Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



Power dresser. Image by Richard Newton.

Power dresser
BMW's new 7 Series packs a huge level of new technology into the sportiest body yet to grace the range-topper.

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> BMW reviews

| First Drive | Dresden, Germany | BMW 7 Series |

BMW told us that we were brought to the city of Dresden for the launch of the new 7 Series as the location mixes tradition with modernity, but the only traditional thing about the new car is the name, as entering its fifth generation, the 7 Series is more modern and packed full of new technology than ever before.

In the Metal

Initial pictures of the all-new 7 Series suggested that BMW's design team had lost their nerve a little, moving away from the controversial proportions of the (admittedly highly successful) fourth-generation model to what looks like the new 3 Series from some angles. However, seeing the new 7 Series in daylight for the first time confirms that Adrian van Hooydonk and his team have done a fantastic job. The new car is elegant, yet sporting at the same time. Its proportions are spot on, disguising the car's considerable size, yet the detailing ensures that it has real presence on the road, thanks mainly to the larger kidney-shaped grille and a muscular rear-end.

Elegant simplicity describes the new interior. At a glance it looks luxurious and features plenty of interesting design flourishes, but nothing weird. Look closer and you'll notice that there are more buttons and controls than ever before, but they are integrated well into the overall design. For the most part, it feels good to touch, with the switchgear in particular a tactile delight, though some items, such as the glovebox, feel less sturdy than you'd expect. Thankfully, the previous generation's fiddly steering column mounted gearshift has been replaced by a much nicer shifter in the centre of the cabin, while the new instruments feature digitally created 'analogue' read-outs that look great and seem to work well too, especially in conjunction with the head-up display.

What you get for your Money

Prices start at 54,160 for the 730d model (113,760 in Ireland) and range to 69,400 for the long wheelbase 750iL (153,700). As you'd hope, the level of standard equipment is generous. It includes the much-improved iDrive system with more shortcut buttons, faster, more intuitive operation and a 12Gb hard drive for storage. The toggle switch for the Dynamic Damper Control is prominently featured next to the new gear lever, as is a button to alter the settings of the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control).

The test cars in Germany were loaded to the gunwales with options, including an impressive new parking assist system (with cameras mounted just in front of the front wheels), Night Vision with pedestrian recognition, head-up display and lane change and departure warning systems. The safety aspect of many of these new technologies cannot be ignored, but we found them a little 'nannying' while driving through the countryside. That's when the optional Dynamic Drive system comes into its own though, tautening up body control by adjusting the anti-roll bar stiffness.

Driving it

Although there's a huge amount of customisation of the car's driving characteristics available, it's not necessary to read the 7 Series' manual before you set off. It's easy to get comfortable in the electrically-adjusted seats; then pull the tactile gear lever back to select Drive and away you go. All models are virtually silent, the petrol variants in particular - though the 730d could never be classed as noisy. Flex your right foot and the new twin-turbocharged V8 in the 750i model emits a pleasing noise, but it's also refined. The same can be said of the updated straight-six turbodiesel. Regardless of engine, there is ample pace on tap and though on paper the 750i shades the rest of the range in a straight line, it doesn't subjectively feel that way on the road.

Most owners are unlikely to dabble with the Driving Dynamic Control button, but it's a remarkably effective system. There are four modes of operation, ranging from Comfort and Normal to Sport and Sport +. Along with the firmness of the damping, the system varies the power steering assistance and throttle and gearbox calibrations. The difference between each is tangible with the 7 Series taking on a notably harder edge in Sport + that displays iron fisted control of body movements. Naturally that's at the expense of ride comfort, but it's up to the driver which way he'd prefer to swing that balance.

Despite a willing chassis and excellent brakes, the 7 Series is at its best on the motorway or on fast sweeping roads. There's no doubt it could happily sit at its maximum speed on the German autobahn for hours on end. Take the new car down a twisty back road and it copes well, but its reactions and feedback are blunted in comparison to a 3 Series or 5 Series, which isn't too surprising given the weight and size of the car, and its intended use.

Worth Noting

These may seem difficult times to launch a luxury flagship into the market, but BMW has high hopes for the fifth generation of its 7 Series. Every new version since 1977 had resulted in a step up in sales. Aiding the new car's cause is a focus on improved efficiency across the range. Despite more equipment and features, each car is about 55kg lighter than the equivalent outgoing model, while the 730d uses approximately 10% less fuel, yet has 6% better output. The 750i model in the mean time features a new direct-injection, twin-turbocharged V8, which uses less fuel than the old 760i model, yet is also quicker. We're expecting a mild-hybrid version of the 7 Series within a year or so.

Summary

In spite of the current economic situation around the globe, there is likely to always be buyers of high-end luxury cars. BMW hopes to sell more the new 7 Series than any before it and in a bid for that goal has designed a highly desirable new car that obliterates its predecessor on all aspects. It's better looking, better to drive, packed with advanced technology - that is now easily accessible - and is quicker than ever before. Despite all that the new 7 Series is the most efficient yet.

Shane O' Donoghue - 14 Oct 2008



  www.bmw.co.uk    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- 7 Series images

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.



2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Daniel Kraus.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Richard Newton.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Daniel Kraus.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by Daniel Kraus.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 

2009 BMW 7 Series. Image by BMW.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2022 ©