Test Drive: 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive

You can see the future today, no soothsayers or crystal balls required. All you need is a German luxury flagship sedan – in fact, this particular one – and you will catch not just a glimpse, but a clear vista of what the future holds in the automotive realm.

BMW’s new 750Li xDrive sedan is the Bavarian marque’s most advanced and technology-laden luxury sedan offering to date.

BMW’s new 750Li xDrive sedan is the Bavarian marque’s most advanced and technology-laden luxury sedan offering to date, and smart money will be bet on the best of these features trickling down the BMW lineup over the coming few years.

Based on significant advancements in hybrid material construction, the new 7 Series borrows a lot of the mass-minimizing initiatives from BMW’s i car development and incorporates its Carbon Core technology for the first time in the 7 Series. This process utilizes lightweight steel, aluminum and carbon fibre extensively throughout the passenger cell, body components and even makes use of the light-is-right philosophy throughout the suspension, brakes and wheels. All of this results in the new 750Li being up to 86 kg lighter than its predecessor, with unsprung mass being reduced 15 percent, and the vehicle’s overall centre of gravity being lowered.

This is good news because mass reduction is a true friend to performance, and despite a profile stretching more than 6 cm greater than a full-size Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, the 750Li still has the ability to hustle when demanded to do so.

The 4.4L engine reaps the rewards of a pair of TwinScroll turbochargers nestled between the cylinder banks of the V8 configuration resulting in 445 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. This is ample to propel the 2,091 kg 750Li with splendid smoothness and near-silent effortlessness, to velocities well beyond any speed limit in our fair nation.

Like the engine’s hushed operation, the shifts from the eight-speed automatic are swift, but nearly imperceptible. And to suggest that it’s intuitive would be a gross understatement considering the transmission’s programming is linked in to the navigation to create a shift strategy based on route profiles, even if route guidance isn’t requested. This means the car is looking ahead at traffic and road conditions to optimize its operation. Moving from a high speed, country highway into a slower urban area? No problem, the car knows and will begin selecting its appropriate gears accordingly, and based on the selected driving mode (such as Sport, Comfort or ECO PRO).

The xDrive all-wheel drive system on our test car aided in the 7 Series’ unflappable stability, even when pressed on some curvy rural routes, and despite wearing winter tires. The powerful and precise brakes do their part to instill driver confidence, too.

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Still, all the power, impressive weight reduction and even its 50:50 weight distribution cannot repeal the laws of physics, and the 750Li never lets you forget that it is not the size of an M3, nor is it expected to, of course. The steering, too, is aloof, and while capable of impressive performance, the 7 Series is truly at its best as a sublime high speed, long-distance cruiser.

With the standard Air Suspension and Dynamic Damper Control system set to comfort mode, the 750Li provides a highway ride superior to any other car this reviewer has experienced. There is a surreal smoothness that makes the car feel like its tires are levitating a few millimeters above the road’s surface rather than rolling on it. The most fearsome of potholes are translated to the passenger cabin as suggestions made quietly somewhere in the distance.

Unlike luxury cars of yester-year, the 750Li does not wallow around nautically. BMW calls its suspension sorcery Active Comfort Drive and among other computerized tricks as part of the Dynamic Drive system, the adjustable anti-roll bars minimize body-roll when needed for cornering, and automatically loosen up during straight line cruising. The result is nothing short of remarkable.

What’s more, like the transmission, the suspension is also making anticipatory adjustments to the chassis settings thanks to information gathered from the navigation system.

Ultimately, what strikes as most impressive is that when all these systems are operating, they’re largely unnoticed, individually. Instead, the driver and passengers are simply left with a thoroughly tranquil and frankly, transcendent on-road experience.

When your automotive big brother is a Rolls-Royce Ghost as is the case for BMW’s 7 Series, it should come as no surprise that the trickle-down luxury accouterments are of the extravagant nature. Our test car featured elaborate interior lighting that included large, soft lights mounted to the B-pillars that fill the rear seat area with a bath of gentle ambient light. Subtle (and colour-adjustable) LED lights nestled into nooks and crannies throughout the cabin – and lit in a spiral effect within the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond sound systems’ speaker grilles.

The highlight – quite literally – is the Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof that incorporates LEDs to distribute light throughout the giant moonroof. At night, etchings in the glass create a starry sky effect. Between the star-lit top, and passenger bottoms being gently massaged in any of the four seats, there has never been a better first date car; or (ahem) so one might assume.

The new 7 Series is a superlative automotive experience that far outstrips the driving component. When considering the way our 750Li was specified, with the elaborate and expensive ($7,750) Executive Lounge Tier 2 option, the considerable enjoyment of actually driving the car is nothing more than a job perk for Jeeves.

Our test car offered rear seat accommodation for the passenger-side rear position that is more lavish than most airline First Class seats. At the touch of a button, the front passenger seat motors silently forward, dropping its headrest to allow an unobstructed forward view, while also presenting an electrically folded-out footrest to the rear passenger. Meanwhile the lucky passenger in his or her majesty’s royal seat can recline to a sleep-ready position, enjoy entertainment, news or weather reports on the seat-mounted screens, or even use the rear console’s removable tablet that controls any number of functions inside the car. This option is pure indulgence for those using their 750Li as a limousine, but reinforces the overall impression of awesome luxury in this machine.

Up front the technological wonders continue with BMW’s latest iDrive 5.0 system that utilizes the brand’s now familiar rotary controller, but also enables touchscreen operation and, for the first time, Gesture Control. The latter is a great party trick to impress passengers as the driver makes a few simple hand and finger movements in mid-air to command the infotainment system to execute functions from volume adjustment to accepting (or rejecting) incoming phone calls.

In reality, Gesture Control seems pretty gimmicky since most of the controls it enables can be done without actually having the driver’s hands leave the steering wheel by using the redundant wheel-mounted controls. What’s more, if not positioned just so, the rearview mirror mounted sensors won’t catch the movement and you simply look like you’re doing a mime impression of an orchestra conductor. With a stereo as sensational as the Bowers & Wilkins system found in the 7 Series, if you’re not moved to conduct a symphony anyway, you’ll probably want to sing along with your favourite performer.

While our early-production car was not so equipped, European model 750’s currently offer a Park Assistant feature that enables the driver to leave the car and let the 7 Series park itself in a tight space. Given that the car’s myriad of sensors and hyperactive anti-collision technology physically prevented me from parking the car safely within my unobstructed and standard-size garage, this could be a very useful feature.

The 750Li utilizes night vision for increased safety for pedestrians and animals after dark. The key for the 7 Series looks almost like a small smart phone, featuring a miniature touchscreen on which you can remotely check on the car, or ask it to start warming the cabin, for instance, minutes before you arrive. The car can also be spec’ed with various fragrances ionized into the climate system, but these are just a few of the true luxuries BMW has made available to buyers in their new flagship.

The 750Li xDrive is BMW putting its best and most technologically advanced foot forward. The results of the company’s considerable efforts are staggering luxury and an unparalleled driving experience. This car, equipped as our tester is, represents the best way for opulent long-distance, terrestrial travel. And on top of all that, it is truly like driving the future.

 

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi A8L
Lexus LS460L
Mercedes-Benz S 550 4Matic
Range Rover LWB Autobiography
Embraer Phenom 300 jet

2016 BMW 750Li xDrive
2016 BMW 750Li xDrive
Base Price $117,900
Optional Equipment Executive Package, $5,500; Driver Assistance Package, $4,200; Dynamic Handling Package, $4,500; Interior Design Package, $1,950; Executive Lounge Tier 2, $7,750; Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, $4,900; Sky Lounge Panoramic Glass Sunroof, $1,000; Ceramic Controls, $600; Ambient Air Package, $500; Smoker’s Package, $100.
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $151,095
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 9.0
9 Exterior Styling
9 Performance
10 Interior
10 Comfort
7 Fuel Economy