Fleet News

BMW 7-series

BMW

Review

i-DRIVE is the clever part of the new 7-series. BMW has introduced a new way of reducing the individual control elements in the car, and with the repositioning of the gear selector to the steering column there is more space alongside the driver.

BMW has sub-divided the car's functions into areas by frequency of use. The main control elements are around the steering wheel, while secon-dary features like lights and air conditioning are operated by conventional switches in the instrument panel.

But one of the most talked about features of the new 7-series will be its new control centre, operated by a control at the front of the centre arm rest.

It can be pushed left and right, front and rear or in one of four diagonal directions to select and operate menu functions. The eight functions are communication, climate control, in-car entertainment, navigation, BMW ASSIST, configuration, vehicle and help.

All eight functions are then presented in the control display in the upper middle section of the instrument panel and can be read either by the driver or passenger.

BMW says that although the number of functions able to be controlled is higher than ever, the simplified method of controlling them will allow the driver to become familiar with them quickly, and actions will soon become intuitive.

Performance

AT launch there will be a choice of two new V8 engines for the 7-series — a 3.6-litre in the 735i and a 4.4-litre in the 745i. Both engines will use the Valvetronic technology first used in the 3-series and should benefit from improved fuel consumption and a more responsive nature.

Although BMW is still cagey about the eventual top-of-the-range model, we can expect a V12 of greater capacity than the 5.4-litre currently used in the 750i, while lower down the range there will be 3.0-litre petrol and diesel engines. However, BMW has not decided whether to bring the diesel to the UK.

The new 3.6-litre engine develops 272bhp — more than the 238bhp from the 3.5-litre it replaces — and 265lb-ft of torque. The 4.4-litre in the 745i produces 333bhp and 332lb-ft of torque (740i: 286bhp and 324lb-ft).

BMW claims Valvetronic offers the same kind of improvement in fuel consumption as a modern gasoline direct injection engine, as well as better refinement.

The new 7-series offers the world's first six-cog automatic transmission, and uses 'shift-by-wire' technology — there is no mechanical link between the steering column-mounted gear selector and the transmission. Buttons on the steering wheel also allow the driver to change up and down manually.

Dynamics

BMW brings an all-new active suspension system to the luxury car sector which claims to provide a cosseting ride with roll-free handling. The car's behaviour when cornering will be flat at most speeds, only increasing body roll in harsh turns to warn the driver that the limits of the 7-series chassis are about to be breached.

The 7-series will also use a push-button parking brake which will operate on all four wheels. The system is hydraulic while the engine is running, but then transfers to a mechanical parking brake when the engine is switched off. There is an automatic hold function which is activated through the control display and means the driver does not have to keep his or her foot on the brake to stop the car from 'creeping'. The button also works as an emergency brake, offering safer stopping than a conventional handbrake.

Safety

THE new 7-series has a network of sensors to determine which airbags should be deployed in an accident, and when.

Front seat head restraints are equipped with 'pyrotechnic' devices which push them forward in the event of a rear-end impact to reduce the risk of whiplash injury.

Front seatbelts have active belt force control to reduce the load on occupants in crashes. Cars in the US — where wearing seatbelts is widely seen as optional by drivers — will be equipped with 'knee-bags' which hold front seat occupants to reduce the risk of them being thrown through the windscreen.

Brake lights using LED technology illuminate faster than conventional bulbs and last longer, while the BMW ASSIST service will automatically call for help in the event of airbags being deployed. In cars with a navigation system location details are relayed, but in cars without navigation, or if it proves impossible to reach the emergency call centre, the car's phone will automatically dial 999. There is also an emergency call button in the roof lining.

Comfort

THE new 7-series offers keyless entry and start-up, while comfort seats have seemingly infinite movement front and rear. The front seats also offer incremental lateral support, doing away with the need for sports seats, while the sides of the passenger head restraints can be pulled in to make sleeping more comfortable.

Rapid heating is another feature of the new car. The driver controls how the heat is distributed between the cushion and the backrest. Active seat ventilation also pumps air into the seats while drawing moisture away.

Rear doors can be specified with electric sunblinds — something not yet offered by other manufacturers.

BMW has chosen a radical solution as it tries to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-class with the next generation 7-series.

The car, which will make its public debut at September's Frankfurt Motor Show before going on sale in Germany in November, will have bold styling both inside and out, as well as a range of innovative new engines and hi-tech features. Although the current 7-series wants for little dynamically, it does not seem to be as desirable as its prestige rivals and depreciation suffers as a result.

This is illustrated by quick comparison with the S-class and two other rivals — the Lexus LS430 and Daimler 4.0 V8. All four are priced between £50,000 and £54,000, but according to CAP Network, after three years/60,000 miles the Mercedes-Benz S430 would be worth £20,975 or 39% of its original cost. The Lexus retains 36% of its value at £18,000 while the Daimler fares a little worse on 33% at £16,800 However, a BMW 740i would be worth £13,925 or 27% of its new value, losing more than £37,000.

The company must be hoping all this is going to change with the new model which ditches the evolutionary progress of the previous generation 7-series models.

The new 7-series will also be an indication of the kind of technology we can see reaching future generations of the new 3-series and 5-series.

Styling

RATHER than offering a traditional, conservative large saloon, BMW is bound to polarise opinion with the unconventional appearance of the new 7-Series.

BMW says it has dropped the 'wedge' profile for the new model although no car really resembles a wedge anyway. However, the 7-series is different and is a radical departure from the current model.

The headlights now extend smoothly into the side line, accentuated by the indicator above them and, like the current 5-series, are surrounded by 'light rings' on the parking lights setting.

The bonnet no longer incorporates the 'kidney' grille (it is a long time since it was anything like kidney-shaped).

The rear is a mixture of curves and straight lines with the bootlid standing proud of the wings.

The rear lights are LED, providing a quicker reaction time and no maintenance, while the separate lights in the bootlid give the 7-series a 'unique' appearance on the roads at night.

Final touch

THIS is a term coined by BMW to show how engineers have reduced noise levels to a minimum. BMW points out that its first post-war model — the 501 — had just three electric motors, while the new 7-series has more than 80, all intended to work without the driver or passengers noticing.

BMW's target reduction of sound was 40 decibels from the 'untreated' sound sources — equivalent to reducing the sound of a passing truck to the rustling of a newspaper.

Acoustics specialists gave their attention to everything from the engine fan to the tiny fan blowing air across the temperature sensor in the dashboard.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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