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First drive: BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype
We've driven a prototype of the all-new BMW 7 Series luxury saloon.

   



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BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

As the Teutonic battle of luxury saloons rumbles on, BMW is preparing to fire a new salvo across the bows of its rivals in the form of a lighter and more technologically advanced 7 Series.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 7 Series long wheelbase pre-production prototype
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door luxury saloon
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)

What's this?

Look a little closer and underneath that thin camouflage you'll find the next generation BMW 7 Series that makes its world debut at this autumn's Frankfurt Motor Show. The proportions haven't changed a great deal from its predecessor, but the new exterior design appears more contoured and taut. As before, the signature kidney grilles are large but are now connected to the headlight units. This gives it a lower, wider ad leaner. Its sides are less slab-sided too, taking on a look that seems more like a larger and sharper 5 Series. The rear end is a tidier affair too.

Underneath that svelte body is an all-new chassis concept and design. Drawing from knowledge and experience gained through its BMW i sub-brand, the Bavarian company has used carbon fibre and carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) in many key areas of the body shell in what it calls its 'Carbon Core'. The roofline structure and cross bracing, along with the B-pillar, sills and some elements of the transmission tunnel, are all constructed from the lightweight material. As well as providing a high degree of structural rigidity without the associated weight penalty, it significantly lowers the car's centre of gravity. This has benefits when it comes to driving dynamics.

We're expecting a new form of interior design from BMW too, with increased used of touch sensitive sliders and buttons with haptic feedback. Adjusting the dashboard air vents from hot to cold will be done by simply sliding your finger along a panel underneath, for instance. A larger touchscreen below this will house controls for the heated seats and climate controls while the main iDrive monitor becomes a touchscreen for the first time. Those already versed in the iDrive system will welcome the new layout that now includes a preview screen of the sub menus making whatever it is you're searching for that bit easier to find. While scrolling through these menus we also saw a new 'Scent Control' that is likely to use the ventilation system to keep your 7 Series nicely fragranced at all times.

One entirely new aspect to interacting with the car is BMW's Gesture Control. A 3D sensor located over the centre console can detect defined hand movements to execute functions such as adjusting the stereo volume. Swiping your hand to the right can dismiss an unwanted incoming phone call and it will also be possible to configure your own tasks using a specific gesture.

BMW hasn't announced what engine line-up it will have in the 7 Series but along with the big-selling diesel engines it will be offered with a new TwinPower 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol unit. The transmission is an updated version of the Steptronic eight-speed automatic with both rear- and xDrive all-wheel drive layouts.

How does it drive?

One of the key goals of the new 7 Series according to Klaus Frölich, Member of the Board of Management at BMW Group overseeing Development, was to set new standards for driver experience. The utilisation of lightweight materials does indeed go some way to improving the car's dynamics, as well as helping BMW retain its preferred 50:50 weight distribution. It doesn't stop there though; the Munich car maker is rolling out a new line of driver assistance systems to both enhance the drive and make life easier for the driver.

Two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling will be a standard feature across the 7 Series line-up and gives an extremely high level of comfort. Even on the simulated rough roads at the testing facility where we drove the car it absorbs imperfections and isolates the cabin from any unwelcome harshness. An electromechanically driven Dynamic Drive stabilisation system reduces body roll when cornering even at higher speeds. Should you select Sport from the redesigned Driving Experience Control, the suspension not only firms up but also lowers the car by 10mm. Few buyers of a 7 Series will do so in order to throw it around a race circuit, but it is certainly capable of being driven in a very spirited manner. One additional new feature of the Driving Experience Control is its Adaptive mode. This reacts to changes in driving style such as throttle or steering inputs ensuring that the car is always in the most suitable setting.

As with the recently updated 6 Series, BMW will offer its Active Steering system as an option in the new 7 Series. It consists of variable rack and pinion steering and rear wheels that can turn up to three degrees either with or in the opposite direction to the fronts depending on the situation. At slow speeds this greatly enhances the manoeuvrability of the car making it feel even smaller than a 5 Series. At higher speeds, whether lane changing on a motorway or on a free flowing road, it feels remarkably surefooted for a car of its size and weight.

The new technology in the 7 Series goes beyond that of improving mechanical performance. Driver aid systems will include new Driving Assistance, which is now capable of steering the car to keep in it the correct driving lane with only minimal input from the driver. It stops short of being a fully autonomous setup by the fact that the driver needs to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times, but it is advanced enough to enable the driver to reduce their levels of concentration. It is capable of maintaining a safe distance from the car in front and can use its stereo camera system to read road signs and if required lower the car's speed when it enters a slower speed limit zone - all without the driver doing anything other than holding on to the steering wheel.

Verdict

Even in this pre-production prototype it's clear that BMW's 7 Series luxury saloon is taking several giant steps forward, mostly in terms of comfort and technology. First impressions suggest it's going to give the top-selling Mercedes-Benz S-Class a good run for its money. It'll be on sale before the end of the year in the UK.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 18 Apr 2015



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2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.



2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 7 Series pre-production prototype. Image by BMW.
 






 

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