Coming to the market a couple of years after your fiercest competitor, can put pressure on the best, and for the better. Countering the growing threat from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Munich auto giant has let out its big cat, the all-new 7 series.
Sure, it’s got a couple of years more development time under its belt, so it’s out to bedazzle you with more tricks and trinkets than on gypsy queen out on a Halloween night. But first, the proportions. This is classic BMW design language with an aggressive front, especially now with the larger kidney grills and the fused laser headlights.
It makes a statement alright, and then you move to the side which seems to have a hockey stick stuck on it. It’s definitely a polarising element, similar to the times of the controversial Bangle days, but here, it melts away in the acres of polished chrome, precision body sculpting and the multitude of LEDs around the car.
It does have a more distinctive look that is all its own unlike the Merc C, (yet to be launched) new E and the S which have adopted the ‘same sausage, different size’ approach to design.
Stepping inside the vast cabin is a mixed emotion, keeping in line with the overall exterior sentiment. It’s familiar in layout and design but the execution seems appropriately luxurious and reeks of typical Germanic heft and over-engineering. With a wheelbase that is a massive 14cm longer than the outgoing model, there is no dearth of space, front or rear.
The plethora of technology is cleverly hidden behind the luxurious ambient lighting, swathes of leather stitched dashboard and Nappa upholstery. Even the instrument cluster is now all-digital with just the matt chrome placeholders indicating the spaces where the speedo and the rev counter sat. The 10.2in display is now touch-enabled, gesture-controlled or driven by the more conventional iDrive control knob near the gear selector.
Rolling your finger in thin air controls the volume level and swiping with two fingers like you’re gesticulating menials to move out of your way changes tracks. It’s a hit or miss, depending on the angle and distance your hand is from the camera and there is a tiny delay in response as well. So, it remains a great party trick but soon after discovering it, I was using the physical buttons on the steering wheel. Which, by the way is a great wheel.
A dedicated voice control button beautifully controls the excellent looking sat/nav system that gives accurate turn directions right down to the meter. Maybe it’s time to give Google Maps a moment to catch its breath and my data plan a much needed rest!
Dig deeper into the iDrive menu and the delicious graphics throw up pages after pages of options that control the heated seats, the ambient lighting, the panoramic sunroof sky lounge effect, Adaptive drive system and even more mysterious ingredients like air fragrance control and ioniser.
Along the way, there’s plenty of HD illustrations that help self explain the myriad of features and even though the test car was very well specified, there are things like head-up display and active rear steering that can be ordered if you want to max out your black card.
Around the back, the executive seats are probably the best in the industry with extensive massaging options, recline and a headrest pillow softer than a sheep made of marshmallows.
The massive centre armrest is home to another headlining BMW technology, the Touch Command System and this includes a 7in (Samsung sourced) tablet nestled inside a what can only be described as an over-engineered latch.
Press a button and the latches that hold it in place, unlock, and the tablet is gently raised so your manicured digits can elegantly slide it out and take control. And you can control the living daylights out of it.
Everything from a Vitality program to a full body massage, Blu-ray media on the individual 10in screens, internet or social media via BMW Connected Apps, telephone functions, climate control and maybe even the coffee machine that I’m sure was hidden somewhere in its bowels!
Despite all this tech, it’s the magic carpet feeling while being driven in it takes your breath away. Riding on 19in wheels, our test car demolished pot holes and ruts on Mumbai roads as if it was freshly laid tar. Comfort mode works wonders for almost every condition although I preferred Sport as it offered a bit more immediate throttle response and the Comfort Plus mode is just plain jelly and can be used more for amusement than actual transportation.
This 730Ld was bolstered with the M-Sport package and yet, the drive was anything but like the “ultimate driving machine”. Instead, this car is just perfect for long distance cruising while the electromechanical motors gently tickle your lumbar.
The V6 diesel is accomplished but the build up of speed isn’t rapid, but rather progressive and serene, much like it should be on a big luxury car weighing in excess of two tonnes.
BMW has used Carbon fibre-reinforced plastic to contract the core of this car and it has supposedly shaved about 130kgs from the weighing scale but during hard cornering and braking, there is no avoiding the feeling of mass that you’re carrying.
You could have a perfectly fine time driving it fast but just don’t expect to flick it around twisties like you could an M3. The 265bhp of power and 600Nm of torque are healthy numbers by any measure and along with the twin axle and adaptive damper control, it makes mince meat of the miles and joy to be driven in.
The cosseting ride and the creature comforts make sure you are kept in the best of well beings and arrive at your destination wearing a smile, if a little lighter in the wallet.
The 16-speaker Harman Kardon system we get in the Indian-spec 7 series is a step down from the full-blown Bowers & Wilkins audio experience available in other versions, but is tolerable. The bass doesn’t have the definition or the punch like the Burmester in the S-Class but the Logic 7 DSP does a good job of creating a diffuse sound field, essentially making the cabin sound even larger than it already is. And although it really is a big car in this long wheelbase form, it never feels so while negotiating traffic.
The driving position, thumb rests on the steering wheel and the oiled precision of how every mechanical part works makes it easy work. The insulation from the outside world is phenomenal and especially after the sun goes down and the LEDs come up, the atmosphere is nothing short of special.
The Sky lounge sunroof has 15000 light elements that make you feel like a special guest in the most exclusive new club in town and army of buttons and gestures rub your ego the right way too. Most importantly, the 7 series makes you feel like you got your money’s worth. And a lot of money it is.
The car as tested here is the 730Ld and it will make you poorer by ₹1.2cr (ex-showroom) and the V8-powered 750Li petrol model will go way beyond ₹1.5cr. Then there is the BMW Individual program that lets you choose from a wide range of trim, leather and customised embossing options to leave your mark on the insides. If you want to be a part of the elite club, why not gun for the Chairman’s seat...