Tried and tested: the backseat gym in a BMW 7-series

Published: 13 June 2016

► We test the 7-series backseat gym
New tech – does it work though?

► Stretches, pulsates and relaxes muscles 

From remote parking to gesture control, the sixth-generation 7-series is almost alive with cutting-edge tech, as befits its status as Munich’s flagship. But is it clever enough to deliver a rippling, muscle-bound torso using nothing more than its back seats?

That – with only mild exaggeration – is the promise. Tick the boxes marked rear-seat massage function (£895) and rear-seat entertainment experience with BMW Touch Command (the 7’s optional and slickly integrated rear touchscreen tablet, £2705) and you can give yourself a workout with the Vitality Programme.

An ‘active body training programme that relaxes and regenerates the muscles and takes pressure off the spinal discs on long journeys’, the idea is simple enough. Instead of massaging you as you sit slumped after a tough 18-hour day in the office, the programme encourages you to put the effort in yourself, working against resistance in the seat to improve posture, exercise muscles and boost circulation.   

The first task is to calibrate the seat for you and your strength, so that the car knows whether your pathetic
efforts are actually pathetic or everything you’ve got. You’re then taken through a series of exercises, from heaving against different parts of the seat to stretches that the car can’t evaluate but trusts that you’re doing. During the pushing exercises, a visual representation of your effort appears on screen, with star ratings to keep you from losing interest, pouring a generous Talisker and using the tablet to buy things you don’t need on eBay.  

The first thing to note is that you’ll feel very silly doing this, contorting body and face like you’re struggling with a particularly vindictive bout of constipation. But the on-screen prompts, delivered in incredible clarity on the 7’s high-resolution, tilt-adjustable 10-inch screens are excellent, and it’s surprising just how quickly you feel a bit of colour coming into your cheeks. Even if you’re not a complete stranger to the inside of a gym, chances are you’ll find yourself getting a little warm and out of breath, assuming you were honest during calibration and really did push as hard you possibly could.

Did it work? 

Surprisingly, yes. Calibration is a tad clunky but put the effort in and you’ll feel better after the programme; more alert and with good posture. It’d take the mother of all traffic jams to transform an office soft-body into something underwear-ad ready, but that’s not the point.

3 steps to an in-car six-pack

Use the tablet to fire up the Vitality Programme, ready?

1) Sitting comfortably?

Grab the Touch Command tablet, select the seat you’re sitting in and fire up the Vitality Programme 

Like all healthy relationships, do as you're told to complete the programme

2) Do as you are told

Follow the on-screen prompts to calibrate the seat to your strength. Push and relax at the right moment or the system won’t play ball 

Are we okay there Ben? Comfortable?

3) Are we having fun yet?

Get stuck in as the programme works its way around your body, subjecting it to several sets of repetitions. Stretch, push, relax, go a bit red in the face, feel good…

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By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three