► BMW 7-series prototype driven
► We test the 740Li straight six
► Target: S-class luxury with BMW fun
Whenever a car maker launches a key model, rivals tear one down to fathom the competition. There’ll be much to mull with the new 2016 BMW 7-series.
BMW has applied learnings from its electric(ish) i range to its largest saloon, so the passenger cell’s high-strength steel is augmented with carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) – header rails, roof pillars, transmission tunnel, sills – providing excellent crash protection and rigidity, and allowing the 7-series to weigh up to 130kg less than its similarly sized predecessor, despite extra equipment. All exterior panels are aluminium, the lightweight metal also selectively included in the structure. Interesting riposte to Jaguar’s aluminium-intensive monocoques.
Mission 7-series: more fun, with proper pampering
Merc S-class comfort with BMW-style driving ‘joy’. The debut of all-round air suspension is key to comfort, together with a new Comfort Plus setting on the Driving Experience Control switch that tailors powertrain, suspension and steering maps. The dynamic bit? Choose familiar Sport for the rigor-mortis experience or new Adaptive, which… you guessed.
We’re driving a prototype long-wheelbase 740i on smooth test facility tarmac, but – with caveats in mind – the soporific lull of Comfort Plus feels extraordinarily compliant. Nod off and adaptive cruise control has stop-and-go functionality for feet-free traffic tailing (and Jagger-doing-the-chicken results) and new all-electric steering will track true for around 10 seconds, disturbing your slumber with a little beep just prior to impact. Tempting, too, to let go of the all-electric helm – James Bond got more steering feel from the back of his remote-control Seven.
Does it still handle like a BMW?
During high-speed runs in Sport and Adaptive on a wet, twisty road course, the new 7-series can certainly carve, with strong front-end grip, rear-wheel steering to aid agility – now also with all-wheel drive – cohesive direction changes and excellent traction.
Georg Kacher certainly had fun in it on the same course, being goaded by BMW’s head of vehicle dynamics Peter Langen. ‘He’s a fearless man,’ says Georg. ‘He said “Waitwaitwait – now boot it!” so I did. As the torque wave hit the rear wheels, everything happened at once: a little slip, a little smoke, a little sideways action. “Seeee! I told you,” Langen said. Power oversteer worked even better in third gear. It’s a very tacticle luxury car. Despite the bulk, it is as creamy, chuckable and confidence-inspiring as a 335i.’
It is certainly an exec that covers ground rapidly and with likeable assurance despite its size, but despite Georg’s antics I think it feels a bit too serious to be truly comfortable undoing its top button. Does this matter in a class more concerned about legroom, comfort, technology and safety, areas where the 7-series excels? Probably not.