► Look past that grille
► Impressively quick, despite the weight
► A bit like our favourite S-class
You’re probably expecting this road test to open with a remark about the vast grille now attached to the front of the facelifted BMW 7 Series – that it looks like a cross between Daddy Pig and a towel rail or something similar – but you would be wrong.
In fact what we’re chiefly interested in here is what’s behind the vast edifice, the engines which push that 50mm taller front end through the air. And its good news all round, particularly in the form of the pumped up V8 in the 750i xDrive.
What’s so special about it?
With 4.4-litres and two turbos at its disposal the middle-powered of the three petrol 7 Series saloons was never going to be slow.
Even so, BMW saw fit to equip the 750i with even more power this time around, 523bhp to be precise, and a deeply satisfying 553lbs ft of torque. So while this car is not as powerful as a 4.0-litre Mercedes-AMG S 63, it is faster from 0-62mph.
In fact taking just four seconds to crack the benchmark sprint, the 2019 750i is nearly a second quicker than the model it replaces, putting it perilously close to the considerably girthier BMW M760i.
Isn’t that a V12?
Yes – but with 585hp now (conversely less power than the car it replaces) and weighing nearly 250kg more than the 750i, the gap between 0-62mph times is just two tenths. So small as to be barely noticeable.
There are some caveats of course. The V12 is available in luxury long wheelbase only, accounting for a bit of extra weight, while the 750i on UK shores at least is a standard wheelbase car.
So if you’re not planning on regularly chauffeuring business people, and like the sound of an extra £55,000 to spend on 98 RON and tyres, then then 750i begins to look like a bit of a bargain.
What’s the point of a limo if you’re not chauffeuring people?
Well, quite. And that’s where we’ve previously struggled with the 7 Series – a driver’s car in a world where people expect to be driven by someone else. And if you want a fast and engaging saloon with reasonable rear legroom then just what on earth is wrong with a BMW M5?
For a start while the M5 does quieten down in its more comfortable modes, it’s still very switched on all the time. The 750i doesn’t offer quite the same levels of sportiness but on the other hand it is also sublimely comfortable when you want to waft through Belgium in one hop.
Then when you want to turn the heat up a little there’s a whole bank of electronic assistance to help shrink that long wheelbase - active roll stabilisation to keep the bodywork level in corners and predictive active suspension that can read a camber more successfully than you, and prepare the chassis for maximum adhesion. Plus there’s less witchcrafty but still useful tech like rear-wheel steering and a variable steering rack on top of standard fit all-wheel drive and adaptive dampers.
The result is a car with an eerie ability to leave some of its two tonne kerbweight behind when you press the Sport button on the centre console – with sharp steering, a faithful front end and plenty of grip mid-corner thanks to the clever xDrive system. You do have to bear that bulk in mind when spotting your braking point of course, there’s no getting around that.
What else is new?
A bigger badge to go with the enlarged grille, plus thinner head and tail lights, and a light strip running full-width across the boot. Both lengths have grown by 22 millimetres and the air breathers and outlets on the side of the car are larger to improve aerodynamics around the wheels.
As well as that new V8 there is also a straight-six for the 745e and 745Le plug-in hybrids – which are now capable of up to 36 electric-only miles and are properly quiet when driven this manner. That’s partly down to a raft of refinement upgrades across the board including thicker glass all round and more insulation in the wheel arches and b pillars.
In the back you get a pair of 10-inch HD displays hooked up to a Blu-ray player and everything is controlled by a new 7-inch removable tablet - seat adjustment, lighting and climate, as well as infotainment and navigation. The lot.
BMW 7-series: verdict
The BMW 750i xDrive sits in an odd convergence – fast and spacious like a BMW M5 but more luxurious and comfortable than an M850i. And not an Alpina.
In a way it’s a bit like our favourite model of the previous raft of Mercedes-Benz S-Classes – the S500 – which featured loads of waft and the satisfying timbre of a V8, without the stiffer ride of the AMG cars. Except it’s faster than an AMG car and way more entertaining to drive.
Business users will ultimately be drawn to the lower running costs of the diesel 730d or 740d models, or at least something with a long wheelbase in order to luxuriate in, and those after peak performance will default to the M760Li.
When’s all said and done it makes little sense, in the UK at least, and perhaps that’s why it’s so appealing.