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New BMW 7 Series 2015 review

Luxury new BMW 730d saloon is set to give S-Class a run for its money

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Trying to knock the S-Class from its perch has to be one of the most difficult challenges in the game, but the new BMW 7 Series matches it punch for punch. BMW has built a model which can finally stand up to the Mercedes. It’s relaxing and lavishly kitted out – for those in the front as well as the back – ensuring execs will have a real decision to make when choosing their next luxury limo.

BMW has striven for many a year to match the Mercedes S-Class in the luxury executive market with the 7 Series. It’s now 38 years to be precise, and with this latest sixth-generation model, we think the company has finally achieved its aim – this is one of the finest big saloons we’ve ever driven.

The exterior looks are a modest evolution of the outgoing car’s and whether they’re a success or not will be in the eye of the beholder. It’s neither ugly nor out-and-out beautiful; the large kidney grilles and plain flanks are among the less impressive design details, but the tidy light clusters and sculpted bonnet which now closes flush to the front of the car add more appeal.

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Best luxury cars 2015

However, the interior is a different story; it’s sensationally good. The quality is first-rate wherever you look (Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW’s design chief, proudly stated that there is no black plastic whatsoever on show inside) and, crucially, it is spacious and opulent, even in the regular-wheelbase model we drove. Go for the long-wheelbase version and rear legroom increases by a huge 140mm. However, the weight of the car also climbs by 45kg, and this in turn has a punitive effect on economy and emissions.

Standard equipment is as generous as you’d expect, and includes air-suspension with Dynamic Damper Control (DDC), gesture recognition and head-up display across all models. But it’s the options list that makes for the most jaw-dropping reading. This BMW can, with the right extras, park itself, display ambient lighting in the twin ‘Sky Lounge’ panoramic sunroofs, massage, recline, heat and cool the rear-seat occupants. It can also run semi-autonomously with a driver assistance package, illuminate the road ahead with laser lights and incorporate a tablet control function screen for rear-seat entertainment.

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A further option is xDrive all-wheel drive, available at cost on the 730d/Ld and 740Le models, and standard fit on the range-topping 750i/Li – but this also brings a 70kg weight penalty. And that undoes the ‘Carbon Core’ lightweight build ethos, learned from the BMW i3 and i8 EVs, that has seen up to 130kg shaved from the old car’s specification.

So, stick to a rear-drive, regular-wheelbase version like our test 730d and you’ll end up with a stunning machine. It has excellent sporting credentials for a limousine, something that the 7 has always had over rivals, but that dynamic prowess doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. The 730d’s mighty 620Nm makes a mockery of its 1,755kg kerbweight, while the eight-speed Steptronic auto is seamless, the brakesare faultless and the body control on the air-suspension is marvellous.

The steering is a little light for our tastes, no matter what mode it’s in, but it is at least faithful and direct, which makes the BMW an absolute pleasure to drive when you want to press on.

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However, the truly world-beating display from the 730d comes when cruising. Aside from very mild wind noise around its heavily stylised exterior mirror mounts (thin blades of metal protruding from the chrome window trim surround), the 7 is serenity personified. Both the engine and tyre noise are subdued to silence, while the ride is out of this world – the 7 Series floats along without ever introducing jolts and thumps into the cabin.

The new car shows its range in the corner of the fuel gauge at all times, and our model managed 500 miles-plus to empty; covering every last one of those miles would be a breeze. One word of warning – on a mixed test route, we saw 33.2mpg. Motorway cruising did see it rise to more like 55mpg and near the official figure, but reckon on a real-world return of between 40 and 50mpg.

The starting price for 7 Series ownership is £64,530, while the petrol-fuelled 740Li costs from £72,060. Pick a few choice options on this 730d and you’ll be left with an executive saloon that will give the S-Class a run for its money. The latest 7 Series really is absolutely excellent in every respect.

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