BMW 7 Series review
Space-age tech and unrivalled luxury makes the BMW 7 Series a match for the Mercedes S-Class
The BMW 7 Series is one of the most sophisticated cars currently on sale. It’s clear a lot of time and dedication has gone into its development, and it can now be considered a genuine rival to the Mercedes S-Class.
It may not be the most rewarding driver’s car, but few models in this segment prioritise sharp handling. Luxury, refinement and technology are areas where these cars are designed to deliver and in that respect the 7 Series excels.
The amount of tech on-board is first rate, while the smooth and relaxing manner in which the 7 covers ground is only matched by the S-Class. Best of all, the 7 Series will influence the next-generation of saloons from BMW, so expect this level of engineering to go into the next 5 Series and 3 Series, too.
The BMW 7 Series has always stood in the shadow of the S-Class. The Mercedes has long been considered the ultimate in luxury and refinement, but the new 7 Series has changed all of that, matching the Merc in key areas. Other rivals come in the shape of the Jaguar XJ and Audi A8, but the 7 Series surpasses them both with its blend of style, refinement and on-board tech.
The latest sixth-generation 7 Series model hasn’t evolved much in terms of appearance. From the outside, the 7 Series now looks a little sharper but its still an understated look overall. Of course, for businessmen who want to fly under the radar the modest looking 7 Series is just the ticket. If you absolutely must make an impact in the office car park an M Sport model is available, which adds some racier bumpers and larger alloy wheels.
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Inside, it’s a different matter. BMW designers are particularly proud of the fact that you wont find a single piece of black plastic in the cabin. Every surface is trimmed in leather, Alcantara or varnished wood.
It’s loaded with kit, too. Every model comes with navigation, night vision cameras, autonomous parking, four-zone climate control and gesture control. As you’d expect for such a large car, its very spacious inside, but an even larger long-wheelbase version can be ordered that gives even more impressive rear passenger space.
From launch, there is only one diesel engine available. It’s a 261bhp 3.0-lite six-cylinder diesel, which BMW claims will get from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and onto a top speed of 155mph. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is the only transmission option too but xDrive four-wheel drive can be added in place of the standard rear-wheel-drive set-up.
Engines, performance and drive
With such a huge array of interior tech and acres of space, it seems a bit of waste to spend your time behind the wheel of the 7 Series where you can’t experience any of it. So, the best way to make the most of BMW’s flagship is to get someone to drive it for you – something frequently done by the businessmen who buy this type of car.
However, if you do find yourself having to get behind the wheel it’s one of the better luxury saloons for keener drivers. The 7 Series feels more agile than the S-Class or A8 due to its lightweight carbon fibre construction. The steering could do with some added weight as it is quite light, but it’s accurate enough.
The 3.0-litre diesel and eight-speed automatic gearbox work seamlessly together, allowing for smooth and relaxing progress. The 7 Series is also deceptively quick as it’s so quiet, so you pick up speed very quickly without realising you’re doing so.
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As air suspension comes as standard, the ride on the 7 Series is exceptional. There’s even a special ‘adaptive’ mode for the suspension, which uses the car’s navigation to set the car up for the road and terrain that’s coming up ahead.
For now only the 261bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine is available in the 7 Series. BMW claims it will get from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and hit 155mph, while the heavier long wheelbase model takes 0.1 seconds longer to hit 62mph.
Later in the car’s lifecycle a plug-in hybrid 740e will be introduced, likely to deliver CO2 emissions below 50g/km. Following that, powerful V12 turbo petrol engines will also be added to the range.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
For such a large car, the 7 Series is impressively economical. The entry-level 730d will return a claimed of 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 124g/km. To put that into context, that’s more efficient than a 1.4-litre Vauxhall Astra.
Compared to an equivalent S-Class, the Mercedes is only able to return 47.9mpg and 154g/km of CO2. For the upcoming 740e plug-in hybrid, BMW claims 134mpg will be achievable.
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No figures for depreciation have yet been released for the 7 Series, but previous models haven’t fared too well. Previously, range-topping versions of the 7 Series have lost almost half of their value after only one year.
Nothing has been confirmed but insurance groups shouldn’t stray too far from the outgoing model’s ratings of 45 to 50. This car is not going to be an insurance bargain.
Interior, design and technology
The party piece of the 7 Series is the interior and on-board tech. The design of the cabin perhaps doesn’t have the flair you get in the Mercedes S-Class, but its perfectly put together and only the most high-end materials have been used.
The seats are trimmed in plush Nappa leather, while wood, brushed aluminum and Alcantara have been used everywhere else.
Spec a long wheelbase model and there’s a long list of fancy optional extras you can choose to turn the 7 Series into the ultimate mobile living space. Airline-style executive seats can recline up to 36 degrees, while a champagne chiller can be fitted in place of the middle seat.
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The rear-seat entertainment system features two HD displays offering access to online services and movies, while on-board wifi allows you to stream or download directly from the web.
One of the most fascinating bits of tech is the gesture control technology, which allows drivers to control the stereo, answer incoming calls and set the navigation by simple hand gestures. It’s a feature no other luxury saloon currently offers.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The 7 Series is the first BMW to feature a new touch 10.2-inch colour touchscreen. Like many other displays, it responds to smartphone-like pinches and swipes, but it can also be controlled through BMW’s brilliant iDrive controller.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
It’s the back seat where you really want to experience the BMW 7 Series and the level of comfort the car lays on really is something else. You couldn’t really want for any more in terms of space and specification while BMW has also managed to replicate the air of quality common to some of the world’s greatest (and most expensive) saloon cars.
The new 7 Series is 26mm longer than the previous model, so there’s no shortage of space inside. A six-foot adult will have more than enough room sat behind another adult, but the long wheelbase model adds another 140mm to the length of the car if required. The 7 Series is slightly shorter than the S-Class but it is marginally wider.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
Customers can choose between two seating arrangements. The middle seat can be replaced by a fridge meaning seating only for four. However, spec the long wheelbase car and the front passenger seats can slide and tilt forward so that the passenger behind can recline and put their feet up.
A 515-litre boot provides plenty of space, but there is no split folding rear bench to boost capacity.
Reliability and Safety
In such an advanced car like the 7 Series there is plenty of safety kit to keep you and those on-board safe. A full complement of airbags, stability control and lane departure all feature as standard. A semi-autonomous driving function will also keep you a safe from the car in front in busy stop start traffic all on it own. The system also works on the motorway at higher speeds, too
Like every BMW, the 7 Series gets a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty. Three years is basically the industry standard these days and while the unlimited mileage is a nice touch, it’s the least you’d expect from a car in this price bracket.
Buyers can make a one-off payment to cover a list of service items on the 7 Series, which lasts 50,000 miles or five-years.