A technological tour de force, the new 2016 BMW 7 Series is a full-size luxury sedan that sits at the top of the automaker's lineup. From its carbon-fiber-infused chassis to its gesture control electronics interface, it spares no expense in an effort to deliver a cutting-edge driving experience.
What Is It?
The 2016 BMW 7 Series is the company's flagship luxury sedan. The range-topper. The big boss.
Riding on an all-new chassis, the new 7 Series is a front-engine, five- (or four-) passenger sedan that drives either the rear or all four wheels, depending on which variant you choose. It is currently available in two flavors: the six-cylinder, rear-drive 740i and the eight-cylinder, all-wheel-drive 750i xDrive.
Before the end of the year, BMW will add a 740i xDrive, a 750i and a 740e plug-in hybrid model. The first two add and subtract all-wheel drive, respectively, and the latter is a plug-in hybrid model that replaces the 7 Series ActiveHybrid.
Though the new 7 Series will be sold in short- and long-wheelbase versions overseas, the U.S. will get the long-wheelbase model only. Thus, all versions of the new 7 Series, riding on a 126.4-inch wheelbase, are effectively the L without the L. The car grows 1.1 inches in overall length, but barely changes in nearly every other dimension, inside and out.
Comfort and technology have received particular attention in this, the sixth generation of the 7 Series. The new structure brings together a medley of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in an effort to shave weight while increasing stiffness. Compared to the 2015 750i xDrive it replaces, the new car sheds 190 pounds. That's directionally good in every respect.
What's New Under the Hood?
Though nearly everything about the 2016 7 Series is new, the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 and the eight-speed automatic transmission are carried over directly from the 2015 model. Replete with twin-scroll turbos, direct injection and variable valve lift, the engine in the 750i xDrive generates 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. It's got enough oats to hurl the 4,610-pound sedan to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds in our testing.
The 740i receives BMW's latest 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine first introduced in the 2016 340i sport sedan. It generates 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, and BMW says it allows the 4,225-pound 740i to reach 60 in 5.4 seconds.
The EPA rates the 750i xDrive at 19 mpg combined (16 city/25 highway). We measured 17.3 mpg in mixed driving and 23 mpg on our highway-heavy test loop.
What Else Is New?
Air suspension and variable dampers are now standard on all models. This allows BMW to offer its Active Comfort Drive system across the board. It's essentially a predictive chassis and powertrain system, whereby navigation system data provides an early warning for road irregularities and hills. In response, the suspension can relax momentarily to soften the blow, or the transmission can pre-emptively alter its shift strategy.
An Autobahn package combines Active Comfort Drive, rear-wheel steering and bigger brakes that carry more aggressive European-style pads (read: higher tolerance for hard use and more dust). The M Sport package includes the Autobahn package, plus additional body trim and unique wheels.
Two items available in other markets that haven't yet secured the approval of U.S. regulators are the driverless self-parking function and laser headlights, which feature enhanced adaptive capability, increased light output and less power consumption compared to the LED headlights we get. Oddly enough, it's the FDA that will give thumbs up or down on the latter, as anything with a laser is classified as a medical device. Yay, bureaucracy!
The key fob includes a touchscreen interface that relays certain vitals of the car, like whether it's locked or the sunroof is open. Neat, but this would probably be better suited to a smartphone app instead.
How Does It Drive?
The 750i is more nimble than a car like this has a right to be, particularly in rapid transitions. Cornering was particularly flat, and the V8 punches the car forward with ease. The brakes, however, stand out the most (our test car was equipped with the Autobahn package). Even hard track testing didn't cause the pedal to sag appreciably. For any car this heavy, never mind a full-on luxury sedan, that's impressive.
On every road we experienced, the 750i xDrive is confident and comfortable. While there are three settings for the ride and powertrain (Comfort, Comfort Plus and Sport), Comfort Plus in particular is simply too soft. We found Sport is really all that's needed, as it allows the suspension to pick up its feet well over bumps without any harshness, yet corner with very little body roll. Power from the V8 is ample, smooth and responsive. Backed by the keen-shifting eight-speed autobox, it's a fine powertrain.
Driver assistance technologies feature heavily in the new 7 Series. It's not quite at the level of a semi-autonomous car, but it does offer a peek into that inevitable future. The adaptive cruise handles slowing the car with aplomb, but could be better about accelerating; it takes its sweet time realizing that the car ahead, for example, has turned off the road. Its lane-keeping system has a narrow operating window and strikes us as more of a gimmick than a truly useful aid.
What's the Interior Like, and What Features Are Available?
Where to begin? There's simply an onslaught of features in this car.
Backseat passengers can be treated to an available seating package that reclines, shoves the front passenger seat out of the way and deploys a footrest. The space back there is colossal. Two screens facing the rear passengers can be controlled independently via a removable Samsung touchscreen tablet. It also has the ability to control nearly every amenity on the car — the navigation system, seats, window shades and sunroofs, Internet connectivity, climate control, interior lighting schemes, even the intensity of the optional perfume dispenser. Yes, you can choose between two different scents stored in cartridges that live in the glovebox, and there are eight different cartridges to choose from when those run out.
There's wireless cell phone charging, heated front and rear armrests and a way to control certain functions using nothing more than hand gestures. This system worked for us most of the time, though we're confident that familiarity would breed more success with its use. In any case, it's simply another way to interact with the car. Meanwhile, operating the pinch-zoom touchscreen navigation is second nature, as it responds just like a smartphone, though it is more subject to sunlight washout than the outgoing hooded non-touchscreen display.
While a double panoramic moonroof is standard (which, we imagine, induced despair among the engineers who came up with the carbon-fiber roof structure specifically to save a few pounds), an optional LED-lit roof adds art overhead during nighttime drives. Likewise, the "light sword" decorative appliqué on the inside of the B-pillars provides an unusual touch of flair to the cabin for backseat occupants.
It gets even sillier. BMW's 3D surround view goes far beyond the now-mundane above-view by enabling seemingly impossible quarter-view camera perspectives. Imagine the view provided by the object you're about to hit with the front or rear corner of the car. Viewed while moving, the feature is likely as distracting as it is useful.
How Much Does It Cost?
Prices rise slightly over last year's 7 Series. The entry-level 740i now starts at $81,300, an increase of $3,300 over the equivalent outgoing 740Li, while the 2016 750i xDrive commands $97,400. That's an additional $3,700 over the old 750Li xDrive.
Our test car was fitted with a slew of options including the Autobahn package, Executive Package, Luxury Seating package with Cold Weather and the M Sport package. All in, our test car totaled $128,445, which is within a few thousand dollars of a similarly equipped 2016 Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic.
To be sure, there's an awful lot of content here, especially as the clever mixed-material chassis' implementation of carbon fiber is truly groundbreaking. That stuff isn't free.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
Audi A8L 4.0T: With a twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel drive, the A8L is a strong competitor in the segment.
Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic sedan: The long-reigning benchmark among luxury sedans, the redesigned S-Class was released in 2015 and remains a solid choice.
Porsche Panamera: The large luxury sedan for those who really want a sport sedan, the Panamera is the most athletic car in this class.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Space is plentiful, though the 7 Series doesn't "drive large," and despite all the hardware (and software) onboard it doesn't feel overtly synthetic, either. Comfort is notably enhanced over the outgoing car, especially for backseat passengers.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Despite its swiftness and capability, this is not a performance-oriented luxury sedan.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.