The last time we drove the BMW 7 Series, we compared the car to its various flagship rivals. It wasn't just any other comparison. It was a test to find out which car best suits India's Prime Minister? The ultimate seat of power. While the PM is currently ferried in a special armoured BMW 7 Series, we didn't find the car to feel very special. The interior felt like any other BMW, and the rear seats didn't offer a massage as good as the rest. As mentioned then, the benchmark was set by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and we expected the rivals to catch up. BMW is the first of that lot as it has readied an all-new 7 Series and even launched the car in India. After waiting for a few months, we finally got our hands on this BMW flagship and spent a few days with it. Is the 7 Series then the new benchmark?
The 7 Series has always been the more sport oriented of all the luxury sedans. It's still a proper luxury car, but the sporty BMW character always shows. It's no different in the new model. In fact, the 7 is now a lot more dynamic in terms of styling and even gets an M sport package as you see here. Like most of its new siblings, the 7 Series now gets a more prominent kidney grille that merges with the headlamps. It's a larger unit and features BMW's Laserlight like in the i8. The bumper gets LED fog lights that sit within a prominent chrome element near the air dam. The sculpted hood is typical BMW and adds to the muscular front.
Move to the side and you'll notice that the car is much longer. However, it's still shorter in length when compared to the Audi A8L and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The front and rear bumpers protrude adding to the length and design. A prominent shoulder line runs across the door handles, and the C-pillar still looks a lot like the previous generation 7. The signature Hofmeister kink (the kink on the rear window frame) is for the first time a single piece in a series production BMW.
There's a lot more chrome too. The air breather surround is finished in chrome and joins the chrome strip that runs all the way along the lower side of the doors. This is a now 7 Series signature and one that distinguishes it from other flagships. The rear looks very smart, elegant and modern at the same time. The LED lamps are sleek and split by a chrome strip. The contoured rear bumper looks chunky and gets chrome surrounds for the dual-exhausts.
Like the exterior, the interior is also all-new in the new 7. While most BMWs feature a similar layered design for the cabin, this car takes that experience to a different level altogether. The design is an evolution of the BMW cabins we've seen previously, and it's nice that it feels and looks all new. The driver-focused dual-tone dashboard is clean and minimalistic, thanks to the use of fewer buttons. Quality of materials are top-notch, and the buttons around the car feel like they'll last a lifetime and are finished in metal.
The steering wheel is all new too and lovely to grip. The controls on the wheel are also finished in metal adding to that premium feel. Like the S-Class, the 7 also feature an all-digital instrument cluster. Unlike the Mercedes, the display layout is a lot more analogue. Various driving modes get different colour and design themes. Then there's the hi-res 10-inch centre display that's also a touchscreen. The screen is great for viewing the 360-degree parking camera and animations. That's not it, even the climate control display and controls are now touch operated and the display changes the theme during day and night.
Majority of 7 Series owners prefer to be chauffeur driven. The rear of the cabin pampers the passenger. BMW has paid more attention in this newer generation model. The seats are more comfortable and offer more massage programmes. There's also the BMW's Vitality Programme that has been developed to get the passengers to engage in active training, especially over long journeys. The massage function with an interactive training is displayed on the monitors placed behind the front seats. While we did try out this feature, it takes some time getting used to. The massage functions are much better than before but only offered in the rear seats. Surprisingly, the rear passengers don't get a foldable table and footrests. BMW should have offered these features as standard considering all its rivals do; besides it's BMW's flagship sedan.
There is another screen too, in the form of a 7-inch tablet that's been specially developed with Samsung. The tablet neatly sits in the rear armrest and can be charged by placing it in the dock. The tablet basically controls the seat adjustment and massage functions, lighting and air conditioning. The infotainment, lighting and air conditioning can be controlled too. Since it's removable, the tablet can be used by all occupants.
When the sun goes down, the 7 turns into a lounge. Ambient lighting runs across the insides of the car along the dashboard and door pads. The map pockets and foot wells get indirect illumination too. There's a choice of six different colours and one can even change the combination rather than just stick to a single colour. Even the panorama roof is lit up, thanks to cleverly positioned LEDs and patterns on the glass. Step outside and there's a special welcome light graphic projected on the road.
Did I mention that one has to charge the key? That's right. The main car key features a display that's also touch operated and offers a slew of features like the car's door, windows lock/unlock status, engine status, total range etc. One can also precondition the air conditioner before entering the car. However, these features only work when one is in close proximity to the car. It would have been nice if it used the cloud to control these functions. The key could have featured inductive charging by placing it in a dock rather than manually charging it every few days. Over two days, the key battery went from full charge to critically low.
The 730Ld continues to use the 3.0-litre straight-six diesel as before but produces 265PS and 620Nm of peak torque from as low as 2,000rpm. That's an increase of 7PS and 60Nm! This along with a lighter kerb-weight (by about 100 kilos) has made the 7 Series a better performer. The engine is refined and thanks to excellent insulation, feels almost petrol like. The engine even revs up quickly and power delivery is strong throughout the range. The car cruises effortlessly without much strain on the motor. Put your foot down and the car shoots out more like a powerful smaller sedan.
The numbers prove it too. BMW claim that the car crosses 100kmph from standstill in 6.2 seconds. In our test runs, the car consistently did the same in an even quicker 6 seconds. This is a very impressive figure for a large diesel car. Despite it being a luxury-focused car, the 730Ld offers a launch control function (that's a lot easier to activate than in the M cars). Top speed is a claimed 250kmph. In terms of fuel efficiency, the car returned 6.8kmpl in the city and 11.1kmpl on the highway, translating to an overall efficiency of 7.9kmpl. The ARAI claimed figure is 16.77kmpl.
The 7 Series, as mentioned earlier, is lighter than its predecessor. This is a great feat considering the car is larger and gets a lot more safety and comfort features. BMW engineers brought down the weight by changing the material used in the body structure. The composite construction now features CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic), high-tensile steel and aluminium. This makes the structure a lot more rigid and lighter at the same time. The Carbon Core body, as BMW calls it, comes from the technology used in the BMW i cars. The 7 gains from BMW's experience and learnings in this department. In fact, the company claims that it's the first car ever to use this hybrid construction.
The lower kerb weight and chassis development has resulted in a better handling car on the road. It continues to impress in terms of dynamics and is one of those large luxury cars that will put a smile on the driver's face. Adaptive air suspension can automatically choose the right setting, or one can choose between pre-set modes (that also work in conjunction with the various drive modes). One can also increase the car's ride height making it ideal when one has to drive through potholes and those high-speed breakers that are unique to India. Ride quality is very impressive, especially in comfort plus mode. So whether it's long-distance drives or the city commute, the passenger is in ease at all times.
The 7 Series is a big step up from its predecessor and improves in every aspect. The car still retains that balanced character, which makes it fun to drive and at the same time comfortable to be driven in. The additional tech-laden features that aren't offered by its rivals are a nice touch. However, it's a car that will appeal to those who already own and have a liking to BMWs. It doesn't have what it takes to woo customers who are driven in cars that wear the tri-star badge.
The 730Ld is assembled in India and benefits from lower taxes too. But then it's priced between Rs 1.19-1.29 crore, ex-Mumbai. This makes it more expensive than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This is a downer as the BMW offers less comfort features than the Mercedes. BMW had the time to better its competition in all aspects but unfortunately doesn't. Is the new 7 then the new benchmark? It comes close, but only a comparison can confirm that.
Images by Anis Shaikh