The all-new, sixth-generation 2016 BMW 7 Series will get a fast-tracked Australian launch in late October or early November, less than two months after the Bavarian limo’s world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show.
Expect to see three engine options — the 740i and 730d diesel this year and the 750i in early 2016 — plus both short- and long-wheelbase body-styles (the latter not on the diesel), various styling packages and an almost limitless number of BMW Individual customisation options, with help from subsidiary Rolls-Royce.
Naturally, BMW Australia also hopes its sharpened 7 Series, a rival to the forthcoming new Audi A8 and the rampant Mercedes-Benz S-Class — which dominates sales in the upper echelon segment where these uber-sedans compete, with 40 per cent market share — will make some inroads against key rivals.
“We are very confident with this car we have a fairly good chance in luxury segment to gain back some segment share, but to be honest you don’t want to speak about numbers in that particular segment,” BMW Australia managing director Marc Werner told us.
BMW’s flagship model may sport evolutionary styling on first glance, but it’s a technical tour-de-force as befits its positioning as the headline act in the Bavarian brand’s arsenal, and a significantly different vehicle both outside and inside — on closer inspection.
How do we know? The company’s Australian arm has just flown two re-production cars in from Munich to show to prospective buyers — presumably in mood-lit rooms with nice hors d’oeuvres — across the country’s capital cities, such is the level of demand.
Naturally, after hearing rumours of said amenities, we had to make our way to BMW to see for ourselves. There was an agreement not to take photos, so we’re using stock images here.
Right off the bat, the BMW 7 Series models to be sold in Australia have a notable feather in their cap. The local market has the single highest standard specification level on the new model of any market globally. Remember, it has a three-pointed star-toting rival from Stuttgart to pursue.
All versions will get Nappa leather upholstery and a full leather instrument panel, heated seats front and rear and 19-inch alloys (20s on the 750i and 750Li). Interestingly, the formerly $10,000 M Sport styling package (on the last 7 Series) that was optioned by about 85 per cent of buyers will now be a no-cost option.
Some of the niftiest features we trialled — a large number of which will be standard, though not all — included the rechargeable key with a screen that allows you to check the car’s functions remotely, and control ancillaries, like a phone app (a flat key will still start the car, never fear). As we know, this key will also be used to remotely park the car, though that feature doesn’t arrive here until 2016.
There’s also a 7.0-inch tablet in the rear between the two seats that controls almost every aspect of the car remotely, including the powerful (and optional) massage function, plus the optional 1400W concert surround-sound system by Bowers and Wilkins.
There’s a small projector hidden under the rocker panel that project a welcome light ‘carpet’ that illuminates all around the car, including the walk up to the boot. The Sky Lounge sunroof has 15,000 light points that can be changed to various tones, including a restful purple or a cool blue for hot days.
The 7 Series also premieres gesture controls for key functions to supplement the iDrive, operated by a roof-mounted sensor. Our favourite aspect is the dismissive wave you can flash in front of the screen to reject a phone call. Like. A. Boss. You can also ‘pinch’ and drag-and-drop menus on the screen with mid-air gestures, though something (perhaps the sharp lighting in the studio) last night threw it out somewhat. Hmm.
A few other tidbits: No button in the cabin is finished in plastic coating, but instead gets a metallic surface. With the exception of the heat-repelling piano black plastics dotting the fascia, every surface is either real leather, wood or steel. It’s craftsmanship at least on par with the S-Class, and a big step up for BMW.
The styling may seem derivative, though in the flesh it’s a suitably commanding presence, with a boldly upright kidney grille beset by optional blue-tinged Laser Lights, a prominent crease that wraps all around the car from grille to tail-light, and a chrome line above the rocker panel that kicks up into an air vent.
Despite being 70mm longer than the old 7 Series, the new model’s Carbon Core construction — leverage from BMW’s i sub-brand — helps reduce weight by about 120kg.
Mechanically, you get engine power channelled through a further developed eight-speed Steptronic gearbox with optimised internal efficiency, an increased ratio spread and — most interestingly — a gear-change strategy assisted by navigation data, as is offered in the Rolls-Royce ranks.
There’s also a new-design standard-fitted Driving Experience Control switch now including Adaptive (self-determining) mode. This, plus two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling and Dynamic Damper Control (adaptive dampers) as standard.
The 740i versions are powered by an all-new 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six with 240kW of power and 450Nm of torque. The 750i features a heavily revised 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 330kW of power and 650Nm of torque.
On the diesel side of the ledger, there’s a 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six under the bonnet of the 730d. As we know, a new quad-turbocharged diesel engine has been mooted.
The bottom line is, after a quick walk-around and a poke inside, that the new BMW 7 Series now offers the kind of craftsmanship and cabin tech that puts it well and truly in league with the brilliant Mercedes-Benz S-Class. We’ll be driving it in a matter of weeks as the long-lead launch continues.