Right then, politicians, move over. Normal people — well okay, semi-normal people; the sort who go to Vanuatu for a weekend even though it’s still summer at home — now have the chance to experience the big one: BMW’s all-new range-topping 2016 7-Series. Clearly the one we all will want is the stonking V8 — the 330kw/650Nm TwinPower V8 750i. It’s the hero model for a reason; supremely quick and with a ride quality that skirts the line between velvety floatiness and crisp precision.
But don’t discount the turbo diesel 740d, as it now features xDrive all-wheel drive technology; the first 7-Series sold in New Zealand to do so. It also registers an impressive 235kW of power and peak torque of 680Nm, so it’s no slouch.
The bridging factor between the two models though is their shared technology.
I’ll cut to the chase right now; there is not enough space in these columns to allow me to detail the innovation in this car in full.
The new technology starts with stuff you can’t even see.
The 7-Series is up to 130kg lighter thanks to BMW’s new Carbon Core technology, which — in a rare case of smaller models leading the way for bigger — debuted last year in the BMW i3 EV.
Carbon Core technology combines industrially manufactured CFRP — Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer, a composite material consisting of various carbon fibers and thermosetting resins — with steel and aluminium. This approach, say BMW’s boffins, increases the strength and rigidity of the cabin while significantly reducing weight.
The 750i also features laser light headlight technology. We’re talking laser lights that effectively double the car’s headlight coverage range from 300m to an impressive 600m. Thanks to adaptive high-beam tech, you need never worry about startling oncoming drivers; the system will dip as soon as it registers an approaching vehicle.
The 750i will park itself using remote control; manoeuvring in or out of forward-parking spaces or garages without anyone in the car. The Remote Control Parking option (which won’t be available in NZ until May) allows drivers to access tight parking spaces with ease.
The driver can control the car’s progress forwards into or in reverse out of a space using a full-colour BMW Display Key.
And, rather than using old-fashioned buttons, Gesture Control means the 7-Series driver and front passenger can perform certain functions simply by gesturing with their fingers in front of the centre console.
It’s a clever piece of technology that makes use of an infrared sensor placed in the roof-lining above where the car’s gear shift and iDrive controller is.
The sensor constantly monitors the area in front of the infotainment display and recognises pre-defined patterns of movement.
Though the volume control gesture worked seamlessly every time on our drive, other gestures were hit-and-miss. But, practicalities aside, isn’t that amazing? That’s what we want from the 7-Series.
That it is a supremely comfortable and powerful luxury sedan as well as having laser lights and advanced manufacturing processes behind its build-quality and a removable 7-inch tablet in the rear centre armrest so back seat passengers can control climate, entertainment and other functionality is almost peripheral.
So then. It’s the perfect luxury sedan ... with a “but”. And the “but” is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Technology is on tap inside the 7s from the multi-tasking key (right) through to the gesture-sensing console (above).
It’s not that Stuttgart’s finest has technological innovation that trumps BMW’s.
It doesn’t. And it’s not that the S-Class is phenomenally faster or smoother than the 750i. It isn’t. I’d suggest the BMW is the better looker, too whereas the top-shelf Mercedes-Benz’s exterior design is trumped by its C- and E-Class siblings in terms of overall proportion.
But when you hop into the driver’s seat of the S-Class you feel rewarded.
There is a lot of car surrounding you, a lot of technology, heritage and sheet metal.
There is in the 7-Series, too, but when you look at the dials in the Mercedes-Benz, and the centre console and even the font used in the multimedia screen … it’s all a bit more genuine.
The BMW’s cockpit is an excellent place to survey the world from. It just feels slightly more “tab-A-into-slot-B” somehow. More business than pleasure.
Feelings about the tactility of knobs and dials aside, the BMW 750i is still a marvel.
As far as breadth of range goes, other manufacturers do highlights, but the Germans do depth. And my goodness does BMW have depth.
The 750i — with its technological prowess and power wrapped up in what is essentially a carbon-ribbed science laboratory on wheels (with laser lights) — is a heck of a crowning achievement.
3.0-litre six cylinder twinpower turbo diesel (235kw/680nm), 4.4-litre twinpower turbo petrol (330kw/650nm)
$199,000 (BMW 740d xDrive), $239,500 (BMW 750i)
Gadget extravaganza, superior comfort for front and rear passengers, effortlessly smooth engines (both diesel and petrol variants)
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class’ dashboard and centre console feels more premium