You could spend a month in the latest BMW 7-Series and not learn what all the gadgets do. It fact, the 25 minutes I spent driving a heavily-optioned BMW 730Ld would probably only just about be long enough to read through the spec sheet.
Highlights on this example include active Laserlight headlights, Executive Drive Pro active suspension and Driving Assistant Plus, which adds semi-autonomous driving capability and warnings for every conceivable hazard. Plus four-wheel-steering, more entertainment and connectivity options than most of us have at home, possibly the best infotainment system in the business and the much-vaunted gesture control.
The vast majority of these gadgets are controlled via the iDrive wheel, so the system is necessarily menu deep. But you don’t need a degree in computer science to understand it, and the screen is set high on the dashboard, so it’s not too far out of the driver’s line of sight.
Since I didn’t have time to test all the tech I had to ask someone who has and I’m told that the driving assistance systems are highly effective, but the gesture controls are limited and a bit gimmicky. I can tell you that the Bowers and Wilkins stereo is mighty and the active chassis systems are incredibly well integrated.
The ride is a bit floaty, but the 7-Series will tackle corners as vigorously as you want it to, the four-wheel-steering and active suspension serving up remarkable agility for such a big car and absolute body control. It helps that the 7 is both light and strong, thanks to its ‘Carbon Core’ chassis, a multi-material structure with a high percentage of carbonfibre.
It’s capable of making extremely rapid progress, but the 7’s handling is just a bit lifeless. Better to waft along, luxuriating in the supple ride, magnificent seats and vast, minimalist interior.
The engine has a similar duality to the chassis. It’s an all-new 3.0-litre, straight-six turbo diesel producing 265bhp and 457lb/ft of torque. Acceleration is brisk, with 0-62mph passing in 6.2secs, but more importantly it’s always got plenty of oomph to spare in any gear, at any point in the rev band.
But ease back into waft mode and you stand a chance of approaching the claimed combined fuel economy of 58.9mpg, an amazing figure for such a big car. By contrast, a Mercedes S350d L can only manage 50.4mpg; factor in Co2 emissions of 127g/km and it’s clear BMW is aiming the 730Ld squarely at company car drivers.
The 730Ld does everything you expect a large luxury saloon with considerable aplomb. It’s mightily impressive, yes, but not especially lovable.
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-6 turbo diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 265bhp; 427lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 58.9mpg; 127g/km
Top speed: 155mph
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By Only Motors