BMW opted to take an evolutionary rather than revolutionary stance when styling the newest 7 Series. Up front the biggest BMW limousine wears the brand's signature kidney front grille, as well as a modern interpretation of the classic BMW headlight treatment. The 7 Series remains a three-box design, but the sedan's roof line is more swept back than before, giving it a more coupe-like appearance. The rear of the car features LED taillights, a more sculpted bumper and dual exhaust outlets.
There is nothing evolutionary about the 7 Series' chassis, however, as it's an all-new design comprised of high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic — the latter of which is a world first for a mass-produced vehicle. As a result of those high-tech materials, the latest 7 Series is up to 290 pounds lighter than the model it replaces, netting better performance and improved economy. Upholding BMW's 'Ultimate Driving Machine' tag, the 7 Series boasts a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution.
The top offering in the 7 Series lineup is the newly-minted M760i xDrive. It uses a high-performance twin-turbocharged V12 engine tuned by BMW's M motorsports division. One step down is the 750i, which uses a twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8. A more efficient six-cylinder engine is also available in the form of the 740i. A plug-in hybrid, called the 740e, is also available for the super frugal.
All versions of the 7 Series use a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Borrowing technology from sister company Rolls-Royce, the eight-speed employs a new GPS system that can detect the terrain ahead and adjust the gearbox accordingly.
The 7 Series was previously available in both short- and long-wheelbase forms, but the new model is exclusively available in long-wheelbase form in the United States.
The 740i comes with rear-wheel drive only; the 750i can be had with rear-wheel drive or with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system. The M760i xDrive can only be had with all-wheel drive. A four-wheel steering system can be added to either the 740i or the 750i/750i xDrive for an additional charge; the system is standard on the range-topping M760i xDrive.
Like its exterior, the overall interior design of the new 7 Series isn't radically different from the model it replaces, but the flagship sedan has been given a significant bump when it comes to available technologies. The 7 Series now runs BMW's iDrive 5.0 infotainment system, complete with a new touchscreen interface. But, not satisfied with just the car's new touchscreen capabilities, BMW also added the world's first gesture control system. With just a flick of the hand, drivers can accept or reject phone calls and adjust the volume of the car's audio system. There is also a two-finger point that can be programmed for a specific function, such as setting the car's navigation system for home.
The gesture control system also encompasses the car's exterior camera system, which gives a bird's eye view of the outside of the car. The system is particularly useful when parking in tight spots.
And, being a flagship vehicle, the 7 Series is offered as standard with genuine leather upholstery and real wood accents.
The 740i stands as the entry point into the 7 Series lineup and features a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six engine. Generating 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, BMW says the 740i can accelerate from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. The 740i is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The step-up 750i uses a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 rated at 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. The EPA rates the 750i at 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The 750i xDrive uses the same 4.4-liter V8 as the 750i, but the extra grip of all-wheel drive drops the sedan's 0-60 time to just 4.3 seconds. The added weight of the all-wheel drive system knocks the 750i xDrive's city rating down to 16 mpg, but highway mileage is unchanged at 25 mpg.
The M760i xDrive can accelerate from 0-60 in less than 3.9 seconds thanks to a 6.6-liter V12 that belts out 600 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures have not been announced.
The 740e plug-in uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor integrated into the car's eight-speed transmission. The gas engine is rated at 258 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor kicks in another 113 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Total system output is 326 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
BMW says the 740e can scamper from 0-60 in about 5.6 seconds. More importantly, the 740e can cover up to 25 miles on battery power alone. The 740e is rated at 112 mpg on the European cycle, although that figure will be lower when the sedan is put through the EPA's testing process. The 740e comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive will be available for an extra charge.
Standard and Optional Features
The 7 Series comes extremely well-equipped, even in base 740i form. Standard equipment for the 740i includes leather seats, real wood accents, 16-speaker audio system, electronic limited-slip differential, LED headlights, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, four-zone climate control, WiFi connectivity, panoramic sunroof, soft-close automatic door operation, gesture control, smart cruise control, two-axle air suspension and navigation.
A neat standard feature is BMW's Display Key, which incorporates a 2.2-inch touchscreen. The smart key works within a 1,000 foot range of the car and can be used for remote start, to check on fuel range or even to roll up the car's windows. The key recharges via a wireless charger located in the 7-Series' center console.
In addition to a bigger engine, the 750i models add 19-inch wheels, premium leather, 20-way power seats, a head-up display and power rear sun shade. Opting for the M760i xDrive brings 20-inch wheels, standard four-wheel steering, a unique M Aerodynamic Package and a revised Driving Dynamics Control system.
The 7 Series is available with a wide range of optional equipment, but the highlight is the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package. When that option box is checked, the 7-Series receives a pair of 10-inch video screens for rear seat passengers, as well as a 7-inch Samsung tablet that can control things like seating position, navigation, ambient lighting and air conditioning. It can also be removed from the car and be used as a regular tablet.
An M Sport Package is also available for 740i and 750i models and includes an aero kit, 19-inch lightweight wheels and a sport exhaust system.
Finally, buyers can order BMW's remote-controlled parking tech at an extra cost. The segment-exclusive system lets the driver use the key fob to inch the car in and out of tight parking spots.
Every 7 Series model is equipped with dual front, side and side curtain airbags along with traction and stability control systems and a crash sensor that disconnects the alternator, fuel pump and starter from battery, automatically unlocks doors and turns on hazard and interior lights in the event of a collision. BMW's Assist eCall automatic informs emergency responders in the event of a crash.
Advanced features like Blind Spot Detection, Frontal Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Daytime Pedestrian Protection are available for an additional cost.
The BMW 7 Series squares off with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ. The Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte could also be seen as competitors to the surprisingly athletic 7 Series.