You’re certainly aware of the car’s size – at over five metres long and around two tons unladen, it’s a substantial vehicle. But it’s sufficiently nimble to mask its considerable bulk — particularly in petrol format, for that car gets mechanical rear steer, which turns the back wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts to exaggerate the turn at slow speeds, and the same way at high for greater stability.
You notice it most on tight, 25 and 35kph corners or small roundabouts, when the large car you pointed at the apex carves round like a much smaller one; disconcerting at first but easy to get used to.
The 7 Series’ new face is less assertive than the old; it’s still impressive thanks to the larger kidney grille and sleeker silhouette via a lower roof and longer outline, but not as in-your-face. Pity, the old design was ageing well, the once shocking lines now the accepted face of successful gravitas.
Like its predecessor’s, the spacious cabin’s as cosseting as $185,000 to $245,000 can make it, and embellished with clever stuff — some of which will eventually appear on mainstream cars. Not all of it’s standard yet, but the options list is tempting. How about a pair of wing cameras, for example. Nose your car into traffic and it’ll tell you something’s coming — or it’s clear to pull out.
The updated and easier-to-use iDrive that controls many of the car’s functions also includes voice control of some, so you can access your Bluetooth phone, for example, without taking your hands from the wheel or eyes from the road.
There’s a head-up display that not only projects your speed onto the windscreen, but the excellent satellite navigation instructions. You can even adjust where on the screen those images appear but either way, if you’re long-sighted it’s a great feature, for you barely need to refocus from road to speedo, and back.
This car can also warn you if you drift out of lane; can tell you there’s another car in your blind spot; has night vision features that will detect pedestrians you can’t yet see; and will massage your bum, the slow lift of one as the other drops keeping your spine and hips moving slightly to reduce long-distance stiffness and fatigue.
What will they think of next? I’m hoping for an inbuilt espresso machine, but I won’t hold my breath.
All this may sound intimidating but it isn’t. For a start, most of the tech is invisible until you need it. Which is perhaps why BMW reminds you how clever it is by presenting a plain black instrument panel, which only lights up to reveal gauges and dials when you fire the ignition.
That sparks a choice of two powerplants. There’s a 4395cc twin-turbo V8 with 600Nm to take the car from zero to 100 in 5.2 seconds. BMW tucked the turbos into the vee along with the catalytic converters, to get them to operating temperature more quickly.
Then there’s the all-new diesel six, that’ll get you from rest to 100 in 7.2 seconds. It’s slower but more frugal says BMW, which claims a 7.2l/100km thirst that won’t be matched by anyone putting the car’s performance to the test.
Both variants get Dynamic Driving Control to let you access comfort to sporty response at the touch of a button, plus Dynamic Damping Control, both working on a car with a 50-50 weight balance though the active drive and steering are only optional on the petrol car.
Now, if you’re a cynic you’re starting to wonder how big the battery is to power all this stuff. And I have no idea, but I can tell you braking regeneration helps keep it live. You may also be wondering how long all the electrics will last — for some reason a question folk ask about almost every new car.
Those buying this 7 Series will probably sell it before they find out. But it pays to remember that while some tech isn’t as new as you’d think – windscreen wipers were common on American cars by 1916, auto air con was introduced by Packard in 1939 and ABS was developed for aircraft in 1929 — it was all new-fangled at some point, and much of it has a tangible benefit and associated longevity.
Airbags and stability control were once reserved for luxury cars; now they’re fitted to sub-$20,000 runabouts. Your Corolla may not massage your bottom any time soon, but the safety-oriented stuff will get cheaper with time, also making reliability concerns, actual or imagined, all but redundant.
Price: $185,000 to $245,000
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Words & Photos: Jacqui Madelin