BEVERLY HILLS, California — BMW pulled the cover off its 2016 BMW 7 Series, revealing a car that is sleeker and more technologically advanced than the large luxury sedan it replaces.
In keeping with other luxury flagships, the next-generation 7 Series represents the pinnacle of the automaker's current capabilities. BMW's experience with using carbon fiber in the construction of the i3 and i8 have led to its use in the new 7 Series, placing the rigid yet light material in key areas such as the pillars, doors and roof cross-members to reduce weight and lower the center of gravity. The net result is a 190-pound weight reduction from one generation to the next.
The current 7 Series' optional four-wheel adaptive and self-leveling air suspension becomes standard equipment, but is enhanced with height adjustment (there will be no excuse for scraping on driveways now) and the optional Active Comfort Drive (included in the new Autobahn package) that uses a camera to sense upcoming road imperfections and preset the suspension to react accordingly. It is similar to the technology employed in Mercedes' Magic Body Control.
The Autobahn package also includes the four-wheel active steering system found on the current 7 Series that aids stability on the highway and increases agility around tight corners. It's also now available with all-wheel drive.
When it arrives at dealerships this fall, the 2016 BMW 7 Series will be available in a single, long-wheelbase body style (other markets will get a short version), with two initial model choices. The rear-wheel-drive 740i is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 with a single, twin-scroll turbocharger good for 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. BMW estimates it'll go from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.
The all-wheel-drive 750i xDrive gets a redesigned turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with two twin-scroll turbochargers placed between the engine's V as well as changes to the compression ratio and variable valve technologies for increased efficiency. Overall output remains 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, but BMW estimates the 750i xDrive will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, which isn't that far off the pace of a BMW M5.
Both models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission that utilizes GPS data to react to upcoming corners (as first introduced on the Rolls-Royce Wraith).
BMW also announced a 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid that will utilize a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and lithium-ion batteries feeding electricity to an electric motor placed within the eight-speed automatic. BMW estimates it'll be able to travel up to 23 miles on electricity alone, but did not offer additional specifications, or reveal when the plug-in hybrid will hit dealers.
There is no word yet on whether the diesel-powered 740d or V12-powered 760iL will be replaced.
Exterior styling changes result in a lower, sleeker appearance that imparts a greater sense of athleticism rather than an imposing, in-your-face presence. Less obvious are the standard active aero shutters in the kidney grilles that open and close for optimal engine cooling and fuel savings, as well as the LED "Light Carpet" that projects a series of lines on the ground leading from the driver's door toward the rear of the car. Basically, it's a classier version of the Ford Mustang's "Horse Laser."
Design changes inside are quite evolutionary as well, differing little from the usual BMW aesthetic. Key differences include feature content and new technology interfaces, the most important of which is iDrive 5. Not only does the 5 represent the fifth generation of BMW's electronics interface, but also the number of ways it allows the driver to interact with the car's various systems.
There's the iDrive controller (same layout, newer and fancier button design); the touchpad on top of the controller that allows for handwritten navigation inputs and map scrolling; voice controls; a new touchscreen that does much of what the controller does but with the added benefits of pinching and scrolling motions; and finally, new Gesture Control. Frankly, the latter is a bit of a gimmick, as it does little more than turn up the radio and answer Bluetooth phone calls by making hand movements in front of the iDrive display. It seems like something to wow passengers only.
Those aren't the only ways to control the 2016 7 Series' nearly endless array of high-tech features, though. Other interfaces include touch-operated climate control buttons; a specially integrated Samsung tablet in the rear center console (likely an option) that controls various seat and climate controls; and optional 10-inch seat-mounted screens that get their own iDrive-like remote controls. The head-up display has also been upgraded, and the new Display Key brings many of the existing array of smartphone-controlled, app-based vehicle controls (unlock, climate system) to a large, touch-operated key fob that would easily be at home in the latest Star Trek films.
Other noteworthy new features include a standard panoramic sunroof (that does seem to reduce rear headroom) and an optional enhancement to it dubbed Sky Lounge LED Roof that uses LED modules along the sunroof sides to evenly illuminate a pattern imprinted in the glass to create the effect of a starlit sky. There is also a new surround-view parking camera that creates a 3D digitized image of the car to help further avoid parking obstacles, and an enhanced rear parking system that automatically stops the car when the rear sensors would normally emit their "flat line" warning tone.
Expect more details about the 2016 BMW 7 Series to be revealed at its official unveil at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show in September.
Edmunds says: This is not only our first glimpse of the next-generation 7 Series, but also of the technology, design cues and creature comforts likely to show up on future BMWs.