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Seventh Wonder. Image by BMW.

Seventh Wonder
We've been taken to BMW's top-secret Miramas proving grounds to sample some of the technology in its all-new 7 Series.

 



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| Pre-Launch Drive | Miramas, France | BMW 7 Series |

In the Metal

The test cars may have had some disguise tape on them, but it was still easy to get a feel for how the new 7 Series will look. Those who loved the current 7 Series will be disappointed at how undramatic the new car looks, but for most people it will be seen as a vast improvement over the old car's ungainly shape. Indeed, when parked alongside the current model, it becomes obvious how badly it has aged and how tacked-on its facelift was. The new car - in contrast - is handsome and elegant, a little drab in profile, perhaps, but imposing from the front and surprisingly appealing from the rear.

What you get for your Money

It's a little early to say what will be standard and optional in the new 7 Series but if your pockets are deep enough then you can have adaptive cruise control that works in stop/start traffic, xenon headlamps that can point up and down hills as well as around corners, a lane departure warning system, a head-up display, blind-spot warning system, a heat-sensitive "Night Vision" display that flashes a warning onto the windscreen in front of you, as well as cameras mounted in the front bumper for pulling out of blind junctions. Rear passenger can have massage chairs, DVD players and can even surf the Internet on the move. All cars will have Dynamic Drive Control, which adjust throttle sharpness, transmission shift patterns and adaptive suspension settings, along with a hard-drive based satellite navigation system with an optional intelligent speed limit warning system that can read road signs and cross-reference with the mapping info to remind you of the speed limit as you drive along. Long wheel-based models get rear air suspension as standard. The must-have options include active steering and rear steering, which transform the car's handling.

Driving it

There was only one version available to drive at this early pre-launch event, the 750iL, which is powered by BMW's new 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8. With 407bhp and 441lb.ft the 750i can hit 62mph in a hot-hatch-toasting 5.2 seconds and charge on to a limited top speed of 155mph; from behind the wheel these figures seem entirely plausible - it's a very quick thing indeed. Average fuel economy is pegged at 24.8mpg while its CO2 output is a respectable 266g/km. The 740i will use the 335i Coupé's 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, straight-six engine and with 326bhp and 330lb.ft of torque it's no slouch either. The 0-62mph sprint takes 5.9 seconds (as fast as the old 750i) and top speed is again limited to 155mph. Its average fuel consumption of 28.5mpg and CO2 output of 232g/km impress, but the smart choice here is the 730d - powered by the familiar 245bhp, 397lb.ft, 3.0-litre straight-six turbo-diesel. This model can dispatch the benchmark sprint in just 7.2 seconds and top 152mph while still averaging an amazing 39.0mpg and producing only192g/km of CO2.

But where the new 7 Series really sets itself apart is in terms of its chassis. When fitted with active steering and a computer controlled rear-steer system, the 7 Series feels like a car half its size. Turn in is surprisingly crisp and there's even some feel and weight through the rim. Body roll is well controlled and with the Dynamic Drive Control wound up to Sport+ the throttle is sharp and the standard six-speed transmission is alert and responsive, but it's how it all comes together to produce a two-tonne car that feels agile and wieldy that really impresses. BMW even encouraged us to turn off the stability control and slide the cars around its wet-weather handling track - that is the sort of handling you can expect from the big Beemer. The only downside is that as the 7 Series reaches its extraordinarily high limits there's not much advanced warning and you'd need to be nifty with your reactions to gather it all up again, though few owners will meddle with the electronic nannies.

Worth Noting

The full 7 Series launch won't take place until October so we'll have more details about the completely reworked i-Drive system then. The good news is that the controller is now accompanied by shortcut buttons (satnav, radio, CD, etc.) and as well as a 'Back' button there's also a new 'Options' buttons, which the engineers say is similar to a right-click of a PC mouse. The screen is now a whopping 10.2 inches in size and it uses a Windows-like interface that's a doddle to use - unlike the frustratingly unintuitive system in the current car. There's even a button for changing the direction of the climate control's airflow so there's no need to spend ten minutes cursing and shouting at the screen anymore. Also worth noting is how similar the new steering remote controls and iDrive set up is to that used by Audi. Vorsprung durch mimicry, perhaps?

Summary

Our early first impressions suggest that the new BMW 7 Series is significantly better than the model it replaces in every single respect - unless ungainly eyesores with unfathomable electronics are your thing, in which case the new car is a disaster... Leaving the subjective matter of looks to one side for a moment, the new 7 Series is an impressive return to form for BMW, who seems to have got its new flagship absolutely right in terms of cabin execution, performance, pace, environmental awareness and, above all, dynamic prowess.

Conor Twomey - 1 Aug 2008









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2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.



2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 

2008 BMW 7 Series under camouflage. Image by BMW.
 






 

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