The full-size 7-Series sedan is the largest and most luxurious model in BMW's lineup. Turbocharged engines with six, eight or twelve cylinders are available, as is all-wheel-drive and an extended-wheelbase variant. While the previous-generation 7-Series ushered in the controversial Bangle era of BMW styling, the latest model takes a much more conservative (and arguably elegant) approach while continuing to offer responsive driving dynamics along with an updated version of the automaker's iDrive infotainment system.
BMW has given the 7-Series a mid-cycle refresh for the latest model year. Enhanced powertrains, an upgraded infotainment system and a heavily revised ActiveHybrid7 model are among the most significant updates for the new sedan.
Outside, the styling changes are decidedly subtle. The twin kidney grilles, which each feature nine slats in place of the previous 12, are now encased in larger chrome surrounds. The headlight design has also been tweaked, with adaptive LED units now on the options list. The full-width air intake in the lower front fascia has also been redesigned and incorporates new fog lamps and chrome strips along its outer sections.
The cabin continues to follows in the BMW tradition of understated elegance coupled with simple, easily decipherable instruments and controls. The one control that provided a great deal of controversy when it made its debut in the last 7-Series - iDrive - has received a host of updates over the years that make it a relatively intuitive and user-friendly device. The electronic shifter, however, can take a little getting used to. The back seat, a major selling point for cars of this class, is suitably commodious, especially in extended wheelbase "L" form.
While the vast majority of the interior has carried over, there are several revisions, including thinner and more comfortable front seats, new ambient lighting and extra sound deadening material.
The navigation system was revised with crisper graphics and new 3D elements, but the big news is an enhanced voice recognition system that allows the driver to dictate and send emails without removing his or her hands from the wheel.
The most substantial changes to the 7-Series, however, lie beneath the sheetmetal.
The 7-Series can be had with three separate powertrains, each designated by a unique model name. All but the top-spec 760Li have received significant upgrades for the latest model year.
The "entry-level" 740i trades its twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six for BMW's newer, single-turbo of the same cylinder count and displacement. Output is unchanged at 315 horsepower and 330 lb-ft, but the motor is more fuel efficient that its predecessor. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is newly available on the six-cylinder 7-Series, although only in long-wheelbase 740Li form.
The mid-grade 750i continues to employ a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, but the mill gets a power bump of 45 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 445 ponies and 480 lb-ft.
Both models receive an efficient new eight-speed automatic transmission in place of the old six-cog unit. Also helping on the economy front will be a standard auto stop-start system that shuts off the engine when the car stopped at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic to further maximize fuel savings.
Fuel economy is rated at 19/28 city/highway mpg for all 740i variants (up from 17/25 mpg). The 750i returns 17/25 mpg, while the 750i xDrive, 750Li and 750Li xDrive return 16/24 mpg.
The range-topping 760Li boasts a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that pumps out 535 horsepower and an impressive 550 lb-ft of torque. The big twelve-cylinder can propel the car to 60 mpg from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds, although efficiency drops to 13/19 mpg.
Though its size and weight prevent it from cornering with the zeal of a 3-Series, the 7-Series still provides accurate steering along with a good tradeoff between ride comfort and handling.
High Tech Barrage: Driving Dynamics Control, Eco Pro, Coasting Modes and Dynamic Damper Control
All 7-Series models get a new Driving Dynamics Control system that allows the driver to personalize a wide-range of the car's systems to suite his or her tastes, including accelerator response, engine response, power steering characteristics, stability control thresholds, transmission and damper settings and more.
Drivings Dynamics Control offers five pre-set settings, with Eco Pro being the most notable. Eco Pro optimizes a host of vehicle elements, such as the powertrain and programming of the heating and air conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heating, to operate with maximum efficiency. When used in conjunction with an efficient driving style (which the system actually offers tips for), Eco Pro can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, BMW says. Eco Pro also features a coasting mode that decouples the engine when coasting at speeds between 30-100 mph.
It wouldn't be a new full-size German luxury sedan without a world first, and the BMW says this requisite distinction is provided by a new Dynamic Damper System. Standard throughout the lineup, the system is reportedly the first electronically controlled damping system with shock absorbers that are adjusted individually at each wheel based on the condition of the road surface and the driving style.
Standard and Optional Features
All 7-Series models come standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a navigation system with voice command functionality, genuine wood trim, a moonroof, a rear parking camera, dynamic cruise control, a proximity key, a 10-speaker, 205-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with Sirius Satellite Radio, HD Radio and AUX and USB inputs, a 20 GB hard drive, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and four-zone automatic climate control.
Highlights from the options list, which approaches the length of the Illiad, include heated rear seats, soft-close automatic doors, a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, a Head-Up display, a rear entertainment system with dual LCD screens and a four-wheel steering system that provides heightened maneuverability at low speeds and greater stability at high speeds.
An available M Sport package brings an aerodynamic kit with aggressive front and rear bumpers, 19-inch wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner and an M Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Every 7-Series model is equipped with dual front, side and side curtain airbags along with traction and stability control systems and a crash sensor that disconnects the alternator, fuel pump and starter from battery, automatically unlocks doors and turns on hazard and interior lights in the event of a collision.
Even more safety features can be had with the driver assistance package, which brings an active blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning system with Collision Mitigation (which applies the brakes when an impending collision is detected). The package also includes side and top view camera, which provide extra side-view visibility, and Speed Limit Info, which displays the local speed limit at the top of the instrument panel.
In the market for a king-sized sedan full of luxury and technology? Before you sign on the dotted line for a new 7-Series, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte deserve a close look, too.