► BMW unleashes an M7… almost
► 602bhp bi-turbo V12, 3.7sec 0-62mph
► Wickedly fast, yet pampers too
There’s something of Dr Bruce Banner about the new 7-series flagship, the BMW M760Li.
Impeccably well-mannered, bristling with intelligence and reassuringly easy to live with, yet when provoked, it’s a visceral and snarlingly potent performance car.
This is the first 7er prefixed with an M, but it’s no full-fat Motorsport division M5 writ large. Consider it a BMW toe in the sports limo water, the pinnacle of the M Performance sub-brand-within-a-sub-brand. One not short of mechanical might, though, as the liberal smattering of V12 logos confirm.
Three decades of BMW V12s
Shoehorned into the BMW’s engine bay is its latest-generation 12-cylinder powerplant, 30 years on since the debut of the E32 750iL.
Now boasting a 6.6-litre capacity, its induction forced by a pair of turbochargers, there’s a 602bhp glut at your disposal, enough for a 189mph top speed when you opt for the M Driver’s Package – otherwise you’re electronically governed to a sedate 155mph.
Metering out 590lb ft of torque through a familiar eight-speed automatic ’box is the xDrive all-wheel drive system – albeit with a high jinks-enabling rear axle bias. The resultant 3.7-second 0-62mph time feels comfortably attainable, especially with the easy-to-engage launch control system.
Launch control in a 7-series? Whatever next!
It does seem incongruous having such boy racer gizmos in a limousine. But here’s the thing: restrict yourself to Comfort mode and the V12’s demeanour is joyfully docile. Think Rolls Royce Ghost-light and you’re about there: it’s effortless to drive smoothly and without drama.
So hushed are the dozen pistons, so cossetingly comfortable the air-suspended ride, so anaesthetised the steering, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact you’re in a XXL sports saloon at all.
But as impressive as that disconnect with the outside world is, the BMW is still out-limoed by the ubiquitous S-class, the Mercedes proving even more luxurious, refined and spacious.
So when does the M760 begin to make sense?
Engaging Sport mode – and switching off DSC – dramatically alters the character of the M760Li xDrive V12 (that full name is a mouthful, isn't it?).
Delivering that Hulk Smash pummelling is a raft of electronica, controlling every aspect of the way the BMW drives, but it’s done in a way that amplifies the 7’s capabilities, rather than interfering with them; your confidence builds as you press on. And then you press on some more.
Executive Drive Pro suspension sounds teeth-itchingly naff for such a sophisticated system that proactively reduces body roll of the hunkered down saloon, making it feel remarkably nimble for something so gargantuan.
Rapid directional changes are made possible not only by the proactive electronic anti-rollbars and intelligent all-wheel drive system, but also by a trick steering system: its rack’s quicker than lesser 7s, with manoeuvrability improved further by rear-wheel steering, negating the likelihood of mid-corner understeer. Just a pity the feedback through to your fingertips isn’t quite as communicative as we’d like.
I thought you said it wasn’t interfering…
It sounds like it could nanny rather than sate enthusiastic drivers, but BMW’s M division has created the M760Li with engagement firmly in mind.
Sure, the Michelin Pilot Super Sports – 245/40s up front and 275/35s at the rear – grip tenaciously in humdrum conditions, but they also allow for a degree of playfulness when the opportunity arises. The rear-biased xDrive arrangement is well-judged; no drift mode heroics here, just natural steering angle/throttle balance.
Forget the 7’s size, you can rewardingly hustle it along.
Yet while all the lairy antics are going on, the ride – now necessarily firmer – is still adept enough to smooth out poorly-surfaced asphalt.
Does the engine overwhelm that nimbleness?
All that performance can be clinical if the soundtrack’s lacking gravitas, but there’re no worries on that musical score. Straightened, big of bore and active valve-equipped to increase the resonance, the M760Li sounds suitably racy in Sport mode.
If the soundtrack’s enticing, the V12’s wave of torque is addictive, its depths plumbable from 1550rpm all the way up to 5000rpm. That linearity reduces the need for a mid-corner gearchanges, further maintaining the BMW’s balance, and allowing you to indulge in the relentlessness of the acceleration as you wind off the steering post-apex.
Of course, all that go’s a bit too exciting if there’s not enough woah to rein it all in: 19-inch ventilated discs – four-piston callipers up front – ensure its never lacking in stopping power.
If you’re forking out north of £130,000 for a performance saloon you’ll want it to look the part, hence the M Aerodynamic package, with gaping grilles in the deeper front apron, a vestigial bootlid spoiler and exterior accents in matt grey. The rims are 20 inchers and specific to the M760Li, too.
And if you fancy the full-on chrome glitz of the Excellence model’s oligarch approach, then rejoice upon the news that it’s a no-cost option.
BMW expects to sell around 100 M760Lis in the UK, representing 5% of 2017’s intended volume. Its niche appeal’s undeniable but equally something worthy of celebration: evidently there are plutocrats who love nothing more than taming a snaking stretch of B-road, emerging at their destination wearing a satisfied grin.
For that select band of clientele, that it’s merely very good – rather than exceptional – in limo mode, is a small price to pay for such an accomplished sports sedan.
Unlike Dr Banner, you would like the BMW when it’s angry.
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