Since its introduction in 1977, the BMW 7 Series has been a showcase of the Bavarian car maker’s capabilities and also a precedent on what a luxury automobile can offer. Over the years, this model has been a vehicle of choice for some of the swankiest hotels, CEOs, diplomats, celebrities and even prime ministers. Now in its sixth generation, the 2016 7 Series has recently launched in India. To experience all that BMW has packed in this palatial sedan, I decided to test drive it on a 1,200km road-trip, from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and back, where I was able to sample the luxury car as a driver and also pamper myself in the back seat.
There are two members of the 7 Series family available in India — the petrol powered 750Li (`1.55 crore) and the lesser expensive diesel burning 730Ld (`1.14 crore), also my ride for this test drive.
Unlike its predecessors, the 2016 7 Series is quite sporty; the exterior design is entirely new. Its signature kidney grille is larger than ever and behind it are computer controlled flaps which open and close to help the engine cool and improve aerodynamics. The headlights are slimmer and use lasers to intelligently illuminate a kilometre sign ahead of you, without blinding oncoming drivers.
The rear-lights, equipped with LED technology, beautifully merge into the trunk. A low centre of gravity and an aggressive styling give the car a profound younger look.
“Technology” is the keyword fuelling this luxe vehicle. BMW has transformed the former, humble keyless entry to an advanced keyfob for this model. Along with a set of buttons, its key now has a 2.2- inch multi-touch screen. Swipe across the screen to know how much fuel the car has left, estimated range, status of door and window locks, along with notifications like when service is due.
I stepped inside to begin my journey by being chauffeured for a long drive. After all, it’s in the 7 Series rear lounge where most owners would spend their time. It is not like getting into a car but into an executive suite. Plush would be an understatement — the materials, the trims, and the leather, all are of the highest quality available. Everything in hands’ reach is covered in leather, brushed aluminium or wood.
The cabin is adorned with ambient lighting and it is everywhere — in the footwells, on the door trim and under all the controls. Our M-trim test car has a Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof which uses LED technology on the edges of the sun-roof, turning it
into a star-lined pattern at night. As I stared into the illuminated serenity of the night sky, I sank into the reclining seats and melted away the day’s stress with one of the eight massage programs while listening to Norah Jones on the fantastic Bowers and Wilkins sound system. Should you wish to catch up on some entertainment, there are two vibrant ten-inch display screens mounted at the back of the front seats.
Putting you in control of almost every entertainment and comfort feature of the car is a Samsung Android tablet held in the centre console by mechanical clasps. Press a button and the tablet neatly pops up at an angle. The entire experience is like flying business class on an international flight.
The four-zone climate control fills the cabin with ionised air while evenly dispensing a fragrance of choice from cartridges under the glove compartment. In BMW fashion, by using the touchscreen tablet, you can choose from either of the two fragrances depending on your choice of intensity. Being ionised, the molecules of the fragrance do not stick on your clothes or skin. After stepping out of the car, I could still smell the Tom Ford perfume I had sprayed on earlier.
With my ride underway, I put to use the Vitality programme, which allows rear-seat passengers to engage in active training. It’s more like a guided workout, the screens walk you through pressing your legs, shoulder and back on the seat with varying intensities. All the stretching and pushing relaxes your body, especially on long drives.
However, if you wish to relieve tension, then the driver’s seat is where you should be. If the rear seat comforted and pampered you with business class amenities and a host of gadgets, it is the driver’s seat that gives you complete access to this “ultimate driving machine”. Under the hood is a 3-litre inline turbocharged diesel engine paired with an 8-speed ZF gearbox that delivers 262 horsepower. Press the accelerator and your luxury chariot will reach 100 kmph from a standstill within the claimed 6.2 seconds.
For a car that is 17 feet long, it can be handled with much ease. It reaches a triple-digit speed with a velvety smooth power delivery while keeping the driver engaged. It manoeuvres through twists and turns with a level of enthusiasm not usually associated with large luxury sedans. The real crux of the 2016 7 Series is how it insulates the passengers in a cocoon of comfort. On the tar laden expressway to Ahmedabad, I put the car in Comfort + mode, which using the adaptive air suspension, further softens the dampers; so even while cruising at 130 kmph, we felt that we were sitting in an air conditioned room on a remote island cut off from the world outside. It surely is an extremely comfortable way to travel.
On the way back it was time to try something new. A first in any production car, the 7 Series comes with gesture control. A 3D sensor above the centre console recognises a handful of gestures. Rotate your index finger to adjust the volume, swipe to the right to decline a call, point with one finger to change the audio track and more. While it’s fun to play with, it is not 100 per cent responsive and occasionally I had to make use of the multi-touch screen or the trusted iDrive controller to do the task. Speaking of tech, the car uses it for parking as well — four cameras capture an image giving you a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle. With every nook around the car visible, parking in tight spots is a breeze.
Driving the flagship model of an automaker whose tag line reads “the ultimate driving machine” is bound to be interesting. The car leaves no stone unturned in delivering luxury, style, and performance. Designed with a clever blend of technology and dynamics, the new 7 Series represents a bright chapter from Bavaria’s superlative motor-works.