An all-new BMW 7-Series could have been a clarion call to the large car executive sector, highlights Iain Robertson, were it not for a strangely lily-livered response by way of squared-off titivation, an all-action lighting array and more-of-the-same-again barely raising a ripple in the six-figure scene.
In some respects, conservatism reigns supreme in the Teutonic large car sector. The last effort by the ‘Big Three’ came from Audi and its broadly revised A8, as Merc just preceded it with a revisited S-Class. Each of the trio is undoubtedly worthy and they do seem to have equilateral control in the market, only spiking with each new variant until settling into a happily balanced scene until the next one comes along. It is almost as if they have a gentleman’s agreement but surely ‘market fixing’ is not a component of new car marketing…or is it?
Had BMW not presaged the introduction of this new 7-Series with a smattering of exciting teases, I might not have been so disappointed. Instead of a ground-breaker, the new model makes play of its LED lights, from ‘Welcome’ signals to elegant twinkling of the optional cut glass reflectors, and a truly heavy-handed treatment of the chrome window trim and that monstrously revised ‘Double Kidney’ radiator grille. The simple truth is, underpinning the new 7 is a wealth of ADAS (electronic driving aids approved by the EU) and more switches to avoid, or defaults to recall.
It is not a new thing for BMW and its 7-Series. I recall when the firm introduced its original information gallery, accessed through a large touchscreen that featured more than 800-pages of information, including some aspects of the Owner’s Manual. It was tech for tech’s sake and I believed that BMW was worthy of better. Yet, when asked by a member of its UK PR team what I thought about it, to which I responded ‘Overkill!’, I was informed that I was a ‘troglodyte’, which also disappointed me, as I expected a better insult than that. Yet, the entire exercise was like an elaborate April Fool’s jape. Many of the touch elements on the screen were replicated with pushbuttons extending almost the full width of the dashboard, as though BMW were unsure about placing trust in the screen. I was forced to stop the car and read the instruction booklet, just to tune the stereo into BBC Radio Two.
The first ever Hydrogen powered car I drove was the BMW 7-Series, just a couple of years later. It was comfortable, rapid and effortlessly plain, although its over-complex touchscreen had been refined somewhat but did include some practical graphics related to gas consumption and exhaust safety. Of course, it was a left-hand drive Munich prototype and it is interesting to note from industry despatches that BMW is still not fully committed to future mobility powered solely by electricity, which suggests that there are still some free thinkers working at a high level within the company. There remains hope for us all, even though I feel strongly that BMW is simply not moving the game along with the 7-Series but, then, the fully-electrified i7 will be along imminently…more of the same with shades of i3 and other i-models, just bigger.
Maybe that is what the ‘Teutonic Threesome’ perceives as ‘classically elegant’? Sorry. I do not see it. Instead, I see classically stuck-in-the-mud. Of course, as BMW’s means to reduce Rolls-Royce manufacturing costs, spread as they are between the two product lines, the 7 plays an important internal role, with as much of the shared architecture concealed behind trim panels, boot floor and underbonnet space as it can be, to allow a never-the-twain, bespoke appearance, for either marque. If Rolls-Royce can still be perceived as ‘finest in the world’, then some of that impression must surely rub off onto the 7-Series…except that it does not. Look, the 7 is a great car by any measurement. It is a tad clinical, I shall grant you, but it is stitched together impeccably (if lacking in character) and you just know that it will look as presentable in 20 years’ time as it does rolling off the showroom floor today. Apart from a few teensy details, it has looked the same for the past 30 years. Being a BMW is not an arduous task.
Naturally, as the latest in the line-up the new 7 benefits from upholstery changes and minor design fillips within the cabin but the customary well positioned and legible, albeit digitally, skinny screens predominate and the centre console looks like a carryover from the outgoing generation. The boot of the car is larger at over 500-litres capacity and marginally increased dimensions free off extra leg, shoulder and headroom to improve space for occupants. It is abundantly clear that the entire motor industry has gone lounge crazy and now BMW joins the herd with a 31.3″ Fire HD telly providing back seat entertainment. No wonder BMW dropped its ‘driver’s car’ promotional tagline, when the nancies in the marketing department have decided to specify TV for lounging occupants. The end of the world is nigh.
Conclusion: With the i7 priced from £107,600, to be followed soon by 750e hybrid, then the M760e, also hybrid, the new 7 is market competitive, for which you can also read overpriced but it will still find contented homes in the Fatherland, outside the EU premises and in higher end taxi ranks from Istanbul to Madrid. It offers a corporate attraction that some customers will find compelling.