BMW’s new 7-Series has finally landed, bringing with it more space than ever, loads of technology and powerful yet frugal engines. The car arrives in U.S. showrooms this fall, as a 2016 model, initially in 740i and 750i xDrive variants and with the long-wheelbase bodystyle only. Pricing will start at $82,250 for the 740i and $98,350 for the 750i xDrive. Both figures include BMW’s standard $950 destination charge. Next year, a 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid model will join the lineup.
This is the sixth generation of the luxury icon, and while it may look a lot like its predecessor there’s an impressive number of innovations that have taken place under the skin. At its core is a new modular platform codenamed the 35up. This platform will form the basis of most of BMW’s models going forward and includes carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in its construction. It also allows for a number of other technological advances including electrified drivetrains.
Using lessons learned in developing the i range of eco-focused cars, BMW engineers designed the passenger cell of the new 7-Series to incorporate CFRP in areas exposed to heavy loads. The strength of this lightweight material helps to increase torsional rigidity, meaning less traditional materials such as heavy steel needs to be used. This leads to a significant weight reduction—190 pounds to be precise—which in turn leads to improved dynamics and fuel economy. The curb weight for the 740i is 4,225 lbs while the 750i xDrive weighs in at 4,610 lbs, and both also feature an ideal 50:50 front-rear weight split.
Looking at the exterior, there’s no mistaking this for anything but a BMW. It features a smoothly downward-sloping roofline, displaying familiar BMW proportions, headlined by a long hood, short overhangs, long wheelbase and a set-back passenger compartment. The cabin is framed by predominately horizontal surfaces and lines, with the color and material combinations picked to create a relaxed ambiance. There are two non-metallic and nine metallic shades to choose from for the exterior, and wheel sizes range from 18-21 inches in diameter. Those seeking a particularly sporty look can opt for an available M Sport Package.
The 740i features BMW’s new B58 modular six-cylinder engine. Displacing 3.0 liters, the engine features turbocharging and direct-injection technologies to help it achieve an output of 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the engine accelerates the car from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. In the 750i, you get the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 fitted to the outgoing model. Output is unchanged at 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, which is enough for 0-60 mph acceleration in just 4.3 seconds, helped along by the standard xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
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The 740e xDrive model coming next year will feature the same plug-in hybrid system found in the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e. The drivetrain consists of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor integrated with the car’s automatic transmission. This variant should have about 308 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, and on a full charge of its onboard battery it should be able to drive about 23 miles on electric power alone. In this electric-only mode, top speed is limited to 75 mph.
The transmission may only be an eight-speed auto but it can be linked up with the car’s satellite navigation system, just like in the latest Rolls-Royce models. The navigation-data-based shift strategy means that the gear selection can be adapted to the driving situation and the route profile even if route guidance has not been set. The transmission also includes paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a launch control function.
When it comes to handling, the new 7-Series benefits from some advanced chassis control systems that can be adjusted at the push of a button. These include adjustable dampers (Dynamic Damper Control), speed-sensitive steering (Active Steering) and active roll stabilization (Dynamic Drive). On top of this, the new 7-Series comes with air suspension with automatic self-leveling as standard. The level control can be operated manually, allowing the vehicle's ride height to be raised by up to 20 millimeters. At speeds above 22 mph, the height drops back to a standard setting. When Sport mode is activated with the Driving Dynamics Control switch, on the other hand, the ride height automatically drops by 10 millimeters.
There’s a new option that’s making its debut in the new 7-Series: Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview. This active chassis control system which is available for all models with the exception of the plug-in hybrid, works together with the front and rear air suspension and the Dynamic Damper Control to achieve a remarkable standard of suspension, damping and driving comfort. It comprises the newly refined version of the Dynamic Drive system mentioned earlier for reducing rolling movement at the front and rear suspensions, using an electromechanically-controlled system instead of previous hydraulic setups.
Beyond all this, Active Comfort Drive also incorporates an anticipatory chassis control function with Road Preview. The early information for regulating the combination of chassis systems utilizes the driving style analysis readings derived from the data from the navigation system to help respond to changes in the road.
Other vehicle systems, such as the infotainment features, are controlled by a next-generation iDrive system (version 5.0) complete with gesture controls and a touchscreen for easier input. It relies on a ceiling-mounted 3D sensor to detect hand gestures, and then decodes different movements—such as tapping, finger rotations or a swiping movement—and performs the desired input.
There’s also a new head-up display that’s significantly larger than the previous design. It projects information about road speed, speed limits, overtaking restrictions, Check Control messages, status and warning messages from other assistance systems, turn-by-turn directions and telephone and entertainment menus directly into the driver’s field of vision. The HUD is standard on the 750i xDrive and can be augmented with a night vision system.
Other innovations include a wireless charging system for mobile devices, an available tablet-based control system for rear-seat passengers, and an ‘Executive’ seat package, also in the rear, that includes recline and massage functions.
The new 7-Series is also available with some self-driving features grouped in the Driving Assistant and Driving Assistant Plus systems of the vehicle. The car can now maneuver not just into parallel parking spaces but now also into perpendicular parking spots. It controls the entire maneuver, including all the necessary steering, gear-shifting, acceleration and braking operations. Active Park Distance Control also assists the driver during manual reversing maneuvers. If needed, this feature autonomously applies the brakes, preventing collisions with obstacles to the rear.
Another nifty feature is a remote control parking system. This enables an owner of the new 7-Series to make the car maneuver in or out of parking spaces or garages without anyone at the wheel. The remote control parking option thus allows drivers to access extremely tight parking spaces. Instructions are sent using the key fob, which features a display panel to provide a variety of vehicle-specific info.
Finally, the car is loaded with a host of electronic driver aids such as Frontal Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with Light City braking function, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning and Speed Limit Info. On top of this, there is also Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function and Front Crossing Traffic warning, Traffic Jam assistant and Active Lane keeping assistant with Side Collision protection.