2016 BMW 7 Series First Review: Remaking a flagship
With great handling a given, the all-new BMW 7 Series shows that the German automaker is also putting a high value on improved ride, advanced technology aimed at better facilitating man/machine interactions and new features and accessories designed to keep this large 4-door luxury sedan on top.
Now in its sixth generation, the 2016 BMW 740i/750i and 750i xDrive will again offer 320-horsepower inline-6 and 445-horsepower V8 twin-turbo power with rear-drive in the former and all-wheel drive in the latter. Models coming to the U.S. will be long-wheelbase only with BMW dropping the "L" designation from the model lineup. Among the major advancements is a new structure that incorporates lightweight carbon fiber along with high strength steel and aluminum to trim 190 pounds from the curb weight, despite adding new features and technology.
Familiar, yet bolder design
From a styling perspective, BMW has not departed from the design language used on its smaller 3 and 5 Series siblings. The shape is clean with only two side character lines, including one on the rocker that ties into a new air vent behind the front wheel. Although its face remains the same, BMW says the twin kidney grille opening on this new 7 Series is the largest ever and now includes active shutters that help improve aerodynamics when closed at highway speeds.
The interior has also been upgraded with a new look that incorporates a large touchscreen in the dash, set off with high quality chrome and aluminum buttons and accents along with traditional wood veneers and new diamond sew patterns on the leather seating surfaces. The cabin offers plenty of room front and rear, with the long wheelbase providing exceptional rear-seat legroom. The new 7 Series also offers a rear executive seating package that includes a fold-out foot rest from the front seatback, a work table and rear computer tablet that can control many of the car's functions.
High technology rules
The list of new features on the 7 Series is impressive including industry firsts like gesture control to raise or lower radio volume as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission that talks to the navigation system to anticipate the road ahead. The attention to detail is designed to make the car more responsive, comfortable and easy to use. Much attention has been paid to the ride, using a new air suspension system that incorporates active roll bar technology, 4-wheel steering and a sensing system that previews the road ahead and automatically makes real-time adjustments to the chassis.
There are essentially four drive modes that control throttle input, suspension stiffness and steering response. In Eco Pro, the both the throttle inputs and transmission shift logic are geared for maximum economy. During our road drive in a rural area, this mode felt a bit lazy, with a lag in acceleration, however, in stop-and-go driving you can take advantage of the adaptive cruise for traffic jams, thus minimizing fuel consumption while letting the car do all the work. Comfort, which also has a slightly softer Plus sub-mode, is best described as the normal setting for most driving. The steering is light and quick and the ride compliance optimum. Personally, I preferred the performance-oriented Sport mode with its slightly heavier steering response and a taut ride that wasn't at all harsh. The Adaptive mode will select the appropriate mode to match your driving style. Through an individualization setting, you can pick, for instance, the sport steering response to go with the comfort ride setting.
Interacting on your own terms
The ability to program the performance parameters is just one facet of the 2016 BMW 7 Series' capability to allow you to interact with it on your own terms. The addition of touchscreen technology along with a revamped voice command system that relies on natural speech, the fifth iteration of the menu-driven iDrive control system, the gesture control as well as redundant analog switches and buttons on the center console and steering wheel allow you to control the vehicle using systems with which you are most comfortable.
The new dynamic instrument cluster also features a reconfigurable display that reflects the vehicle drive mode. In Eco Pro, for instance, it shows an EfficientDynamics gauge that shows how to maximize fuel economy. In Comfort, there is a traditional four dial arrangement including a speedometer with a large digital readout plus tach, temp and fuel displays. In Sport, there are just two, tach and speedometer with large digital displays for speed and gear. The 7 Series is also equipped with what BMW says is the largest Head-Up Display in the industry. This multi-color readout includes vehicle speed and speed limit, navigation directions and other pertinent information such as blind spot monitoring and lane departure in the driver's line of sight.
High-end entertainment and driver assists
As befits a flagship, the 7 Series has a complete complement of high end features starting with a Bowers & Wilkens Diamond surround-sound system with a 10-channel amp pushing out 1,400 watts through 16 speakers. Driver assist features include new surround 3-D view cameras to aid in parking, parking assistant with advice park distance control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning and active cruise control with stop-and-go functionality.
Set to go on sale next month, the BMW 740i starts at $81,300, the 750i at $94,400 and the range topping 750i xDrive at $97,400, all prices exclude $995 destination. Next year, BMW will be adding an all-wheel drive 740i variant, as well as a plug-in hybrid 740e xDrive, which will be powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine working with electric motors integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission. That vehicle will have a pure electric range of 23 miles.
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