BMW has adopted a no-holds-barred approach with the its all-new 7 Series sedan, which barges into the limo arena wearing offbeat clothes, while cloaked underneath is state-of-the-art tech intended to give it an edge over its Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 archrivals.
Now offered solely in long-wheelbase format, the latest 7 Series is a substantial 131 millimetres longer, 48mm wider and 65mm taller than its predecessor. The other key highlight is the introduction of the fully electrified i7 variant, which will sell alongside its petrol-powered siblings.
Meanwhile, rear-seat occupants are treated to a true cinematic experience, thanks to the availability of an industry-leading 31.3-inch 8K entertainment screen that folds down from the roof panel. Other surprise-and-delight features include daytime-running lights laced with Swarovski crystals, automatic opening and closing doors, plus an LED-lit “Interaction Bar” that cleverly conceals air vents and air-con/heating controls.
Visuals are obviously important for an ultra-premium limo that’s intended to convey a sense of gravitas. To this end, BMW has clothed the G70 in radical new bodywork that it describes as “monolithic”.
To my eye, the car looks slab-sided and doesn’t really gel from an aesthetic point of view, but you’re free to reach your own conclusion about whether it’s an attractive piece of design, as styling is always a subjective area.
While the new 7 Series limo’s looks are polarising, it’s hard to fault the driving — and riding — experience it offers. One aspect where the new-gen vehicle really elevates itself above the opposition is in its terrific sense of dynamism and agility.
The first variation we drove at the international launch in Palm Springs was the 760i xDrive, which thumps out 544hp and 750Nm from its mild-hybrid-assisted twin-turbo V8. It was no surprise to discover the big limo could lope along in comfort and silence at fast highway cruising speeds, but what came across as an eye-opener was how well it’s able to hide its substantial mass when the roads turn twisty.
We subsequently slotted into the electrified i7 xDrive60 and, even though this vehicle is almost 400 kilograms heavier than the 760i, it gives away little in terms of cornering capability. Of course, it does no harm that much of the mass is concentrated low in the car, with the weighty battery pack tucked away beneath the passenger cell.
There’s a virtual ocean of instant torque on tap (745Nm of it), so there’s initially the temptation to accelerate, lift off, and then repeat the procedure just to savour the spine-compressing urge served up by the dual electric motors.
The new 7 Series takes BMW’s minimalist interior design approach to a new level, with the “Curved Display” instrument panel and Interaction Bar (which can illuminate in thousands of hues) being the only elements to interrupt the sweeping surface of the dashboard.
The interior designers have used an artful blend of leather, wool, crystal glass, gloss carbon fibre-look trim and metal surfaces to create a cabin that exudes both opulence and a high-tech feel. Where the Mercedes S-Class’s cabin has a more traditional ambience, the new 7 Series leans more towards cutting-edge cool.
The substantial stretch in length, width and height vis-a-vis the outgoing 7 Series means even 1.85-metre-plus occupants should find leg and headroom to their liking in the rear compartment.
The optional Executive Lounge seating provides even more sprawling room with the seatback reclining and the front seat (on the passenger's side) sliding forward and deploying a fold-out footrest.
With myriad heating/cooling and massage functions, the focus is on complete relaxation but, even so, comfort levels seem marginally short of that offered by the latest Mercedes S-Class. That said, we’d need to do a back-to-back test to establish this conclusively.
The new 7 Series has plenty going for it. Dynamically, it’s head and shoulders above anything else in its segment. It also introduces some cool new class-exclusive features, such as the 31.3-inch theatre screen, funky Interaction Bar and bling-laden crystal headlights.
The attention to detail and exhaustive engineering that’s gone into the new 7 Series is plain to see and feel. The only potential sticking point for some buyers could be the newcomer’s radical exterior design language. Time will tell whether BMW’s styling department has pushed just a little bit too far with this car.