The sheer level of technology within the new 7-series is almost unbelievable.
BMW’s 7-series has long since established itself as a huge player in the full-size executive sedan segment. However, previous generations have tried to be sporty, and as a result the winner with regards to overall luxury has been the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. 2016 marks a new generation of 7-series though, bearing chassis code G11 (G12 for the long-wheelbase model). This car is the most technology-laden and opulent vehicle the Bavarians have ever put out. Though M-Sport models are available, I was sent a 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive for a week, complete with the Executive Lounge package and all of the latest gadgets.
We actually set up a photo shoot with four different 7-series models, all spaced one generation apart. Using this opportunity to compare how far technology and the luxury standard have come in the past twenty years, it was also insightful to observe the various design changes. The new 750Li is large and in charge, but is much more conservative from a design perspective than the 2002 745i, designed under the eye of Chris Bangle. Stunning LED lighting is on every corner of the new 7, inside and out, and the lines on the body have been carefully sculpted to ensure they will age extremely gracefully.
The “Carbon Core” that BMW has been heavily advertising is what causes the new 7 to be 286 lbs. lighter than the previous model. Not to be confused with an all carbon-fiber body, it’s made of a blend of carbon fiber, high-strength steel, and aluminum. Thanks to this, the 750Li’s weight is quickly forgotten, as it appears to shrink at speed. Driving down the highway, the car is comfortable and very composed. It doesn’t wallow or waft as a large sedan would, thanks to the complicated suspension setup (more on that a bit later). It drives like a large sedan, but its sporty BMW roots are very obvious here.
Beneath the long hood lives the 750Li’s powertrain. Those who read our review on the BMW 650i Gran Coupe will be familiar with this motor. It’s a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8, part of BMW’s “50i” family. Numbers of 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque are able to haul the big sedan to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds – seriously impressive. Also equally impressive is the excellent and precise tuning of the ZF eight-speed transmission. When in the “Comfort” or “Comfort Plus” settings, the car launches in second gear for even more opulence and comfort. An important tidbit about the aero is that there are active grille shutters that close when there is adequate airflow to cool at the radiator – they also close when the car is parked.
Suspension geometry is already very good, because this is a BMW after all. However, to further what the automotive industry already offers, they have kicked things up a notch for the latest model. The adaptive dampers on this 750Li are capable of using a feature called “Road Preview”. Built into the adaptive air suspension, this feature uses a camera to detect road imperfections or impending curves, and adjusts the car’s behaviour accordingly. The anti-roll bars do their best to eliminate body roll when cornering, making for excellent balance. The result is a car with absolutely perfect ride quality, and the ability to absorb nearly every bump in the road before it reaches the driver or passengers.
Our 750Li was equipped with xDrive, and we were fortunate enough to see a generous dumping of snow during our week with the car. In part thanks to its excellent Pirelli SottoZero winter tires (20”), the car handled the fluffy stuff effortlessly. The “Adaptive” setting in the BMW drive select adjusts everything from steering response, suspension, and even xDrive settings, to make sure power is distributed appropriately for the conditions. BMW also allows drivers to completely shut off DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), and when you do, the 7 will happily dance as well as any other all-wheel-drive vehicle, with no complaints at all. This car is just graceful as can be regardless of the setting.
The sheer level of technology within the new 7-series is almost unbelievable. The new Gesture Control allows the driver to adjust volume or skip multimedia tracks without touching a thing; just rotating your finger will cause the car to perform the required task. Rear seat passengers are treated to a Samsung tablet built into the console, which controls everything from multimedia to climate and seat comfort. This also allows you to choose from many massage settings ranging from slow and subtle to a full body exercise mode. The four-zone climate control is a nice touch and works remarkably well, and there are even pre-loaded scents that contribute to the already-brilliant ambience within the 750Li.
Speaking of the rear seats, our tester was equipped with the Executive Lounge Tier 2 package. This requires selection of the long-wheelbase model, and includes executive lounge rear seating with a fixed center console. This reduces total seating capacity to four, but rear seat passengers are treated to extended, full reclining seats. The right side passenger, presumably a VIP, also gets a footrest that folds down as the front passenger seat is moved all the way forward. To complete the business class accomodations in the back of the 7, there is a tray table that folds out of the console that will easily fit a tablet or small laptop, so productivity is maximized while on the road. This package also includes a rear entertainment system with two screens, controlled via a wireless remote.
This 750Li marks the first time I’ve tested a car where I actually need to discuss interior lighting. The ambient lighting systems are some of the best on the market right now. There are a series of subtle LEDs built into the panoramic sunroofs (front and rear) that add a touch of colour throughout the cabin. This colour (selectable through the iDrive system) synchronizes with subtle lighting throughout the cabin – on the dashboard, door panels, and even the floor. The overall ambience is remarkable, with perfect, luxurious lighting within the car. The brightness can also be adjusted, to ensure it’s as subtle or flashy as you need it to be. It’s worth noting that this lighting can also be altered by the rear seat passengers through the tablet.
BMW really did pull out all the stops for the new 7-series, and this included a required update to the iDrive infotainment system. This is the latest iteration of the already-great unit, and adds touchscreen capability to the existing setup. The menus have also been significantly updated, and the voice recognition is heavily improved. There is still a central controller with a touchpad, and navigation input as well as media browsing is made responsive and easy. A standalone option on our car, the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system is worth every penny of the $4,900 it costs. This system makes every genre of music sound positively theatrical in this car, and the speakers are beautifully crafted and lit at night to make them just as aesthetically pleasing as they are to the ears. I used the satellite radio to listen to Sinatra’s classics for a good part of my test week, appropriate for a 7-series.
All of this technology comes at a price, and lucky for 7-series owners, the touchscreen key with full two-way capability comes at no charge! The base 750Li in long-wheelbase trim starts at $117,900. There are a series of packages which add things like Climate Comfort Laminated Glass (double-pane!), a panoramic sunroof with Sky Lounge, ventilated seats with massage, Surround View camera, park assist, active steering, night vision, and virtually everything else one can have on this model. The as-tested sticker on our car was $150,000 on the dot. Those who don’t plan to be chauffeured around don’t really need the Executive Lounge packages, but they are indeed wonderful if this is in the cards.
One very important feature that will be a game changer later this year is the remote park assist that BMW has introduced on this car. James Bond fans will recall 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, where Pierce Brosnan used a Nokia Communicator smartphone to remote-drive his E38 BMW 7-series. Well, fast forward nearly twenty years and BMW has actually implemented a feature where you can use the car’s remote fob to park the car, without physically having to be inside it.
This active parking technology is currently being legalized in North America and is expected to be software-flashed onto 7-series models sold later this year. Our car was equipped with a button for this system on the key, but obviously it was non-functional. As a 007 nerd, it’s mind-blowing for me to see that a technology that debuted in Q-Labs twenty years ago is actually available on a production car. Other sensory features are included though, such as a “Car Wash Mode” that automatically detects car wash entry and adjusts the exterior-view cameras to help guide around rails.
So, with state-of-the-art technology, a long wheelbase, and a thirsty twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood, the new 750Li must be a gas guzzler, right? To my surprise, the “Eco Pro” setting on the Drive Select works very well, dulling throttle response and short-shifting the transmission to optimize economy. My commute during my test week with the 7 was about 75% highway, with a bit of stop and go mixed in. I averaged a ridiculously efficient 10.9L/100km, and went nearly the whole week without having to refuel thanks to the 78L fuel tank. Obviously, the 750Li takes 91-octane premium, but if last year was any indication, a diesel model isn’t far behind.
When compared to the likes of the Mercedes-Maybach S600 (see review here), the 750Li is a different animal. After all, BMW has announced the M760Li’s introduction later this year as a 2017 model. The 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive offers supreme comfort, opulence, and a level of technology that is unattainable anywhere else in its segment right now. The S-Class is the gold standard in luxury, but BMW’s decision to launch the 7 an entire model year after the latest S-Class allowed them to one-up the three-pointed star in overall freshness. The level of presence, overall sophistication, and impeccable driving manners of the latest 7-series helps it quickly climb to the top of my list of the best new cars this year.
2016 BMW 750Li xDrive Gallery
*Photos by Jerry Vo & George Bucur*