BMW released the first official pictures of the sixth generation of the 7 Series last summer, in June. I remember seeing the car just a day before, in an unveiling event for the media. This year, autoevolution got to drive the 2016 BMW 7 Series in its top trim at the time, the 750Li xDrive. Just a few days after we drove the press car, BMW released the first pictures and info of the 760i, the V12 version of its flagship.
First, let’s go deeper into the history of the 7 Series. The first ever BMW 7 Series was launched back in 1977 and the Bavarian brand has managed to sell over 1.6 million units over the years. The previous generation of the flagship sedan from BMW was sold in approximately 370,000 units. As the 7 Series grew, BMW started to offer it with more and more customization options, giving owners the chance to make their cars unique. Eventually, some of those options have trickled down to the entire BMW range.
Another thing that the 7 Series did for the whole spectrum of the carmaker was to be the first model always to showcase new technologies. Each generation and facelift of the 7 Series were launched with features that eventually became available for the rest of the range. For example, the second generation of the 7 Series (E32) was the first car in the world to offer HID headlights, and it was the first BMW to feature a traction control system.
The third generation of BMW’s flagship was the first European car to be available with an integrated satellite navigation system. The fourth generation was the first BMW to be available in a hydrogen-powered version. It was also the first BMW model to star the iDrive system. You can get that in a 1 Series today, but its was extremely complicated and controversial at the time of launch.
The previous generation of the BMW 7 Series was the first model in the company’s range to switch its codename from E to F, and it was also a pioneer in this model line in that it featured a double wishbone front suspension. The iDrive system was also updated and featured a touchpad on top of its rotative controller.
Meanwhile, the latest 7 Series features a model designation starting with the letter G, being codenamed G11 and G12. The latter applies to extended wheelbase version, while the former is for the standard wheelbase variants.
What innovations does the new 7 Series bring? Well, it starts with an all-new cluster architecture, a modular platform called 35up, and is the first BMW of the standard range to use carbon-fiber-reinforced-polymer (CFRP) parts in its chassis and body.
The sixth generation of the flagship sedan from BMW now has a self-leveling two-axle air suspension, a first for this model, but a necessary improvement regarding comfort. The car even has electromechanical stabilizers to limit body roll.
Among the new technologies brought by the 7 Series in the range is the first touchscreen in a BMW, and an industry first – gesture controls. The new 7 Series can also be ordered an integrated fitness system, wireless charging, a touchscreen key fob, and a system which allows the driver to move the car into and out of a parking spot using the key fob. The cruise control system can drive the new 7 Series almost autonomously on motorways at speeds of up to 130 MPH (210 km/h). Full LED headlights are standard, while Laser headlamps are optional equipment.
As usual, a new generation of the flagship model in the BMW 7 Series range brought a new look. The new 7 Series comes with a few elements never seen before on a BMW, like twin profile lines on the front fenders (you can spot them starting with the edge of the headlamp), as well as interpretations of the company’s traditional lines, like the Hofmeister kink.
The extended wheelbase version of the BMW 7 Series, like the one we tested, has a widened chrome ornament at the rear windows. It was not extended by just making it longer, but by doubling its usual length and applying the supplement as a fine layer, slightly above the first one.
The G12 BMW 7 Series also comes with the largest front grille ever placed on a sedan from this brand, along with a set of big headlamps to match. The profile of the vehicle is like the rest of the car, a mix of elegance and sportiness. We are not so sure about the look of the chrome trim that starts on the front fender and moves towards the wheels, though. It also works as an air vent but looks a bit like a hockey stick.
The rear of the 7 Series has a set of enormous tail lights, joined by a chromed element. These might also be the largest lights BMW has ever put on a sedan. The details that we mentioned are just some of the changes the Bavarian brand has applied to its flagship sedan.
“The result is not the best looking car in the segment, but it is a proper evolution from the previous generation. ”
From some angles, it looks better than an Audi A8, or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but other viewpoints make the 7 Series not as attractive as it could be. Even if you like it or not, this car is probably going to get good sales results, and future BMW models will be inspired by its design, so you better get used to the look.
If the design of the sixth generation of the 7 Series were not dramatically changed, we could not say the same about the passenger compartment. The flagship sedan was in need of a refresh of this chapter, and the new 7 Series makes other MY 2016 BMW cars look old and obsolete.
It is not just about the digital instrument cluster, but the whole arrangement of the controls make this interior finally go head-to-head with the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The dash has a sculpted look, and the materials used on the inside of the car have been finished with increased care and attention. Most surfaces you come in contact are soft, except for the few elements that should never be soft.
However, the new 7 Series still has a few quirks in the materials department. These will only bother customers used to high-end automobiles, but they must be mentioned. The issue is that the flagship sedan in the BMW range shares buttons and controls with its smaller siblings.
Nobody says it is wrong to use the same style or shape of a button for the flagship sedan and the entry-level hatchback, but the quality of the plastic is identical to the eye and hand. If you want a few examples of the said issue, just check out the rotating controls of the air conditioning system, the volume and on/off button on the audio system, the signaling and windshield wiper stalks, the iDrive control element, and the hood latch.
Other critics of the interior design of the 7 Series include the integration of the multimedia screen in the dash, as well as its size. It looks as if it pops out of the dash and can be hidden, like on the Audi A8, but it does not do this.
“The extended wheelbase version of the 7 Series provides occupants with sufficient space, but space is not an issue in any flagship sedan available on the market today, unless you are Shaq. ”
Regarding comfort, the sixth generation of BMW’s flagship sedan finally matched the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The BMW now has air suspension for the front and rear axles, and the improvement can be perceived even if you are an outsider and just rode in the previous 7 Series. While soundproofing was not an issue for the fifth generation, it has also been enhanced.
As we mentioned before, BMW made a leap concerning technology with the new 7 Series. The flagship sedan comes with all the bells and whistles expected from a car in this class, and the one we tested almost had all the boxes ticked. While the remote parking system was not available at the time of order, the only thing left unchecked was the night vision system. Truth be told, you can live without both of them.
The offensive BMW made with this car does not come without victims. Less tech savvy people will have a hard time figuring out how to operate some of the advanced tech features of this car. In the back seat, there are two headrest-mounted screens without touch function, an Android-based tablet in the rear center console, and a remote control. The latter is a device that looks like a remote for a TV but features the controls of the iDrive system. Depending on the switch on it, you can operate one of the two screens in the back.
The tablet performs the same functions, but with touchscreen controls. It is a great system if you are a gadget freak, but it still requires an adaptation period for most users. They do not operate like the systems on other BMWs, and this makes the other models feel obsolete when you get inside once you have been in a G11/12 7 Series. There is also a car phone in the back, and it looks pretty traditional. It is only labeled BMW and resembles an oversized Nokia feature phone.
The extended wheelbase version of the 7 Series can be had with a passenger seat that reclines to give the rear passenger opposite to the driver more leg room. The front passenger seat goes forward and is folded towards the dash. A dedicated leg rest goes down from the backrest. The system slightly reduces visibility for the driver, but there is an intermediate position in which the driver can still see in the passenger-side rearview mirror with the front seat folded towards the dash.
While the right rear passenger’s seat has an extended set of buttons, it is easy to get lost in all of the controls. A simpler interface is found on the equivalent S-Class to operate the leg rest fitted to the backrest of the front passenger seat.
All this technology is complicated to use, and you sometimes feel like you could use a guide to explain how to use all of the features onboard. For example, when it comes to the gesture controls, I have had a difficult time using one of them, as the gesture required was an unusual one. I am talking about the customizable gesture (of the four hand signals the car understands). It involves pointing two fingers at the screen and splitting them in the shape of a V. My colleagues had more luck with this function, so maybe it was just me. The spiral motion with pointing finger, used as a volume control, worked flawlessly.
The menu for the iDrive system is still complicated, and you have to take your time to learn where everything is placed. Several hours of tinkering through the menus should be enough to master the use of the system in all of its glory.
Once you do set it up, you can save you driver profile and let the other user of the vehicle (if any) set their parameters. From interior ambiance and chime volume, to preferred seat position and climate setting, almost anything can be adjusted to an individual driver profile.
Fortunately, the 7 Series is not as complicated to use that it does not allow you to drive it as soon as you get behind the wheel, so it is just a matter of understanding and adjusting to how the system works.
The 750i version of the G12 BMW 7 Series comes with a 4.4-liter twin turbo V8 gasoline engine. It provides 450 HP at 5,500 rpm, and a maximum torque of 650 Nm (480 lb-ft) at 1,800 rpm. The unit is partnered with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. All-wheel-drive is optional, and the model we drove had it.
The turbocharged V8 direct-injected unit is a little marvel of technology, as it can deliver outrageous amounts of power and torque in a manner that appears effortless, while it can also turn into a fuel-sipper if you are light on the gas pedal. This dualist character of the unit, along with the smooth operation of the V8 engine makes this powerplant worthy of the 7 Series.
The automatic transmission comes with paddles for manual operation, but it shifts gears on its own without perception. The all-wheel-drive is optimized for a neutral handling in most operating modes, while activating the Sport Plus driving mode brings a slight impression of oversteering character into the mix. There is nothing extra we could ask for this engine and transmission combination as the two are a match made in engineering heaven and drive the 7 Series like magic.
Its direct rival from Lexus does not have an equivalent with this much power, while the Jaguar XJ does not come close, either. Audi has a comparable 4.0-liter TFSI A8, and Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class comes with a slightly more powerful engine that even has a bit more torque. Concerning acceleration, the 750i is quicker than its rivals. It also beats them in fuel economy when comparing manufacturer-supplied figures. Reality showed us that the new 7 Series can be a real fuel-sipper if you are a careful driver.
“The introduction of an air-suspension system in the 7 Series range has changed the way this model behaves on the road. ”
Do not get us wrong, as the 7 Series is still the most dynamic flagship sedan excluding the performance versions available in the segment, but now it has achieved a level of comfort that was unattainable to the previous generation.
Both driver and passengers enjoy an enhanced level of comfort, on par with that of the S-Class, the current leader of the segment. What the new 7 Series does better that the current S-Class is the Sport mode. In the latter, the steering of the S-Class feels artificial and not as linked to the wheels as you would want. BMW did their magic with this on the 7 Series and developed an electric steering system with superior feel when compared to its rivals.
It is not a sports car, but it fares well for a model in this segment. It also comes with a new Adaptive mode on the Driving Experience Control system, which changes the way the vehicle responds to controls depending on the input it receives. It is pretty smart in operation, but we prefer riding more “traditionally,” by selecting one of the operating modes and sticking to it until we have a change of heart.
Concerning road behavior, the 7 Series has a neutral character, as it holds the line dictated by the driver and does not show any ounce of understeer or oversteer unless you completely put it through its paces. Then and only then you begin to feel the weight of this vehicle, but it still fares well for a sedan that tips the scales at just under two tons (4,409 pounds).
The Integral Active Steering System helps the car keep the line imposed by the driver even at high speeds, and the system improves the turning radius and behavior even at low speeds. However, you are still limited by tire technology and laws of physics, like inertia, when it comes to driving a vehicle like this in a sporty manner. It can be done, but the car was not meant for that.
The 7 Series was never a cheap car, and things have gotten worse over the years. All the technology onboard is pricey, and adding a few optional elements and getting more expensive leather and trim options will quickly raise the price of a car like this.
“When getting a new 7 Series, the price comes second, but it still matters at the end of the day. If it did not matter, you would be probably buying a Rolls-Royce. ”
The version we tested starts from 122,000 euros with VAT included, but the car we drove cost almost 173,000 euros (roughly $190,000). We are talking about an absurd amount of money here, and the sum is getting dangerously close to a new Rolls-Royce Ghost, which starts at around $250,000.
For less money than the 7 Series that you can see in our extended photo gallery, you can buy a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. For a lot less money, you can have an Audi A8, a Lexus LS600h, or a standard Mercedes-Benz S500.
For just a few grand on top of what this car cost, you can even get the V12-engined S600. The Maybach S-Class is also affordable in this price tier, if you desire a 5.9-meter (19.3 feet) long limousine. We must mention that the severe increase in the price of the 7 Series comes after an extensive shopping trip through the options list. However, it would be a shame to get a car like this without adding some options to it, but it is probably best not to go overboard.
At the end of the day, if you are in the market for a gasoline-engined flagship sedan, the BMW 7 Series is an excellent option for you, if you like gadgets and flashy tech features. Customers with a taste for classic elements can still go for the current sales king of the segment, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but we have a feeling the 7 Series will give the former a run for its money. Luckily for the S-Class, a facelift is in the pipeline to refresh the range with new engines and an enhanced interior.
If you are considering a top-of-the-line 7 Series, you should also check out the Mercedes-Maybach offering. If you want something flashy, you can always go for a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce. After all, one who can afford to spend $200,000 on a car should be able to manage a model that is $50,000 more expensive. It might be worth more if you choose the latter instead of the former.