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 has long sat in the shadow of the Mercedes S-Class. However, with this latest model, BMW has taken the fight to its German rivals with its most technologically advance saloon car ever. It's one of the most sophisticated cars currently on sale and it is clear that a lot of time and dedication has gone into its development.
With such a large body and uncharacteristically light steering, 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 BMW 7 Series excels.
There's a range of capable, quick and economical engines, ranging from the frugal 730d, to the bonkers M760i, which lays claim to being the fastest accelerating BMW ever – sprinting from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds. That's not only faster than a BMW M5, but significantly quicker than the Mercedes-AMG S 65.
The amount of tech on-board all models is first rate, while the smooth and relaxing manner in which the 7 covers ground is matched only 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 fallen just shy of the Mercedes S-Class. The Merc has long been considered the ultimate in luxury and refinement, but the new 7 Series has changed all of that, matching the Merc in many key areas. Other rivals include 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 way of getting from A to B in complete comfort. 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, while the flagship M760i adds V12 grunt to the sporting looks.
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Inside, it’s a different matter. BMW designers are particularly proud of the fact that you won't 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.
There's a range of petrol and diesel engines, though bizarrely, some are only available with four-wheel drive. The entry-level model is the 730d, which uses a 261bhp 3.0-lite six-cylinder diesel capable of 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is the only transmission option, too.
Those after a bit more pace can spec the 740d engine, though you'll have to tick the box for xDrive all-wheel drive, too, as BMW UK doesn't offer this engine as a rear-drive model. Two petrols; the 740i and 750i, sit beneath the range-topping M760i, which uses a powerful V12 motor. A quad-turbo 750d diesel has also been announced, though it's unclear whether this will arrive in UK dealers. A 740e plug-in hybrid capable of 141mpg is also available.
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 and women 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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The more powerful models are undoubtedly faster, but in all honesty few will ever require more than that offered by the 730d. BMW's 740d is xDrive (all-wheel drive) only, which may prove useful during our notoriously wet winters.
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.
The entry-level 7 Series is the hugely capable 730d. 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 for the same benchmark sprint.
Those after a bit more grunt could look towards the 740d, which uses the same engine turned up a notch. It's only available with xDrive all-wheel drive, but it does shave almost a second off the car's 0-62mph time (5.2 seconds) - feeling even faster in-gear.
If you prefer petrol, there's a punchy 740Li or powerful 750i, though the choice will come down to whether you want the long or short wheelbase car. The 740Li is long-wheelbase only, while the 750i is considered sportier and only comes on the shortened platform. The 740Li goes from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, and the 750i shaves that to 4.7 seconds. An M760i is expected to go on sale later in 2016, taking a further second from the 50i's 0-62mph time.
A plug-in hybrid 740e has also been added to the range, though that's likely to appeal to those after low running costs than outright performance. It'll return as much as 141mpg, and put out rock-bottom CO2 emissions.
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 petrol-powered Vauxhall Astra.
It's better than the equivalent S-Class, too, which is only able to return 47.9mpg and 154g/km of CO2. Even the faster 740d with xDrive all-wheel drive pips the rear-driven Merc – emitting 134g/km and returning 55.4mpg. The 740e plug-in hybrid is the economy champ, however, with BMW claiming 141mpg with frequent charges.
The petrol models are less impressive, though still admirable given the car's size. The 740Li will do 41.5mpg, while the quicker short wheelbase 750i does 35.3mpg. CO2 emissions of 159g/km and 186g/km respectively mean they'll be more expensive to tax – for private and business users alike.
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No luxury limousine is going to fare too well for depreciation. The fact they cost so much to buy, means there is far more to loose, and as a result you'd be lucky to see back more than around 40 per cent of the BMW's value after three years or 36,000 miles. Despite its (arguably) more desirable image, a Mercedes S-Class is no better off.
Insurance groups range from 44 on the 740Li, to 48 on the 740Ld xDrive in M Sport trim. Oddly, the diesels are all one or two groups higher than the petrols, despite being slightly slower. Whichever model you go for, 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. That's actually five litres bigger than you'll find on its main rival – the Mercedes S-Class – though in reality, you're unlikely to be able to tell the two apart.
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
BMW also finished a respectable 15th out of 32 car manufacturers in the 2016 Driver Power survey, although that was behind Mercedes, which finished 12th. It has pipped Audi, though Jaguar and Lexus remain in the top 10.
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.