The pinnacle of modern automotive luxury has always been, without a shadow of a doubt, the Rolls-Royce marquee. With hand built coaches in Goodwood, England, the folks will literally fly you over there to make sure you’ve had your say on every nook and cranny of the vehicle. Depending on black market organ pricing fluctuations, a Rolls will typically set you back pretty much everything inside your torso. Ouch.
So what’s the working rich supposed to do? Well, up until now the answer has been to simply walk to the nearest Mercedes Dealership and plop down a (small) suitcase filled with cash for a brand new S-Class. Not so anymore – those looking for Rolls-Royce-like refinement needn’t look outside the BMW Group corporate umbrella.
BMW’s re-launch of the 7 Series came with quite some fanfare, approaching the concept of luxury with a different focus than their competitors. While the Mercs adorned every single possible surface of their S-Class with premium dead cow (or other exotic animal) skin and wood grain, BMW bet big on technology to derive luxury for its customers.
Even the design is forward thinking, employing plenty of sharp and aggressive body lines that swoop down to the signature kidney grilles in the front fascia. The headlights also have a connecting LED strip that seem to originate from them. All told, when staring at the flagship, your eyes are drawn towards it.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the grilles cycle through varying states of opening and closing to help manage the influx of air into the motor. To hasten the warm up cycle on a cold engine, it’ll close the flaps completely helping the car insulate the heat inside. As the motor warms up, the flaps open gradually allowing for more cool air to be drawn into it.
The technology isn’t just skin deep – the underpinnings have been redesigned too and use much of the same technology from BMW’s i-brand of vehicles. Where the two differ is in the high tensile steel and aluminum that is paired with Carbon Core, creating a stronger passenger foundation that is also 86 kg lighter than before. The lighter chassis works in conjunction with some really nifty behind the scenes transmission and damper control features to provide a more supple ride.
ZF’s ubiquitous 8-speed automatic receives GPS navigation input to optimize shift strategy based on how heavy your right foot is, and the route trajectory of the vehicle. Going up a big hill? The ZF will drop gears in advance to ensure a smooth climb.
Meanwhile, the dynamic damper control will utilize navigation telemetry to anticipate body roll and counteract them. All of these chassis technologies work harmoniously and seamlessly together to provide ride quality that rivals even a Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Step inside the cabin and it’s your typical BMW affair – a missed opportunity for the brand to really differentiate the flagship from the rest of the company’s product offerings. The bright side here is that anyone who has sat in a 3 Series would feel perfectly at home.
Supposedly, this shouldn’t matter when you’re in the Ultimate Driving Machine. Though the layout may be near identical, the materials used have unequivocally moved upscale. The iDrive command dial, gear lever, and radio knobs are all ceramic. Extended Nappa leather is appropriated on every single surface. Despite the familiarity of the cockpit, it’s still laden with innovative technology.
Among the most famous is the hand gesture audio controls. Hover a finger in front of the iDrive display and wave it in a clockwise direction to increase the volume, and vice-versa to decrease the volume. Remember, only peasants touch volume knobs – kings magically do it by waving their hands! You can also use the control feature to accept or waive incoming calls, and even program one customizable gesture to your liking – a two finger stab towards the display.
But the ultimate luxury in this sedan is actually behind the driver’s seat. With the Executive Lounge option, one touch of a button swings the passenger seat forward and drops a foot rest for the rear occupant. The rear seat reclines like a La-Z-Boy and the massive rear infotainment screen swivels down to adjust to your new supremely comfortable viewing angle. Slide back the centre console in the rear and you can insert your own Blu-Rays or grab the remote control and have unparalleled access to iDrive.
The real party trick lies in the removable tablet housed just above the rear armrest. Use it to browse the internet, adjust sunshade settings, and dictate where your personal driver will take you via the Navigation controls. It’s far from a gimmick and actually useful for those who can’t be bothered to talk to their annoying driver.
Retrieve the stow-away table and you’ll have space to review a few decks before your next business meeting or if you’re the Wolf of Wall Street, perhaps a snort of….anyways you get the point. Sitting reclined in the backseat with the massage feature on – it feels your own private jet.
And boy does it absolutely haul like one too. Equipped with a twin-scroll twin-turbo V8, BMW’s flagship churns out impressive horsepower figures. The 4.4L motor sends 445 horses and 480 lb-ft of twist to all four corners. Power delivery lags for a split second but then comes on full force in a relentless fashion.
The entire front end heaves upwards when you plant your right foot down, as not even the fancy air suspension or predictive dampers could defeat the laws of physics. The transmission lets out an audible BLAAART thanks to the M Sport exhaust as it slams through each gear, bringing the 7 Series to a verybrisk pace in a matter of seconds.
Once the initial G-force of the acceleration wears off, the car settles down but continues to build pace – the cabin is so well insulated that you don’t feel any of the speed. Looking down at the cluster, it takes a moment to truly come to terms with just how fast you’re going. Thankfully, you can’t lose your license if your driver was the one behind the wheel. Put simply, BMW’s luxury sedan will make short work of the distance between meetings. If you find that you’re the type to be perpetually late – you could also opt for a V12 in the form of the M760Li – a derivative of the motor found in the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Now, revisiting the original predicament facing the working rich. Just how much money does he (or she) need to pack in their suitcase to nab one of these supreme pieces of German engineering? Well, the going rate of a 750Li starts at $117,900. This Mineral White tester rang out to $151,500. It ticks all the major option groups (including a $10,000 Executive Lounge which adds reclining and massaging rear seats, and the aforementioned tablet).
But it’s far from a complete options list either – there’s more to configure and add to a 7 Series such as an anthracite Alcantara headliner, sky lounge moonroof, and remote control parking. There’s more power on the table via a V-12 powered M760Li and if you really want to be special (without busting out the black card for a Roller) there’s even still an Alpina B7 alternative starting at $155,900.
Ultimately, this vehicle isn’t for everyone – and while that statement generally means that its feature set is too sporty or only for a specific target market – in the case of the 7 Series, everyone could use some pampering. But the reality here is that most of us will never be able to afford one. These flagships represent a case study into the future of the automobile. Similar to how the i8 used technology to shift the way we view performance vehicles, the 750Li looks to use technology to revolutionize how we perceive luxury.