Hi-tech style and comfort

This week, IAIN DOOLEY has been sampling a touch of luxury in the BMW 750i.

In the gold-plated world of the luxury saloon, Mercedes’ S-Class is king. In recent years, the German firm’s luxo-barge has undergone a radical transformation from visual wallflower to striking contender for Boldest Saloon of the Year Award.

Contrast this with BMW’s 7 Series. The previous generation car came out of the blocks in 2002 rocking a radical new look that divided opinion. The current fifth generation car is a noticeably more sober machine. Where the S-Class wears the latest in cutting edge Italian clothes, the 7 Series opts for Hugo Boss.

Still, this approach hasn’t harmed the big BMW’s chances. Demand for the car globally remains strong – especially so in emerging markets where the petrol models are often the default choice – while Europe still has a soft spot for the diesel variants.

Only one thing was holding the car back: its ride. Compared to more the more recent and advanced cars from Mercedes and Audi, the 7 Series lacked the same level of precision and comfort, which is hardly ideal for something pitched at the executive and chauffeur markets. This, then, is a thoroughly revised 7 Series, aimed squarely at the competition.

Considerable gains have been made in the ride and comfort departments plus in boosting economy and reducing emissions across the range, thanks in part to the standard fit inclusion of a new eight-speed auto gearbox and engine stop-start.

What’s really clever for a car of this size are the 32.8mpg economy and 199g/km CO2 figures, a result of BMW’s engineers tinkering with the engine’s Valvetronic technology to modify the intake system during periods of low activity.

To counter the criticism of the old car’s inconsistent ride quality, self-leveling rear suspension is now a standard feature across the range. This, combined with various detailed changes to the suspension hardware, delivers a welcome improvement when driving over mixed surfaces.

Also welcome is the inclusion of BMW’s Eco Pro mode in the grandly titled Driving Experience Control system. Essentially this offers the driver another choice alongside Comfort and Sport, and enables a firmer or softer ride, weighty or finger-light steering, the appropriately complimentary damper settings and, crucially, engine mapping to match the various modes. The facelift has also allowed BMW to add the wealth of recent new hi-tech kit from lesser models, such as web connected services, high-end audio options, intelligent headlights and enhanced electronic safety and convenience aids.

Overall, then, this mid-life uplift for the 7 Series has done a good job of keeping the car in touch with the competition. What’s more impressive is the step forward in ride comfort. Don’t forget, this car and its longer wheelbase cousin are key movers in the executive chauffeur industry, and the new car’s set-up has done much to banish the shimmy and shake of the old car. Factor in BMW’s relentless approach towards boosting fuel economy and you’ve got a more rounded and appealing proposition.