BMW hands its flagship saloon a raft of updates, including a controversial new face. We test the BMW 750Li xDrive…
Much has been written about BMW’s divisive decision to affix a supersized version of its signature grille to the snout of the facelifted 7 Series. Regardless of your feelings about the front-heavy redesign, one thing’s for sure: the updated iteration of the Munich-based firm’s limousine certainly has more presence, with its new face proving especially effective at filling rear-view mirrors of vehicles brazen enough to be inhabiting fast lanes the land over.
Indeed, the flagship saloon’s bluff front-end now sits 50 mm taller at its foremost point (with overall length growing 22 mm), while the larger, more imposing grille is framed by a chunky single-piece surround. The standard adaptive LED headlamps flanking the grille, meanwhile, are both more slender and more sharply defined than before, and are optionally offered in laserlight (R21 900) guise.
So, what’s the thinking behind the dramatic shift in frontal styling? Well, the pre-facelift Seven appeared almost anonymous when parked alongside a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, with Stuttgart’s finest besting its foe for sense of occasion. The updated G12-generation’s new countenance unquestionably commands more attention than that of its predecessor – and puts some much-needed design distance between it and the 5 Series – although the look isn’t what the majority of the CAR team would describe as elegant.
Thankfully, this facelift comprises more than mere visual amendments (which are also present, if a little less obvious, at the rear and in profile), with the five-strong local range now offered exclusively in long-wheelbase form. The most interesting change, though, has been effected under the bonnet of the 750Li, which gains an appreciable hike in power and torque.
Thanks to what BMW describes as an “extensive overhaul”, the twin-turbo 4,4-litre V8 generates 390 kW and 750 N.m, substantial increases of 60 kW and 100 N.m, respectively. That puts the 750Li within touching distance of the range-topping V12-powered M760Li, with the former rocketing from standstill to three figures in a mere 4,75 seconds (eight-10ths off the pace set by the pre-facelift M760Li).
This powerplant is a wonderfully tractable thing, delivering almost immediate response and hauling the 2 215 kg limo along with impressive ease, while the already splendid eight-speed automatic transmission has been further honed thanks to the adoption of new control electronics and a slightly wider ratio spread. The V8 is pleasingly muted, serving up a lovely subdued growl under enthusiastic throttle applications.
Refinement levels have improved, too, with the 750Li gaining 5,1 mm thick laminated glass all round (rather than just for the windscreen). The rear wheelarches, meanwhile, now benefit from additional insulation in a bid to quieten tyre rumble, a treatment repeated at the B-pillar, seatbelt outlet covers and rear seat backrest. Furthermore, the wind rustle we noticed around the side mirrors of the pre-facelift model is far less apparent now.
The 7 Series has long traded on its reputation as the most dynamically gifted member of the grand saloon segment and that hasn’t changed with this latest update. It’s still curiously good to drive quickly, with this all-paw variant offering high levels of grip through fast bends. Sure, Munich’s stretched saloon is a better steer than its closest rivals, but we can’t help think that’s of little use to the rear-seated owner attempting to thumb through the newspaper (or, in this case, catch the latest headlines via the seven-inch tablet stored in the rear console).
Thankfully, the 750Li delivers in the comfort department, too, boasting a fantastic ride in the softer of the two-axle air suspension’s settings and retaining tight body control in the sportier modes. That said, it’s sometimes caught out where an S-Class might simply continue wafting along.
While we must criticise the Seven’s facia for looking and feeling too similar to that of the 5 Series, it’s worth pointing out this model’s build quality is downright fantastic (better than Benz manages with the S-Class, we’d venture). The rear pews, meanwhile, are sited somewhat high but are exceptionally comfortable, offering great levels of adjustment, plenty of optional gadgets (a massage function for R15 800, anyone?) and acres of legroom.
Although the bold grille treatment certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, it does at least lend the sedan the sort of visual authority worthy of a flagship. And the under-the-skin updates tally up, too, resulting in a truly accomplished luxury vehicle.
While BMW’s latest revisions move the 7 Series to within inches of the S-Class, it’s not quite enough for it to reach the segment’s benchmark. Further complicating matters for the 7 Series is an SUV-shaped threat from within its stable, with the X7 proving more than twice as popular since hitting local dealerships in 2019.
Then, of course, there’s the small matter of the all-new, W223 S-Class, which will surely raise the bar further still when it arrives later in 2020...
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