BMW’s 7 series is a misnomer. Beyond the tiny cult of smart folks driving them, everybody assumes that they are just a bigger, more serious line in BMW’s tidy little portfolio. They are ordinary to behold, almost boring at first glance and most folks would be hard pressed to picture them if there wasn’t a .jpg below this paragraph.
One For The Drivers
That’s the plan. BMW even admitted to it at a recent swanky launch in Cape Town, stating that sometimes good design requires leaving things out. Why would BMW charge the same for a humble-looking saloon as they would for an i8? The answer is simple enough; because it’s worth it.
The 7 series is for drivers and for those who need to be driven. It’s packed with obscene amounts of power throughout the range – 230-330kW – yet somehow even the meatiest 750i with a TwinPower Turbo V8 only burns 8 litres of dead dinosaurs per 100km. It recycles power through innovative jiggery-pokery that extends as far as running the alternator only when you are decelerating. There’s an entire energy recycling and efficiency system that somehow manages to enhance your driving experience while saving energy. For the ultra environmentally conscious there’s even a hybrid due later this year that has a fully electric drivetrain.
Lightness Of Being
Fundamentally the range is built around being light, which is a good place to start before the plethora of technology and engineering come in to play. It’s built on carbon fibre reinforced plastic, the very same that BMW used in the i8 to protect its target market from the dusty Columbian debris of stock trading. That’s petrol-head talk though, and this is not that kind of party.
So it’s light, fast and runs on the dreams of beer-drinking Bavarian children. As a driver it offers steering and lane control assist, which is a fancy term for the car driving itself, staying in its lane and not crashing into the person in front of you while you sit in traffic. You really don’t need to do a thing beyond keeping a finger on the steering wheel for legal purposes. There’s also a lane departure assist that rumbles your steering wheel when you drift from your lane and will actively prevent you from crashing into things, but to be honest it battles with local roads and sometime feels like it’s trying to kill you.
Eye of Sauron
There are also full surround cameras that activate when someone is too close or give you a top down view of your car when you are in a tight spot. Optionally you can use the screen on your key and reverse your car out of jam without even being in it. BMW have even developed an optional active laser light system that will detect pedestrians and other cars and splice your bright beams to exclude them.
The list of features is so extensive that inevitably you wont use them all. The iDrive interface has been beefed up significantly with hand gesture recognition and a far more efficient menu tree for voice control but remains a bit of a marmite experience. It’s still a long way off from Siri or Kinect but it’s a viable option for not paying attention while your car drives itself.
Actually driving the 7 is not something that can be transcribed. It’s an absolute dream and despite its optional automation you always feel acutely in touch with the car and the road. You can have a back massage and let it drive itself or you can switch to Sport and grow horns. It’s everything to drive or be driven in. Even sitting in the back is more than comfortable and with the right packages you can control most of the car from a built-in tablet or recline into Business Class.
The range has everything on the inside and below the surface. An exquisitely crafted fascia and dashboard, hand stitched leather and metal knobs that are actually metal make it beautiful to look at from the driver’s seat.
All of which brings us back to the only reason everybody isn’t queuing up for a 7; the exterior. We get it, it’s a car for the discerning driver but it’s still a shame to adorn one of the finest vehicles ever in golf pants.