BMW has unveiled a new 7 Series that furthers the luxury aspect of the brand magnificently, and as is usually the case with past company introductions, features a host of neat new features to put it at the forefront of driving technology.
Among the new things, some of which have never been seen before in any vehicle, is gesture control, a WiFi Hotspot, a considerably larger head-up display and interior LED lighting.
Probably the biggest news for 2016 (the sixth generation of the 7 Series) is Gesture Control for the new iDrive (5.0) operating system, which also has touch screen technology available (in addition to the standard voice command and button selection). Gesture Control is just what it sounds like — the ability to control certain functions with hand gestures. 3D sensors in the centre console register hand movements in its vicinity and translate them into corresponding action.
Working in a manner similar to video game consoles such as Wii and Xbox, certain gestures are assigned to things such as adjusting the volume on the radio or handling incoming mobile phone calls, while others can be assigned to functions the driver performs more often (such as navigation to the office or home).
But it’s not just front-seat occupants who benefit from increased technology, rear passengers also get more control over cabin features in the guise of a removable 7-inch tablet that resides in the rear-seat centre console. The tablet display can be used to control comfort features such as lighting and air-conditioning, but can also be hooked up to a gaming console or used to explore online using the vehicle’s WiFi Hotspot connectivity. Online content can then be downloaded and played through the front-seat-mounted onboard entertainment system screens.
The rear seats are reclinable, heated and ventilated and feature a massage feature, especially liked for long-journey comfort, and a “training” Vitality Program with exercises displayed on the entertainment screens. The seating positions back there also get a fold-out table and the passenger’s side features a foot rest that deploys from under the front seats.
Other technologies in the vehicle include a larger head-up display on the windshield in front of the steering wheel (now with more information and in colour), the heat-sensing Night Vision (which detects sources of heat in ambient low-light conditions), 3D Surround View, and speed limit compliance (which uses the active cruise and automatic braking to limit the car’s speed to posted limits).
And, of course, there are the ubiquitous driving-aid technologies such as parking assist (which controls every function of vehicle control, including gear changes), lane-keep assist, cross-traffic warning and pedestrian detection with collision mitigation.
The standard two-section panoramic sunroof (opening in the front) can be enhanced with perimeter LED lighting (available in six colours) that highlights etchings in the glass to create the illusion of a star-filled sky.
Other cabin standards include a customizable instrument panel (to suit the driver’s choice of information to display), universal mobile phone holder with wireless charging, heated armrests front and rear (door and centre console), Options include a high-end Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system, a cabin-air freshener, and rear window shades with ambiance lighting in the B-pillar.
The trunk capacity is 18.2 cubic feet, with the usual “European” ski pass-through from the cabin.
Outside, there are soft closing doors all around and a hands-free trunk opening and closing feature.
The new BMW 7 Series uses carbon-fibre in combination with steel and aluminum for the body as well as structural elements in the cabin, taking advantage of the materials’ strength and light weight to make the passenger cell stiffer, while reducing weight by 86 kg and lowering the vehicle’s centre of gravity.
A full suite of airbags offers protection in various crash scenarios, with a neat feature being movement of the seats to their upright positions to ensure occupants are properly positioned to take advantage of the restraining equipment, and the closing of windows and sunroof to protect against ejection.
The new BMW 7 is available in three models — 750i xDrive, 740i and 740e xDrive. The rear-wheel drive 740i gets power from a 320-hp turbocharged straight-six of 3.0-litre displacement. It features the latest versions of VALVETRONIC variable valve timing and Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing.
The V8 engined 750i xDrive uses a 445-hp twin turbo 4.4-litre engine sending power to all four wheels. It too gets the latest VALVETRONIC and Double-VANOS systems.
Power is sent to the drive wheels by an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission that links up with the navigation system for smoother operation in varying route conditions. Paddle shifters and launch control are part of the package, as are auto stop/start and brake regeneration to capture energy for use by some of the vehicle’s electrics.
The 740 is also available as a 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid model, which borrows technology from BMW’s i cars. It features a turbocharged 2.0-litre gasoline engine and an electric motor (drawing juice from a lithium-ion battery pack under the car’s rear seat) integrated into the standard eight-speed automatic transmission. The company says the combination provides dynamic acceleration combined with exemplary fuel economy. An eDrive button on the centre console allows manual control over the electric drive between AUTO and MAX, where the car runs only on electric power (for up to 37 km at speeds up to 120 km/h). When route guidance is active, the power management system calculates the best operating strategy depending on the type of driving encountered.
Integral active steering has been adapted to offer it with xDrive all-wheel drive, allowing the rear wheels to be steered for increased manoeuvrability at low speeds and smoothness at higher speeds.
Depending on the model, standard wheels are either 18 inch or 19 inch light-alloy wheels, which can be upgraded to 21 inch sizes (again, depending on model).
An available M Sport package includes model-specific front/rear aprons and side skirts, 19 inch or 20 inch M light-alloy wheels, illuminated door sill plates bearing the M logo and accents in either light or dark chrome, BMW Individual headliner in Anthracite, and the M driver’s footrest. The package also offers the choice of exterior Carbon Black Metallic or Singapore Grey Metallic paint.
The new 7 Series also debuts BMW’s new Active Control with Road Preview — an active chassis control system that manipulates the air suspension (with manual and automatic ride height adjustment) for a more comfortable riding experience in variable road and vehicle speed conditions. The technology works with Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to choose suspension, steering and response settings according to defined comfort, sport and economy modes. It also features an adaptive setting that uses information from the accelerator pedal and navigation system to automatically adjust to changing route conditions (such as adapting from city driving to highway cruising).
Also new, the Active Kidney Grille optimizes engine cooling and aerodynamics by opening and closing flaps to tailor the amount of air that flows through (in five stages, depending on under-hood temperature and car speed), between fully open for maximum cooling through fully closed for supreme aerodynamic efficiency.
And the final selling point is BMW Ultimate Benefits — an extended customer service experience that includes priority servicing, concierge service and access to a “genius” to answer whatever questions they may have about their vehicles at any time.