The exceptional sixth generation BMW 7 Series

In BMW, Car Reviews by Neil Lyndon

Any life that has included every BMW 7 Series for the last 25 years cannot have been all bleakness and despair.

My own time on earth has been extraordinarily cushy in many ways but I definitely count the opportunity to have enjoyed each successive 7 Series among my blessings.

Model driven: BMW 7 Series 730d xDrive

Every one of them has been close to the summit of human creativity in cars. For engineering, for technology, for the combination of passenger comforts and driver pleasure, the 7 Series ranked with the Mercedes S-Class, the Audi A8 and the top-of-the-line Lexus (whatever it happened to be called at the time) as being the best that the best could achieve.

Up to now, my all-time favourite 7 Series had been the third generation E38, introduced in 1994 (one of the first cars in the world to include satnav and still loftily elegant in its classical looks) but the latest 7 Series may even have succeeded in fulfilling the ambition that has driven BMW since the introduction of the first 7 Series in 1977: it may actually be better than the S-Class.

In keeping with the tradition of the best 7 Series, this one is not much to look at. Some questionable chrome daubs decorate the air intakes behind the front wheels and the radiator grille is in polished chrome that makes it look like a bathroom radiator in a flash bachelor’s apartment; but, otherwise, all is Calvinist restraint. Chris Bangles’s 1991 E65 was as lamentably fussy in its looks as the iDrive control for satnav and audio functions in that model was impossibly complex to operate. An essential ingredient of the intrinsic character of a 7 Series is that it should be able to smooth through city streets and flash along autobahns without drawing unwonted attention to itself. The heads of state and corporate big cheeses who are likely to be transported in the back of this car are not keen to light up the interests of any ram-raiders. I once saw a fleet of black-windowed Bangles 7 Series on the M4 from Heathrow whizzing Roman Abramovich and his retinue back to Chelsea. That tells you everything you need to know about that model.

Simplicity cannot, however, be said to characterise the technology of this car. Even the key fob is more complex than the best car my father ever owned. Shaped like an arrowhead and big enough to occupy most of the palm of a man’s hand, this thing is, effectively, a personal computer that springs to life when you swipe your thumb across its face.

The driver who delivered my 730d told me that he’d had to spend half a day learning the full range of operations of this device alone. During my week with the car, I doubt if I utilized more than 5% of its capacities – including the most irresistible one. You would have thought that, if you were presented for the first time in your life with the opportunity to park a car using a remote device, you’d leap at the opportunity. I am ashamed to admit, however, that I was too scared. Knowing my gifts for klutziness, I dreaded guiding the 7 Series round my drive using the control in the key fob and then crashing it head-on into the house.

The extent to which BMW has given this car its all, as a company, is revealed inside where multimedia screens hang from both front seatbacks and a seven-inch tablet PC to control all the electronic doodahs, including the digital television, sits between the rear seats. That tablet also doubles as a web browser connected to an in-car wifi system. Never have my children been so utterly silent in the back of a car, rapturously absorbed in all the media riches around them.

[the_grid name=”BMW 7 Series Exterior”]

I wasn’t much bothered about missing the opportunity to watch Barbie on the screens but I did care about wallowing in the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond audio system which puts out 1400Kw through 10-channel amp and 16 speakers. Not only did this system dwarf the power and sophistication of the set-up in my house but I suspect it would put the one in Blenheim in the shade, too. You could go giddy choosing the means to operate this system. You can control it through the iDrive, the touchscreen, voice control or – for the first time in any car – by waving your hands in the air.

Adaptive air suspension and a seamless 8-speed automatic gearbox combine with the 265 bhp three litre diesel to provide such mellifluous ride and progress (0-62 mph in 5.8 seconds, electronically limited top speed of 155mph) that you can easily find yourself going faster on country roads than you had fully grasped. This truth can make itself sharply felt in a corner where the steering system can fail to deliver sufficient feedback to alert your senses.

[the_grid name=”BMW 7 Series interior and features”]

BMW’s claims about fuel consumption are as far from the truth as the ostensible price for this car. My average 34.2 mpg was not much more than 50% of the overall figure they are promoting while the £81535 all-in cost is more than a third in excess of the £60,000+ that is the theoretical price.

Why do they bother with these ludicrous fictions? The 7 Series doesn’t need such hokum. The unvarnished truth about this car is that it’s genuinely among the higher creations of our civilisation; and, for me, it’s one of the priceless privileges of a lifetime to have experienced it. Worth almost any money.

2016 BMW 730d xDrive – Base price: £67,260 / as tested £81,535

PROS AND CONS: Legendary √ Gadgets √ Luxury √ Sound √ I can’t afford one X
FAST FACTS: Max speed: 155 mph (limited), 0-62 mph: 5.8 secs, Combined mpg: 56.5
Engine layout: 3.0-litre, 6 cylinder diesel, Maximum power 265bhp, Maximum torque: 620Nm, CO2 132 g/km

About the Author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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