I wonder how annoyed John Key and Bill English are at the moment. Not long after announcing this year’s budget, BMW unveils a swankier version of the ministerial cars. Perhaps they’ll try and find some way to upgrade the fleet to these new cars, which BMW promises to be cleaner, more luxurious, and more high-tech than before.
Let’s start with the tech. BMW have taken what they’ve learned from their ‘i’ programme and have extensively used carbon-fibre reinforced plastics in the bodywork and chassis. The result is a drop of 130kg in weight over the 7-Series that transports our Members of Parliament around. Less weight means better fuel economy and handling.
Speaking of handling, BMW have heavily revised the air suspension for the new 7 to provide variable damping control and auto self-levelling. Electro-hydraulic roll bars replace the old hydraulic setup, which BMW claim reacts to bumps much faster. For the first time, there’s also four-wheel steering.
Other tech includes full LED headlights (laser headlights are optional). Taking inspiration from the time James Bond had a 7-Series, this new one park itself using a remote device, in this case the key fob. Called ‘Remote Parking’, the new 7 can do forwards and backwards parking manoeuvres without the need for a driver. Odd, for a company who’s slogan is “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
Tech inside hasn’t been forgotten either. As the E65 7 Series introduced iDrive to the world, this fifth-generation 7 also introduces the fifth generation of iDrive. There’s now a reworked rotary dial and touchpad, touchscreen capability, and pinch/point/swipe commands like that on a smartphone. Gesture Controls will also be available and will recognise “point, rotate, swipe and two-finger commands”. Yes, yes insert “BMW drivers know all about two-finger gestures” here. But the Gesture Controls genuinely sound like a cool idea, albeit a bit gimmicky. For example, you turn the volume up by turning your index finger clockwise, and anti-clockwise to turn it down.
Other changes include a new Heads-Up Display screen which is 75% bigger than before, night vision, Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and heating for the seats (of course) but also on the armrest and centre console.
As for engines, well it’ll be available with the usual six, eight, and twelve cylinder engines powered by petrol or diesel we’re used to seeing in BMW’s flagship saloon. The big news comes from a new plug-in hybrid 740e variant. Using the same petrol-hybrid combo as seen in the X5 xDrive40e, it’ll use a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. Total output is 321bhp/236kW and will be able to drive in pure-EV mode for up to 40km and of speeds up to 120 km/h.
Also new will be the first ever 7-Series to be sent to BMW’s M-Division. It’s not certain whether we’ll see a full M7 or a M750i, maybe both, but either way we know it’ll use a variation of the 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 used in the M5. Expect power to be around 500-600bhp.
Design-wise, well it’s certainly changed. It’s adopted BMW’s current design theme, but I think it’s adopted it too much and looks like a 3-Series XXL. The exaggerated kidney grilles and bold headlight design dominate the front. That said, it is less polarising than the E65-generation 7-Series. From some angles it looks sharp and sleek, and from others you can definitely tell it’s a big car.
The new 7 has grown by 19mm in length and 7mm in height over its predecessor, however wheelbase is identical. The long-wheelbase car, rather appropriately, is 18mm longer than the old LWB car and is 139mm longer overall than the standard 7.
BMW are usually the benchmark for sedans, the 3-Series is always the car on which its rivals are judged against. But for its biggest sedan, the 7 has played second fiddle to the Mercedes S-Class. The 7 is up against a healthy list of rivals too. One could argue the Quattroporte is prettier, the XJ, which has just been updated, is more unique, and the A8 is more discreet.
What do you all think of the new 7 Series? If you were in charge of ordering the next fleet of ministerial limos, would the new BMW 7-Series be your pick or would you go for a S-Class or perhaps a Range Rover?