It may not look very different from the old car, but trust us, there’s more to the updated 7-series than meets the eye. BMW has worked on making its luxury yacht more efficient, more powerful and more comfortable. Yes, that’s possible. So what makes this car so different? The big addition, the new eight-speed gearbox, is the reason this car is much more efficient and quicker than the previous 7. The new gearbox is a huge improvement on the old six-speeder – it’s quick and shifts smoothly in any gear. And thanks to the new gearbox, you can maintain really high speeds at really low rpms, automatically improving cruising ability and efficiency.
The upgraded 730Ld we’re driving uses the same 2993cc straight-six diesel motor as before. It gets a slight bump in power, just 9bhp, and since the gearbox has eight ratios to play with, the gears are more tightly stacked. Which explains why it gets from 0-100kph in 6.6sec, almost a second quicker than the old car. It’s in the mid-range that the fun starts, and the free revving nature of the motor means there’s no let-up in power all the way to the redline. The steering weighs up well and the combination of engine and gearbox gives this car performance that its unwieldy size looks incapable of. Importantly, the 7-series now comes with an Eco Pro mode, where it automatically dulls throttle responses and adjusts the air-con to reduce the load on the engine.
BMW has also improved sound insulation, which means the cabin is much quieter, and engine noise is more subdued. Like the old car, the 7-series still rides well, but the setup is on the softer side, and there’s too much vertical movement, especially in Comfort mode. It does become more levelled when you switch to Sport, but it never feels very settled.
The other area BMW has worked on is cabin comfort, because let’s face it, most 7-series owners would want the equivalent of their lush office cabin even on the drive home. Hop inside and you will notice subtle differences. BMW has made the front seats slimmer to offer a better view for the rear-seat passengers. There are subtle additions of chrome, like a new strip across the dash to make it more luxurious. The instruments are new too, and change colour based on the driving mode you have selected. The iDrive system has been updated to its latest iteration as well.
On the outside, you have to take a very close look to notice what’s different. In front, the 7 gets new LED corona rings, and the upright kidney grille now comes with 9 slats instead of 12. The front fender is now much sportier and the air dam stretches across the front of the car to suck air away from the tyres and reduce drag. At the back, the tail-lights are also new and there’s a new chrome strip that runs across.
So what BMW has done is listen to customer feedback and improve the 7-series in key areas. The flagship BMW was overshadowed by the Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ when they were launched, but with this new car, BMW is hoping to come back into contention.