It seems 2002 tested the water for the radical new BMW 7-series as this spring offers new models that will take the bulk of sales.
However, even with only two V8-engined models, BMW still managed to sell 1,755 between March and December last year. Now three new engines are being ushered in, including a diesel to cash in on the growing popularity of diesel luxury cars.
The arrival of 730d and 730i models (including long wheelbase versions) will allow BMW to compete head-to-head with rivals in the sector with the largest potential.
Indeed BMW has revised upwards its targets for the diesel variant since we first drove it last summer. It is confident the 730d will become the biggest seller in the range, accounting for 40% of a total of 2,750 sales this year.
The 7-series sells in a relatively small but clearly defined sector with people at the top of their profession – one-third are directors or senior managers while another large proportion describe themselves as self-employed or freelance. The remainder is made up of chauffeurs, diplomats and celebrities.
Jim O'Donnell, managing director of BMW GB, said: 'I always expected there would be plenty of debate about the car to begin with and I predicted last year its design would make a major impact on an increasingly competitive market. Initial sales of V8 models prove my point. The introduction of a 3.0-litre diesel, our well-proven petrol six-cylinder and a flagship 12-cylinder version will enable us to consolidate our position in the market.
'These additions ensure that we continue to push the boundaries of what is expected.'
Behind the wheel
CONTROVERSIAL though the design of the latest 7-series is, it seems that BMW is sticking to its guns and bringing us designs along a similar theme with the Z4 and new 5-series.
However, it does not look as strange as it did 12 months ago, and seeing more of them on UK roads has helped.
Inside the 7 is roomy and comfortable and the neat design of the dashboard and centre console is not without its appeal in a world where it seems the larger the car, the more space there is to fit in lots of extra switches and controls.
None of the six-cylinder cars (petrol and diesel) have BMW's Dynamic Drive system (which counters roll forces when cornering) fitted as standard, and it was interesting to see the difference it made.
Without it, the 7 is more comfortable barge than luxury sports saloon, with challenging bends providing a constant battle with Newton's laws.
It's best to resort to the old-school slow-in fast-out method of cornering, and with 369lb-ft of torque on offer in the 730d, it swallows huge stretches of road in a heartbeat, making for safe overtaking.
A glance at the figures shows that the 730d covers the sprint from 0-62mph in less time than the 730i, which gives some indication of the diesel's performance in an area where DERV normally suffers.
With the only other present rival the Mercedes-Benz S320 CDI, the BMW scores better on noise insulation, refinement and performance, while the Merc offers better fuel consumption and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
DRIVERS now have a choice of diesels in the luxury car sector, as well as a choice of 12-cylinder versions as BMW introduces its full complement of 7-series models. The 7-series would be the driver's choice, as long as the car was fitted with Dynamic Drive.
|7 series fact file|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||211/4,000||228/5,900||439/6,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||369/2,000||221/3,500||443/3,950|
|Max speed (mph):||146||147||155|
|Fuel consumption (mpg)::||33.2||26.7||21.0|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||227||257||325|
|Fuel tank capacity (l/gal):||88/19.4|