The new 7 Series ups the game in every aspect — more power, presence, tech and more features to dazzle and beguile.
The world may be crazy about SUVs, but premium German automakers still place the flagship crown upon their full-size luxury sedans. Up here in this rarefied air, it’s all about power, prestige, pampering and cutting edge technologies. A lot has filtered down from these lofty four-doors over the decades. Mercedes-Benz introduced the world to ABS (anti-lock braking) in the 1978 W116, and then ESC (electronic stability control) in the 1995 S600. The Audi A8 was the first mass market sedan with an all-aluminum structure, and BMW pioneered the modern car/driver interface with its iDrive in the 2001 7 Series.
Jump ahead nineteen years and we have the refreshed 6th-generation 2020 BMW 7 Series, here in $126,400 750Li xDrive guise and optioned to the tune of $155,800. It still has a version of iDrive, but unlike its ancestor, this 7’s quilted Merino leather chairs (both front and back) will cool and massage your backside six ways from Sunday. It will tickle your ears with spectacular Bowers and Wilkins audio, drive hands-and-feet free for brief stretches, park itself, slice through the rural darkness with laser headlights, and, oh yes, pick up its skirts and scoot like a kerosened cat thanks to the updated 4.4L twin-turbo V8 that now makes 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, up 80 and 74 points respectively from last year.RELATEDCar Review: 2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door CoupeSave up to ,000 off these three luxury sedans
Perhaps most importantly, the 750Li xDrive wafts along in eerie silence not unlike a Rolls-Royce, which is no great surprise, as BMW owns Rolls and (shhh…) this chassis underpins the current Ghost and Wraith. Helping in this regard with this tester is the optional Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview that uses GPS info and a stereo camera to predict upcoming road surfaces, and instructs the adaptive dampers, rear air springs and active roll stabilization to act accordingly. You don’t so much drive on the road as over it, such is the sense of isolation. However, even in Sport mode, there is nary a hint of sport here, as the steering is Novocain numb and the chassis really has no appetite for anything other than gradual sweepers. Yes, it handles well and corners flat for such a big beast, but you won’t be inspired to go there.
You sure can’t miss the 2020 7 Series’ cartoonishly engorged kidney grill (40 percent bigger, says BMW), and you can’t argue it doesn’t give the sedan some serious presence that it previously lacked. Other mid-cycle tweaks include recontoured hood, body panels, more upright (read: formal) chrome “Air Breather” vents aft of the front wheels and a light bar connecting the rear taillights.
Modern yet familiar controls
While the “other” German flagship sedans sport acres of digital touch-screenage within, BMW seems to understand the importance (and safety) of maintaining tactile controls with its latest generation iDrive 7.0. There is still the familiar rotary control knob on the centre console that, with its push and nudge functions, allows the driver to easily navigate most duties without having to prod away at a touchscreen — although the 10.2-inch screen does have touch function. Additionally, a row of preset buttons can be assigned to various tasks, be they calling up a desired radio station, phoning the reservation desk at your favourite steak house, or having the navigation guide you home.
There are hard buttons for most HVAC functions, as well as for heating and cooling the seats, and firing up the massage. Yes, the dash design is a busy and not particularly cohesive, but build quality and material choice are unassailable.
All Canadian 2020 7 Series get standard M Sport Package that really has nothing to do with sport in the go-faster sense — it adds Anthracite headliner, M leather steering wheel, M pedals, illuminated sill plate, comfort seats and special black wood trim.
Technological tour de force
Half the game in these full-size execu-barges is one-upmanship in the gizmo department.
Blurt “Hey BMW” at any time, and the car will do its best to cater to your every whim, be it adjust an onboard system, find a destination or tap the interweb for both useful and useless information. It is early days for these mobile voice assistants, so functionality can be hit and miss.
One year of Apple CarPlay is included, but after that owners will have to pay a subscription fee to use it (wha???).
The 7’s new digital gauge cluster comes across all modern, showing the speedo and tach displayed as arcs on the sides of the screen, with the centre portion reserved for navigation info and the like. It’s not as crisp as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, nor as configurable.
BMW’s signature Gesture Control’s coolest party trick is the ability to magically adjust the audio volume by twirling your finger a few inches away from the actual volume knob. Now, the jaded journalist in me says, “Well that’s dumb. It’s easier and more accurate just to reach a wee bit further and use the knob.” But hey, what’s the first thing I show people in this car? Yup. And what’s the thing they most remember about the 750i? Right again.
Are you in the mood?
Taking the cue (bait?) from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the 2020 BMW 7 Series now offers preset “Experience Modes” that tailor the mood of the car by altering ambient lighting, seat functions, HVAC settings, audio preferences and the like. Again, kinda goofy, but at least BMW hasn’t gone for Benz’ ridiculous exercise-while-driving program.
As impressive as this swift, sybaritic cocoon is in the daytime, the 750i xDrive comes into its own at night. The new ambient lighting is subtly spectacular, changing hues as you change Experience Modes. Peer around the cabin and you’ll notice the door speaker and tweeter each have their own artistic illumination, and there’s even a soft glow around the open sunroof. As noted earlier, the optional laser headlights ($1500) peer into the next county when you’re travelling down a dark rural road.
Rear seat passengers will appreciate this tester’s Executive Lounge Tier 1 package ($4500) that spoils occupants with reclining rear seats bragging heating/cooling and massage. There’s also a removable tablet that allows occupants to adjust climate, lighting and audio preferences from any seat, or from outside the car.
For such a large car, there is a dearth of cabin storage. The glove box is puny, as is the cubby under the centre armrest. And if you go for the $1,400 Cooling Box that allows access to your chilled Moet via a trap door behind the rear centre armrest, you might be upset to learn it renders the trunk pretty much unable to accommodate more than one full size suitcase.
I did mention this behemoth was fast, right? With a 0-100 km/h time of just a tick over four seconds, you can blow past just about everything on the road, and happily, when not impersonating a charging rhino, the 750i xDrive can be surprisingly frugal. I was dipping down into the high 8s (L/100 km) on an extended highway tour.
So yes, this refreshed 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive ups the game in every aspect — more power, presence, tech and more features to dazzle and beguile. It’s the natural trajectory of the top dog German executive saloon, yet ultimately, these cars are all about travelling in isolation and imperious comfort – the intangible “waftability”. In that context, the new 7 has it nailed.