A World of Superlatives: Driving the BMW G12 740Li MSport

Definition of superlative, of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others. This quite easily sums up BMW’s latest flagship luxury-barge and we were rather privileged to have such early access to one. Cue our very handsome mineral white, “Design Pure Excellence” M-Sport equipped 740Li.

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Going against what we’ve been used to, BMW has gone for an evolution rather than revolution of design for this new G11/G12 edition of the 7, but while such an approach towards styling might sound like BMW is playing safe on the aesthetics, the end result of such an approach is far from staid. Instead, the new 7 looks far more than just fresh, all the many little details adorned on the new car manages to make the previous 7 look almost dated.

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A much more prominent, proud and powerful-looking grill now nestles in between a pair of adaptive LED eyes that will in a few months time be available with an option for BMW Laserlight, first seen in the i8. These Laserbeams will be able to cast their high-beam gaze 600 meters ahead, twice the range of our car’s already powerful LEDs.

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Along the sides, one of the most distinctive design features of the new 7 are those Air Breather surrounds in the front side panels that taper down into a strip which runs along the lower edge of the doors. Which together with the 7’s rather fine double swage character line, visually pulls the car closer to the ground and accentuates a much lower and hunkered down stance.

Following the Air Breather strips (which does resemble a “7” on its side) rearwards, leads us towards the lower valance of the rear bumpers where a pair of twin pipes reside.

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On top of those twin pipes sit redesigned tail-lights with a distinctive graphic motif that is continued throughout the rest of the car.

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Less noticeable but still interesting details include the single piece rear window trim piece that wraps around the glass area without any interruptions, creating a very lovely and elegant line around the Hoffmeister kink.

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This elegant approach around the glass house extends forwards to the side mirrors with are now held on with a slender and very elegant singular stalk which at the same time, enhances the aerodynamics of the all-new BMW 7 Series.

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Going back around towards the front once again, we now encounter a bonnet with sharp creases that tighten up the front section really well.

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While standard cars get a healthy dosage of chrome, our M-Sport equipped 740Li has had these chrome accents replaced by much more characterful gloss-black shadowline pieces which we really love. Our M-Sport also comes with redesigned bumpers, chromium plated front and rear aprons and a set of very lovely 19″ M-Light V-Spoke wheels which do look bigger than their stated size.

In our opinion, this is BMW’s best looking 7-Series ever since the still-very-good-looking-today E38 last left the factory.

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Inside, the opulence continues with a cabin that screams luxury while at the same time gently reminding and massaging into you its almost half a million dollar price tag. It definitely looks like BMW has learnt quite a bit from the Rolls Royce team. The attention to detail inside the new 7 is quite possibly second to none in this price bracket.

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For the fortunate drivers, the fantastic ergonomics we have grown accustomed to on all BMWs have remained but subtle differences have been made, controls for the climate, audio and even the iDrive screen now incorporate touch-sensitive inputs. Speaking of the which, let’s go into some of the tech-stuff that has been making headlines.

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The latest evolution of BMW’s iDrive system has been honed to a fantastic level where everything has become so intuitive to use. A small but very user-friendly update is a subtle presention of the second-level navigation when scrolling through the menus. This saves a lot of time going back and forth the various options which we had to do on various iterations of the iDrive.

Now, we come to the party piece. BMW’s Gesture Control. By making specific hand movements in the vicinity of the centre console, commonly used infotainment system functions can be controlled with just some little fingering motions. You can adjust the audio volume, control the 3D surround view display and accept or reject incoming phone calls. Yes you can even use your naughty finger to control the audio. For the sake of our readers, we tried. There is also a customisable gesture which you can tie to a number of pre-set commands. Though some might find this slightly gimmicky and that maybe control all these can be done via the steering wheel buttons, do remember that the Gesture Control is after all, first-generation stuff, like how iDrive was pioneered two generations ago, expect to see it develop and add even more functions soon. Also, the best part? Expect to see these technological advancements to trickle down the line of BMW’s stable.

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Another lovely feature which is quite amazing really, is 3D surround view display, this essentially gathers up all the visual data from a myriad of cameras around the car and creates an exterior view of the car using some magic. As mentioned before, drivers can pinch this image, rotate and view their car and their surroundings (a full 360-degrees) in real time.

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Moving on from the geeky stuff, let’s take a look at the fantastic materials crafted into our cabin. Our car came optioned with the “Design Pure Excellence” interior package which gave us allowed us to rest our posteriors on some rather fine Nappa leather (standard on 750Li, optional on he 740Li) and surrounds us with American Oak trim. How very pleasant indeed. If that’s not enough, selectable ambient lighting can be tweaked to suit your preferences. Although not fully customisable, BMW’s choice of colour pairing presets are quite spot on and keeps the cabin classy.

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Lighting effects also extend down to the 7’s exterior door sills which project a graphic motif we previously saw on the rear lights. BMW calls this the Welcome Light Carpet, it is quite a spectacle.

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Exclusively on the long wheelbase cars, which in our local market usually outsells the standards, equipment features include automatic air conditioning with 4-zone control, electrically adjustable comfort seats, active seat ventilation and very comfy massage functions for all four seats. Up to eight massage programmes can be selected with three different intensity levels each. Trust us when we say there are few better places to be when stuck in traffic.

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Long-wheelbase versions of the BMW 7 also come standard with a two-section Panorama glass roof with an opening front section. An option for this glass roof is the Sky Lounge, made up of numerous LEDs and which according to our press release, bathes light evenly throughout the glass surface and creates the magical effect of a starlit sky. Another very beautiful and lovely feature on the extended 7 is the vertical ambient light positioned vertically on the B-pillars. Lovely, just lovely.

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Now since we’re in the back, take a deep breath and you will now have experienced our little Country’s contribution to the 7-Series programme. During development of the 7, BMW sent a team of researchers around the World on a fact finding mission to gather up data on what luxury means to people around the World, Singapore was one of these places where the research team visited and after they did what researchers do, they came up with the Ambient Air package. To Singaporeans at least, good clean air is of upmost importance and well-being (no thanks to the recent haze we guess).

BMW’s Ambient Air package comprises functions for ionising the air and the fragrance of the vehicle’s interior with selected scents, both of which can be controlled from the air conditioning control console or the iDrive menu. Three levels of intensity can be set for the fragrance, and there is a choice of eight scents in all, two of which can be applied in the vehicle at the same time. So the next time you get a whiff of the fresh air inside a new 7-Series, thank Singapore.

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An option which was also unfortunately not available on our test car at press time is BMW’s Touch Command. For those even more fortunate few who get to spend their time in the back seats. Essentially a tablet for the rear passengers allowing them access to control comfort functions such as seat adjustments, interior lighting and air conditioning, as well as the infotainment, navigation and communication system. BMW Touch Command can also be used to play external audio and video files, as a games console or for surfing the internet. There is also a fridge option for those who really really must have all the toys.

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For those interested in boot space, even though the rear seats do not fold down, we are pretty confident 515litres of space is more than enough for anyone.

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Once you’ve gotten past all the tech toys, settled down into the supple driver’s seat, it’s time to do what one does with a BMW, experience what it is like to drive. But before we thumb the engine to life, let’s go over some of the essentials of the new G-generation 7-Series. Although it might look bigger than the F01 it replaces, at slightly over 5.2 meters in length our new long wheelbase 7-Series might sit longer than the outgoing car but width and height remain similar.

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What’s notable though is the weight, even with all the new tech toys and chassis improvements made to the new car, BMW has managed to reduce the new car’s weight by up to 130kgs over the previous generation. At the centre of all this weight loss is the new car’s Carbon Core body structure, a product of the transfer of technology from the development of the BMW i8. Using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics to strengthen key areas of the chassis instead of reinforced metals. This mixed-materials approach to increase the strength of the chassis does not just shave kilos off the car but also significantly stiffens the rigidity of the chassis and passenger cell.

What the above all means for the driver is very simple, less weight coupled with a stiffer chassis, equals a much better handling vehicle. Now let’s push that starter button and bring to life our 3-litre TwinPower Turbo heart. Now pumping out 326 horses, 6 more than its predecessor while improving fuel economy and reducing emissions both by 16% overall. It is also a lovely smooth power unit.

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A number of new suspension tricks have been added to BMW’s latest product, one of which is the inclusion of a 2-axle self-levelling air suspension which as its name suggest, keeps the car level regardless of load. We have seen self-levelling suspension systems before but BMW promises that this new system coupled with the car’s Dynamic Damper Control is more sophisticated that ever.

It also allows for manual control, allowing driver’s to raise the ride height by 20 millimetres, perhaps for times when there’s some slight “ponding”. Ride height will automatically revert back to standard once the car goes above 35 km/h and when the Sport button is depressed, drops the car another 10 millimetres. It might sound like quite a bit of moving up and down but in application, is impossible to detect once on the move. You only really see the car slightly lift itself up on startup and set itself gently down when you turn it off.

BMW’s Driving Experience Control switches have also been given a new setting, in addition to the three familiar settings (Eco-Pro, Comfort, Sport), there is now an additional button running alongside all three, Adaptive. A very intuitive mode which takes into account your driving speed, steering movement, throttle inputs and gear modes are all calculated together with GPS data to set the car up accordingly to how it thinks you want to travel. It is very clever stuff once again and for most of my journeys, the Adaptive drive mode was kept on throughout.

For those looking for extra comfort, there is also the option of Executive Drive Pro. Which adds a stereo camera to capture road conditions up ahead and with additional techno wizardry, sets the car up for all sorts of road conditions even before you encounter them. Sounds very simliar to Mercedes’ Magic Body Control and we don’t doubt it will work just as well. Did we also mention the new 7 can park itself? The new 7 can park itself.

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With so many computer systems behind the scenes, how does the new 7-Series actually drive? While it’s not a car meant for carving up the back-roads, this new 7 actually drives remarkably well. BMW might have added a whole dictionary full of new gadgets and gizmos but the experience behind the wheel is rather interesting. Making a big sized luxury vehicle comfortable is one thing, but to make it handle is another matter altogether, luckily the people over at BMW know a thing or two about handling and on the very rare occasion where we punched the 740Li through some curves, it delivered, staying planted throughout high speed bends and even doing things that will never cross the mind of someone buying a car in this segment. On one such occasion, we entered a long right hander which had a decreasing radius towards the end just before transitioning to a left bend, the 740Li went in slightly hot but stayed planted all the way before punching out the left hooker at a very “happy” pace, all without breaking a sweat. For a car of such lofty dimensions it was truly impressive.

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So after settling down and gathering our thoughts, what do we think of BMW’s new technological tour-de-force 7-Series? Well, there really is nothing bad to say about it really. You would have to be really nit-picking to find something amiss (other than the price, which really is more of a problem with us than the car).

It looks great, especially in M-Sport, drives remarkably well and is so accomplished, it makes everything else in it’s segment yesterday’s news. We just wish we had more time to enjoy lounging in the back seats. Superlative it is.

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