New BMW 7-Series Review | Big Sedan. Big Price. Big Appeal.
The BMW 7 Series has traditionally delivered some of the highest levels of technology, performance, comfort and luxury to the driver and passengers. Tradition is fine, but is this still true in 2017? We headed down to our local BMW dealer to take a test drive and find out.
New for 2016, the 6th-generation 7 Series updates and modernizes the top of the line Bimmer. Beyond just being the most expensive sedan in the lineup, the 7 christened the new technology of the “OKL” chassis. Using lessons learned from the i8, the 7 is made of carbon fiber reinforced polymer for the passenger cabin and subframes, with liberal use of aluminum for body parts like the trunk and doors. This reduces weight compared to the previous model, while increasing rigidity. And it’s just awesome tech for bragging rights.
Most notably different is the updated appearance, which finally includes a fix for the “Bangle Butt” dating back to the 2001 model. The front grille and fenders get race-y with large vents, but the look is not overdone and out of touch with the stately theme. Overall, it’s a subtle and classy look, but like a proper expensive car, powerful and with presence. Basically, it’s James Bond.
The 740i leads off the model range with a twin turbo 3.0L inline six cylinder. Purists will wonder why it isn’t named the 730i due to the displacement, but BMW stated that the turbocharging effectively simulates a larger displacement engine. We disagree, but point taken. This engine is rather small for a car this size and weight, but the forced induction does help it generate a respectable 320 horsepower. Despite the weight, the 740i runs 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds with rear-wheel drive, or 5.1 seconds with all-wheel drive (for an additional $3,000 on the MSRP). Those aren’t terrible numbers, equivalent to a 4.6L Mustang GT.
“My big car needs a V8!” you cry, because you’re a good American. The 750i is your steed then. Starting around $90k, the 750i also ignores naming conventions with its twin turbo 4.4L V8. It also has better wheels and more optional equipment, but what you really need to know is it has 445 hp and 479 lb/ft. You don’t care, but fuel economy averages an impressive 20 MPG, due in part to the start-stop tech used in urban environments. Zero to sixty takes just 4.6 seconds, so now your big comfy luxo-sedan can keep up with the embarrassed 5.0L Coyote Mustang GT owner. Not fast enough? Look to the xDrive version, for 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds.
Topping off the range is the M760i xDrive Sedan. Yes, “M7” would have been a much better name, but BMW won’t return our emails. This is a direct shot at the S600, but for about 20 grand less. Stuffed under the hood is the hand-built 6.6L M Performance TwinPower Turbo V-12, which also needs a shorter name. At 601 horsepower, “Badass” would probably do it. We didn’t get to drive this one, but BMW claims the V12 and all-wheel drive will slam it to 60 in just 3.6 seconds. MSRP is roughly $150k, but we couldn’t find one for sale south of $160,000.
The Tech & Drive
An executive sedan is far more than its engine specs. Even at the “low end” 740i, you get a 12.3” dynamic digital instrument cluster (instead of gauges, it’s all one configurable display), and the center 10” display for nav, audio, and such. The cool new feature is gesture control, so certain hand motions can change the station or whatnot, rather than having to touch a certain button like a pleb. Take that Tesla!
The steering wheel is large and pleasant to grip, and looks more expensive than your mom’s entire Chrysler 200. Steering feel is properly BMW weighted and studied, but still electric, and still slightly off. Granted, this is a luxury cruiser rather than a track car, but Porsche seems to have the luxury feel steering down the best.
Weight varies with the options, from a Dodge Charger-ish 4,195 lbs, all the way up to a Tesla Model S P100D equivalent 4,740. That’s a lot of heft, but like Olympian powerhouse Aly Raisman, the 7 wears it’s bulk well and remains eye pleasing.
Despite all the weight, BMW public relations team seems correct: the OKL chassis has reduced weight and shifted it lower, so the big German tank actually drives more like a smaller sportier car. Not a Mazda Miata, but more like a previous generation M5 through long corner and off-ramps.
At startup and moseying around town, the 7 is startlingly quiet. This is a soundproof cocoon against the harshness of the world, and it will insulate you against the act of driving even while driving. The sightlines are excellent for such a large car, and bumps are soaked up with aplomb. The 740i just doesn’t seem to get excited (the V12 is probably another story), and it would make a terrific commuter car.
BMW claims the base MSRP is $81,500, but poking around our dealer and online it seems most of the 740i cars will run you $85k – $95k, while a 750i will start just over $100k. That is a good chunk of coin, but it does buy a whole lot of car.
Like all car classes, your favorite will likely depend on what manufacturer you already have a preference for. The new 7 is unlikely to sway potential S Class buyers, simply because they are already set on the big Merc. 7 Series buyers are likely already Bimmer fans, moving up to the executive size, or finally hitting it big and wanting to make a statement.
We’re not fanboys here, so with objective eyes we’ll say the BMW is elegant, but restrained. The S Class looks more expensive, but also flashier and kinda “hey, look at me!” Based purely on looks and drive-by impressions, the 7 isn’t as gorgeous as the Maserati Quattroporte or Jaguar XJ, but it is miles ahead of the Lexus LS. The beltline and roofline are dead-on with the Audi A8, but with BMW’s familiar kidney grille and 21st Century traditional angry headlights up front for distinction.
The interior is different from the competitors too. BMW notably focused more on performance than luxury in the past, but that message doesn’t come through here. This isn’t a stripped 135i with a manual, this is more like an attempt at a BMW Bentley Flying Spur. Ergonomics aren’t as perfect as the Lexus, but the interior is far more attractive to the eyes. It’s not as fun as the Maserati, but feels more thoughtful. Compared to the S Class, the interiors are VERY similar in design from the driver’s seat. The 7 wins in the rear seats though, with a better looking and comfier seat, and the in-your-face tech presence. Three screens for the rear passengers looks awesome, but we wondered how well the tech will age (remember 1st gen iDrive?).
Is it the Ultimate Driving MachineTM? Not at all, but it wasn’t designed to be. The BMW 7 is the comfort and luxury transporter that puts everyone on notice, from your competition at the office, to the kiddo’s friends at school bellowing “Siiiick!” when you pick them up. They’re just saying what everyone else is thinking.