Test Car Specifications
Model tested: BMW M760Li xDrive
Pricing: £132,310 on-the-road
Engine: 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 294g/km (Band M, £515 per annum)
Combined economy: 22.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph (or 190mph with optional M Driver's Package)
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 610hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 1,550- to 5,000rpm
The new 7 Series top dog. We had pretty much forgotten about conventional petrol power for the big BMW luxury car, what with the company's excellent diesel options and even an impressive petrol-electric hybrid, but then BMW M announced it would be having a crack at the 7 and the result is the M760Li xDrive. As the name suggests, it's an M Performance Vehicle rather than a full-on hardcore M car, so it's remit sits between the normal variants of the 7 Series and a theoretical M7. That means it has to be just as comfortable as all the others, while giving its driver a little more.
Of course, the main purpose of the M760Li is to offer wealthy buyers the option of a V12 engine. Under the long bonnet is a twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 making 610hp and 800Nm of torque, the latter produced from 1,550rpm all the way around to 5,000rpm. 'Carbon Core' or not, the 7 Series is still a big heavy vehicle, yet that V12, combined with standard xDrive four-wheel drive, can propel it to 62mph from rest is a scarcely believable 3.7 seconds.
BMW M has done plenty to the chassis too, tweaking the air sprung suspension, adaptive damping and active roll control systems to its liking, the three grouped together and controlled via something BMW calls Executive Drive Pro. There's Integral Active Steering too (four-wheel steering), with a variable ratio steering rack for the front wheels. As before, the Driving Experience Control switch has an Adaptive mode, though all modes are altered to suit the new car's performance and remit and, to that end, there are new 19-inch brake discs with blue M callipers. Those can be seen through lovely 20-inch alloy wheels that are unique to the M760Li, finished in Cerium Grey metallic. That hue is applied elsewhere on the car, complementing a modest M aerodynamic package that features an optional boot lip spoiler.
If you'd like an even more restrained looking version of the V12-engined 7 Series, BMW will sell you the 'Excellence' model, which has the same engine and chassis, but a much more modest looking exterior and interior upgrades that suggest most of its owners will ride in the back seats.
How does it drive?
To start with, much like any other well-equipped version of the BMW 7 Series in long wheelbase guise. That is to say incredibly refined, very smooth and extremely comfortable no matter which seat you're sitting in. Sure, the engine growls a little more on start-up and the steering wheel is a fraction sportier, but the M760Li still makes a cracking luxury car. What's more, even in Sport mode, it still soaks up bad road surfaces and is perfectly composed on the road - serene even. The eight-speed automatic transmission is simply perfect, performance is effortless and you waft along knowing that you could out-accelerate any other BMW currently in production.
Then you shift it into Sport mode, come to a stop and initiate the standard launch control function before taking your foot off the brake and accelerating hard for the middle distance. There's a little dip from the rear as the nose rises up, but there's not so much as a chirrup from the tyres as the xDrive system (sending a maximum of 50 per cent of the engine's output to the front axle) helps find immense traction and shoots the big 7 forward. If I'm honest, the launch control is a tad underwhelming so controlled and composed is the car. But we also got the opportunity to take the M760Li outside its comfort zone, on a tight and twisty handling circuit that would have been too narrow for a kart race and then onto a much more senior race track with long sweeping bends and straights and a couple of high-speed braking areas.
And you know what? The M760Li lives up to its M badge. No, it's not as madcap or engaging as an M-car proper, but it really is a very accomplished piece of work. Its big brakes withstand a few very fast laps, the transmission is so well-judged in Sport mode that you never need to use the gearshift paddles, it makes a stirring noise when strung out to the redline in every gear, it feels far more agile than a car of this size has any right to and, here's the biggest surprise, the xDrive system allows adjustment of the car's line through a corner with minute adjustments of your right foot on the accelerator. It really doesn't take long before you feel comfortable pushing the four tyres beyond their normal operating temperatures and revelling in the balance and adjustability of the chassis.
Naturally, no buyer of the M760Li in the 'real world' will ever drive it like we did in the US, but I guess they'll be happy to know that the M badge represents more than just cynical marketing. We're divided between the regular version and the more tasteful looking Excellence model, but, either way, we're pleasantly surprised that BMW has managed to retain almost all of the comfort and refinement of the regular 7 Series while adding a honking great V12 to the engine bay and dynamics worthy of the M badge.