t made their way to the side of the pond.
We owe that to the extensive use of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CRFP) in the structure (similar to that of the i8 hybrid supercar) that reduces the car’s weight by 86 kg over the outgoing model. This material also helps increase rigidity, making the car feel lively and compact around corners.
As a result, there is a certain lightness to the handling, and the 7 offers impressive body control. Combined with 50:50 weight distribution, rear-wheel steering, and a reduced unsprung weight of 15%, and you get a 5,096 mm vehicle that handles like half its size. The 750Li has an incredibly low center of gravity, allowing it to stay smooth and flat around corners. Body roll is almost negligible and we experienced nothing but a composed and silent ride through town.
Later in the year, a six-cylinder equipped 740Li will be available with 320 hp, as well as a 740e plug-in hybrid model for those eco-minded businessmen, but for now a V8 is all you get. And it’s not a bad powerplant either: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that sends 445 hp and 480 lb-ft to all four wheels (we’ve seen this engine multiple times before, eg. the BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe), and the output was more than enough to throw us to the back of our seat and overtake those pesky plebian cars on our way to the office.
And if all that interior tech wasn’t enough to get your juices flowing, then take a closer look at BMW’s cutting-edge 8-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox is tuned so well that we did not even feel the cogs swapping. It is seamless and clean, almost as if there are no gears at all.
This 8-speed is also linked up to the navigation system so that the computers can select the right gear for the current route profile, even if the guidance hasn’t been set. The same goes for the suspension, where it will level and adjust the springs to suit the road ahead in preparation for hard corners or intersections – and we’re happy to report that it works very well. We’ve seen this feature in a Rolls-Royce, but having it in the “half-price” 750Li is just bananas.
One could argue that there is so much technology packed into the 7 that the novelty could easily wear off, but that’s not the point of why these features are present. The new BMW 7 is a pilot for innovation and creative technology and sooner or later, these nifty features will trickle down to your middle-class 3-Series or 5-Series.
But the most appealing aspect of the 7 is that it doesn’t hurt to be in the driver’s seat, and I’d argue that it is the superior throne, or at least just as rewarding as the first-class cocoon in the back. Now that’s certainly saying something. While the S-Class may provide the more palatial and sensory cabin, the 7 turns a new chapter in innovation, design, and technology. Combined with a dynamic chassis and a stellar drive, it’s clear that in revising their flagship, BMW hasn’t forgotten about providing us with the Ultimate Driving Machine.
型号 Model: 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive
顏色 Paint Type: Dark Graphite Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $117,900
試車售價 Price as Tested: $148,900
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 3,070
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,096 / 1,902 / 1,467
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,041
引擎 Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
最大馬力 Horsepower: 445 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 480 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 4,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD (xDrive)
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.9 / 9.1 / 11.8
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Front - 245/40R20; Rear - 275/35R20