November 2015 saw the release of BMW’s flagship model, the new 7 Series. The old 7 was a great car – incredibly comfortable, good looking, and like all BMWs, it drove fantastically too. So why change it? To be honest, it comes down to technology and the advances being made. BMW decided it was time to bring in the new, and they didn’t scrimp on the luxury!
My day started at Cotswold BMW being taken through the technological bits and bobs in their very comfortable lounge where they explained all the gadgets and how it worked. Then they introduced me to the car – and it was big. The long wheelbase version is only 5.5 inches longer than the standard car, but it makes a difference, especially as the brochure describes the rear cabin as being an ‘executive lounge’ where you can either sit back in the relaxed leather comfort, or work in the exclusive atmosphere… well I decided to put that to the test and decamped from my home office to the rear of the car for a half hour or so to test this.
And you know what? It was comfortable and the seat adjustment flexible enough, that you really can work in it! I suspect this is at least partly due to the car being targeted as much at drivers as those who have drivers. Anyway, seeing as my test car (well spec’d and with a good few extras, wasn’t quite the top spec model) still comes in at a shade over £82,000, the time had come to give it a proper road test.
Where to start with the new tech… the BMW iDrive system was exceptional – the system looks fairly familiar to the old, but now includes a touch screen for all functions, and it really is good – easy to use, logically laid out and quick to respond. The major change here though was something BMW have called Gesture Control. This means you don’t have to physically touch the controls for certain functions, merely moving your hand in a predefined way can dismiss notifications and alter the volume on the stereo. While this may sound pointless, the sense behind it means that you can reduce the volume if needed without having to take your eyes off the road for a moment to find the right button on the touch screen.
And speaking of not taking your eyes off the road, the heads up display is impressive, projecting your speed and the navigation system onto the windscreen just below your eyeline so it appears to be hovering just above the front of the bonnet. I’ve seen a few such systems, but this one was great – not obtrusive, but still very clear.
The tech doesn’t stop there… returning to the rear, the air-con and entertainment system can be controlled by the BMW 7 inch android tablet integrated into the rear armrest. The entertainment system includes twin TV tuners so both rear passengers can watch separate programmes and the wireless headphones ensure no disturbance to the other passengers.
The car itself handled very well for such a big vehicle, and was a joy – comfortable, responsive and easy to find a comfortable position – again, the near-endlessly adjustable seats helped with this! It put the power down very smoothly for a car weighing 1.8 tonnes and the kickdown was there when you needed it. All in all, I was impressed – I thought it would be more tailored to the rear passenger, but BMW have stayed true to their origins and made this a true drivers car as well, just a refined, luxury drive rather than the brute force of the M series… although when that arrives I will of course want to have a go in it!