IN SEVENTH HEAVEN - BMW 7 Series
Independent Car Review - overall score 76/100
Driving the oh, so smooth BMW 7 Series is simply heaven on earth, June Neary decides this week
Will It Suit Me?
Is the earth round? The sixth generation 7 Series BMW is a dream of a car. Sink into the cream leather upholstery of my 730d test car and you'd never want to leave. The purr of the engine, the cool air conditioned cabin, the smooth handling - all add up to a seductive package that could make you throw caution to the winds and re-mortgage your home to buy one. But let's not spoil the dream by bringing that nasty folding stuff into the equation just yet.
The 7 Series is first and foremost a full-sized luxury car, so male or female, if your career is on the up and up, you would surely feel you'd made it when you acquired one. However, your family would also enjoy the fruits of your success in this spacious saloon.
Think of that long, hot drive to your summer cottage - the children would be cool and comfortable in the back, while you and your partner would soak up the miles listening to your favourite music on the marvellous music system. You would all arrive frazzle -free, feeling that your holiday had already begun.
The boot is cavernous, so no heated discussions about the girls leaving half their wardrobe behind. There would be plenty of room for favourite toys just in case the weather turned nasty and you could even stock up with provisions to save wasting time at the village store when you could be on the beach. Bliss.
Behind the Wheel
Much has been written about BMW's novel i-Drive system, designed to eliminate dashboard switchgear. Much of this has been negative, mainly because those concerned don't seem to have bothered to read the handbook. So let's get this straight: i-Drive makes sense. After all, this car has so many functions that if you gave them all a switch, the dashboard would look like the cockpit of a 747. Besides, the current 7-Series features a less complicated version of the system. Many of the more commonly used controls have been relocated out of the computer and onto the dash.
Sit behind the wheel and the main i-Drive functions are controlled by a circular wheel by your left hand. You push it towards either of the eight positions of the compass to select all the main function areas like the stereo system, the trip computer, the satellite navigation system, the TV (where fitted) and so on. There's even a section that tells you just how much life is in all the consumable parts of the car - the brake pads and so on - and when you're going to need to replace them. Clever. You start the car with a push button and there's the option of changing gears via an arrangement of buttons on the steering wheel.
As for engines, well even the most sensible (and slowest) six cylinder 730d - the version I tried - pumps out 265PS, enough for 0-62mph in a scant 5.8 seconds. If that's too tardy for you, the twin-turbo V8 750i xDrive model drops the 0-62 sprint to 4.4 seconds thanks to a prodigious 450PS. All models are naturally limited to 155mph. Rear wheel drive is standard fitment ,although xDrive four wheel drive can be specced for all-season security. New for the 7 is optional four wheel steering for increased agility at low speeds and sure-footed stability as velocity builds. Should you want to be as green as possible - or just escape the London congestion charge - there's a 740e plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 25 miles on electric power alone. As the ultimate party trick, you can even get out of the car and set it to park itself from your smart phone. Very James Bond.
Value For Money
Well, we do have to come back to earth some time. My test car carried a price tag of around £65,000 and there's a long wheelbase version if you want it, though my family would rattle around in that - only figuratively, I hasten to add. 'Rattle' is not a word you utter in the same breath as BMW.
Swallow hard when the salesman mentions the price and concentrate on the long list of equipment your 7 Series will come with: leather seats, four-zone climate control, a Bluetooth infotainment system with sat nav, wireless phone charging, a rear view camera and auto headlights and wipers. Safety is covered by wall-to-wall airbags, advanced ABS and stability control, brake assist, anti-whiplash headrests, run-flat tyres and even heated washer jets.
If luxury is your game, the 'Design Pure Excellence' package is the trim for you thanks to additional - yet tasteful - chrome trim plus extra wood inside. Alternatively for those with the deepest of pockets, there are 'Individual' models that give the maximum of customisation options.
Could I Live With One?
This 7 Series would always find room in my drive. In this class in this sixth generation form, it's managed to overtake Jaguar XJ and Audi A8 rivals. Now only Mercedes' all-conquering S-Class stands in the way of BMW and segment leadership. Your choice between these two German options will probably come down to personal preference. But I think it's a decision you'll enjoy making.