If you thought BMW was going to let the new crop of luxury limousines go uncontested, think again.
The BMW 7-Series has, since time immemorial, been the big-saloon of choice for the lucky few who could afford a big car that could also steer well. Because of that, they’ve always put a little too much emphasis on the drive, ignoring aesthetics and comfort to some extent in doing so. The luxury segment has become far more competitive in recent years than it has ever been before, and as a result, BMW likely knew that if its flagship 7-Series wasn’t reimagined, it would be left in the dust, relegated to the pages of history.
Thankfully, that reimagination seems pretty well executed. The new 7-Series, dubbed the G11, brings the game on to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ, while also training its aim at posher alternatives like the Bentley Flying Spur and Porsche Panamera. With so many different competitors taking different approaches to hit the same market, can the BMW 7-Series stand up to scrutiny?
“From the outside, the 7 Series now looks a little sharper but its still an understated way of getting from A to B in complete comfort.” - AutoExpress
‘Restraint’ is the sentiment that comes to mind when taking in the new 7-Series. We’re reminded of the radical overhauls that BMW’s been through over the years (remember the Bangle-penned 7-Series?), so there’s logic behind the conservative approach that Munich has opted to take. Though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does bring the 7er bang up to date with the competition, with all of the expected aerodynamic trickery and the uniquely-BMW blend of presence, athleticism, and elegance.
Of course, if you’d rather have your 7-Series described as dynamic, imposing, and brash, you can always opt for the M-Sport pack that is available as a no-cost option across the range. This makes the 7er look properly mean, with subtle revisions that may seem inconsequential at first, but make a huge difference when they work in concert. One slight niggle is that the M-Sport pack sees the chrome trim that runs along the bottom of the doors finished in black, which has been regarded by most of the worlds’ press as looking a lot like a hockey stick.
Engine & Drivetrain
“There is more cabin noise from the diesel engine than you might expect, but once up and running, refinement levels are supreme and easily on par with a diesel-engined Mercedes S-Class.” - Evo UK
There are 3 engine options for the 7er in Australia, with all plants adopting revisions to make them run cleaner, smoother, and leaner. The range kicks off with the 730d 3.0-litre turbodiesel, which offers 195kW of power and 620Nm of torque. This ‘base’ model claims to only sip 4.9L/100km, which is scarcely believable for a luxury limousine that weighs 2.45-tonnes.
If it’s a petrol you’re after, you’ll likely find yourself looking at the 740i (or 740Li), powered by a straight-6 3.0-litre turbo petrol, capable of 240kW and 450Nm. The 740 claims a combined fuel consumption of 7L/100km, and with its torque available from just 1380rpm, this engine never leaves you wanting for power. It’s particularly good company around town, with excellent refinement and smooth progress.
If it’s outright pace that you want out of your luxury limousine, then the 750i/Li will be the one you’re after. With a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 motor, the 750i/Li can rocket from rest to 100km/h in just 4.7-seconds. It’s also pretty economical (for a V8), with claimed consumption between 8.1L-8.3L/100km.
All 7ers come standard-fit with the exceptional 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox that has won high praise from BMW owners and critics the world over.
“Top-quality materials, stunning design and advanced technology put the BMW 7 Series cabin in a class of its own.” - CarBuyer
BMW’s have always taken a little bit of flak for having unimaginative interiors, but the G11 7er makes some effort to drop this. The cabin of the new 7-Series is beautiful to behold and a joy to interact with, from the quality of the materials to the engineering of the switchgear. There’s a degree of posh-plush that we haven’t seen in any other 7er before this, and it certainly moves its luxury game on by a country mile.
While the cabin exhibits luxury like no other 7er before it, look closer and you’ll find that it’s not in any way revolutionary, nor too evolutionary in its design & execution. The ergonomics and layout of the controls will be all too familiar with existing BMW drivers, which is a good and bad thing of sorts. People moving up to the 7er or trading in their old 7 will feel right at home, but newcomers to the segment will likely be more wowed by the aesthetics of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Refinement is par-excellence here, with only the 750i/Li and 730d exhibiting some relatively loud engine noise at times. That’s about the only distraction you’ll have, though. The reclining rear seats makes this one of the best chauffeur cars out there, and certainly puts up a good fight against the Porsche Panamera.
Behind the Wheel
“On the road, the 7 is tremendously isolating…” - TopGear
BMW has always positioned the 7er as a (slightly) more driver-focused offering in its segment. While the G11 7er doesn’t stray too far from this, it’s certainly a plusher ride than before. Where the S-Class used to lead the way in terms of ride comfort by some margin, the 7er has closed the gap, with a smooth, unruffled ride that can easily lull you to sleep. This is especially apparent in long-wheelbase models with the upgraded rear seats, which provide so much comfort, you begin to question why you need a bed.
This is still an ultimate driving machine though, and the 7er doesn’t disappoint. There’s an immense breadth of ability here, as it changes from comfort cruise-liner to B-road barnstormer at a flick of the drive mode selector. In ‘Sport’ mode, the 7er tightens up, sharpens throttle responses and adds a little heft to the steering wheel, and sees the big limo corner as flat as a tack. While it isn’t the last word in agility and handling, only the Jaguar XJ really excels at driver involvement in this segment. But like almost every 7er before it, the G11 balances luxury and agility seemingly perfectly, with little price to pay even when put in its most aggressive setting.
Should driving not be your thing, the rear half of the cabin will invite and entice. The rear seats feature a massage function as standard, and the supple suspension will tempt you to doze more often than a 1960s documentary. The suede-covered rear pillows guarantee plushness, and the acres of space means that you’ll have plenty of room to rest.
Safety & Technology
“Owners expect the absolute latest in technological inclusions and equipment, in fact, it’s almost a badge of honour at this end of the market.” - CarAdvice
The 7-Series has, at the time of writing, not been tested by independent safety adjudicators from EuroNCAP or ANCAP. Despite this, the 7er is prepared to prevent you from having an accident in the first place, and will protect drivers and occupants in the event that a collision happens anyway. There’s a full suite of airbags, the usual electronic safety aids, as well as advanced driver assistance systems.
In terms of sheer technology, the 7er doesn’t disappoint. Featuring here is a gesture control system, which allows drivers to control certain functionalities of the iDrive system by waving their arm about ahead of the centre console. The latest iteration of iDrive now responds to touch inputs on the central screen, while the physical controls remain very easy and intuitive to use. At the rear, there is a Samsung touchscreen tablet available for the good sir or madam to control most of the cars functions, like seat recline angle, ambient lighting colour, even the HVAC system.
The BMW 7-Series inhabits a very demanding position in the market. Customers looking for a luxury limousine demand the utmost comfort and cutting-edge technology, in a package that is both imposing but classy, with a cabin that both soothes and excites. The Jekyll & Hyde type requirements that these cars have to meet is extraordinary, and being a BMW, the 7-Series also has to be enjoyable to drive.
Despite the odds, the new 7er manages to exceed any and all expectations. It’s the most balanced offering in its class, where the Mercedes-Benz S-Class outdoes it in terms of outright comfort and the Jaguar XJ leaves it trailing in terms of agility. But that said, maybe middle-of-the-road is where the 7er ought to be. It’s not suffering as such, we’ll say that much.
In terms of the lineup that BMW is offering in Australia, there’s a little bit of a snag. Our recommendation lies with the 730d and its excellent diesel engine, but it isn’t available as a long-wheelbase chauffeur-mobile (unless you really are a chauffeur, as the LWB 730d is offered to commercial fleet buyers). While the 7er isn’t small by any measure, the acres of room you get in the back of a long-wheelbase model is very tempting indeed. If you’ll end up being driven in your 7er more often than not, we’d have to recommend the 740iL, which also benefits from a slightly more refined petrol unit that doesn’t disappoint.
Drive - 7.5/10- “In reality, this level of luxury is only going to be savoured by a small percentage of the population. No matter whether they're sitting in the front or the back seat, the BMW 7-Series is a beautiful way to travel.”
CarBuyer - 4.1/5.0 - “The BMW 7 Series offers limousine-like luxury, state-of-the-art technology and a genuinely enjoyable driving experience.”
AutoCar - 4.0/5.0 - “Predictably, then, the 7 Series is a surprisingly good driver’s car but could be a better luxury conveyance. Although it’s immutably built, the BMW doesn’t feel as rich, desirable or special as some of its rivals.”
TopGear - 8.0/10 - “Familiar styling conceals a tech revolution. But the S-Class isn’t worried.”
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “Space-age tech and unrivalled luxury makes the BMW 7 Series a match for the Mercedes S-Class.”
Car & Driver - 4.5/5.0 - “The 7-series has traditionally been the BMW for those who can barely recall their stick-shift, tail-sliding days. Available in a choice of long or really long wheelbases, with up to 12 twin-turbocharged cylinders, and with rear- or four-wheel drive, the 7 is a four-door limo blessed with comfort, speed, and a suitably aloof demeanour.”
Evo UK - 4.0/5.0 - "The most high tech car in the world right now, but where are the BMW driving thrills?”
Telegraph UK - 8.0/10.0 - "If you want a luxury saloon that's fun to drive and available with technology that will make you gawp then smile, the BMW 7-series is the one to choose. The Mercedes S-class is still a better chauffeur car, but the 7 now performs pretty well in this role, too."