With sunny skies and predictable weather, this southern coastal town in Portugal’s Algarve can be relied on to provide the setting for a successful car campaign. It helps that Faro is picturesque and laidback, known for its seafood, birdlife and rich history where the Romans and the Moors once held sway centuries ago.
The last time we were in Faro was for the G20 3 Series drive last year. We were back again in March for a dose of the latest 7 Series -- and the 8 Series Convertible.
The new 7 Series had just launched in Malaysia on July 11. As for the open-top model, we will save it for another day as BMW Group Malaysia has not indicated it’s coming.
The 7 Series is a case of where BMW said it really listened to its customers and responded to what they wanted. “Make it more aggressive, make it more digitalised,” they said. And BMW complied.
With China accounting for 44% of 7 Series sales last year, it’s the most important market by far for a model favoured by senior managers. The brash facade in the latest 7 Series was ostensibly designed to please that clientele, which are also younger as they are typically in their late 30s. Like the rest of the world, Malaysia included, the long wheelbase variant finds favour with 80% of buyers.
Change a constant
Ripe for a midlife facelift, the sixth-generation 7 Series has undergone more than a few nips and tucks to refine it and give it greater presence.
BMW has altered the exterior styling, upgraded the interior and improved long-distance comfort.
Lending visual presence is a flat front end that’s 50mm taller. The new bonnet has more sharply cut contour lines and a bigger BMW roundel.
Slimmer adaptive LED headlights create a sporty appeal and can be replaced with BMW Laserlight that offers even greater light throw.
The outer air intakes in the lower section of the front apron are overlaid with large air deflectors to cool the brakes and air curtains help minimise drag around the wheel arches.
Everyone we know has an opinion on the twin kidney grille, which is 40% bigger than before. Although it looks similar in size to that monster grille of the X7, we were told the sedan version’s is wider. It’s a divisive design to say the least and takes some getting used to. Or maybe not. Customers in China seem to like it though.
Moving on, the air breathers on the front side panels are longer and more upright with side strips that extend into the rear apron.
The modified rear apron adopts the design language of the front air intake trim. The exhaust tailpipes are integrated into the bumper and have broader chrome surrounds.
The rear LED lights are three-dimensional and slimmer than before. A distinctive feature at the back is a thin light bar below the chrome strip that extends across the full width of the tailgate and links the rear lights with one other.
BMW offers customisation with the M Sport package, Design Pure Excellence line and new additions to the selection of exterior paint finishes and light-alloy wheels. In the Design Pure Excellence package, as is provided for the new 7 Series in Malaysia, there is even more chrome accents for the exterior with an Alcantara headliner and extensive wood inlays for the interior.
At your service
Slip into the cabin and it’s more techy upfront, more quiet and more posh.
A full digital instrument cluster is now standard, and the latest BMW OS 7 on the infotainment system makes for easier access to various settings and controls. The system also understands more gesture controls.
Voice command accuracy is improved but still have rough edges. It forms part of the smart features in a digital helper that learns routines and habits to personalise settings and preferences of the driver.
Triggered by “Hey BMW” command followed by user request, the personal assistant can perform a myriad of functions automatically from selecting radio channels to helping you stay alert. Say “Hey BMW, I’m tired” turns on for 3 mins a vitality programme that adjusts the lighting mood, music and temperature, among other things, in order to make the driver feel more alert. The trigger words can be customised if one is so inclined. So “Hey Angie” works just as well as “Hey BMW” if set as such.
The leather steering wheel looks like the X7’s, with a chrome fascia element where control buttons for driver assistance systems have been re-arranged. The wireless charging tray is now in front of the cupholders instead of under the centre console armrest.
With a wheelbase of over 3.2m, the long wheelbase 7 Series offers an extra 14cm space that means more room for rear passengers.
Dakota leather upholstery is standard but can be swapped for Nappa leather with extended quilting for that extra posh effect.
The optional Rear-seat entertainment system now comes with a pair of 10-inch, full-HD touchscreen displays including Blu-ray player.
The cabin is noticeably quieter due to generous insulation added to rear wheel arches, B-pillars and seatbelt outlet covers in the rear as well as thicker windows all round. However, this new construction for the side and rear windows is standard only for the 750i/750Li and M760Li xDrive variants; it’s an option for lower liners.
We spent time with the 750Li and 745Le, both with xDrive all-wheel drive, and garbed in Pure Excellence and M Sport kit respectively. On static display was the most potent version – the M760Li xDrive, with a 6.6-litre V12 cranking out 585hp and 850Nm of torque. It zooms from 0 to 100kph in 3.8s.
The 750Li xDrive taps into a turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 producing 530hp and 750Nm of torque, with acceleration done in a sportscar-quick 4.1 seconds.
Cleanest of the lot is the 745Le plug-in hybrid (PHEV). It represents the first BMW PHEV with 6-cylinders. The 3.0-litre turbocharged engine makes 286hp, paired with a 113hp electric motor built into the gearbox. Combined system output is 394hp and 600Nm of torque. It’s no slouch with sprint time of 5.3s.
The 12kWh lithium-ion battery is stored under the rear seats but still eats into boot space, reducing it to 420l compared to 515l in non-hybrid variants.
Top speed for all variants peak at 250kph.
Note that the pre-facelift variant was using a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. However, a BMW spokesman said the China market will still hold on to a 4-cylinder-engine variant as the base.
Malaysia is the only country where BMW is rebadging the 745Le as 740Le to maintain its hybrid incentives. Likewise, the price of the locally assembled PHEV is still the old one at RM594,800.
Tighter emissions rules may see the demise of V12 and V8 7 Series in the next generation.
You don’t need the M760Li to experience monstrous power. The 750Li is a glorious example of excess.
Out on the Portuguese highway, the V8 unit, egged on by two turbos, lays on some expressive acoustic accompaniment for its instantaneous and ceaseless power build-up.
The standard flap-controlled M Sport exhaust system produces a rousing soundtrack to complement the sumptuous power delivery. The ZF 8-speeder is faultless, gearing up to move in lock step to everything the engine could throw at it.
Whether as driver or passenger in the boss seats behind, you feel cosseted by all that’s going around outside as the car rockets steadily into the horizon at silly speeds, buoyed along on a carpet of torque.
The steering is nicely weighted and precise but lacks overall feedback.
Tight corners are handled well enough to give the 750Li some degree of sporty panache, with little lean though you do feel the weight transfer as the brakes bite and the car swings in.
Such agility is atypical of a limo but there you have it. It is indeed possible, backed by an ensemble of electronic and mechanical wizardry that includes active roll stabilisation, two-axle adaptive air suspension, integral active steering and some chassis tuning.
On a less stratospheric level, the 745Le turns in a pretty good show. We had less than an hour with it, running up and down the well-kept roads of an affluent neighbourhood.
As the badge would suggest, the 745Le is an improvement over the 740Le of yore. The straight six engine is more in keeping with its image as a starting point for a flagship model.
First thing you notice is the buttery smoothness of the hybrid engine as you prod it.
Push it harder and the free-revving engine gets louder and more emotive though it’s muted in the cabin by heavy insulation. In the default Hybrid mode, the engine-motor transition happens seamlessly.
The brief time we had with the plug-in hybrid showed it had a similar driving dynamics as the 750Li, but with far less of the aggression.
Still, it offers ample reserves to waft along in stately elegance.
The battery and management software have also been uprated so that electric mode range has been extended up to 58km with top speed capped at 140kph. But a 40km range is probably more realistic.
The car has a feature that allows it to save battery charge for use later, say, in downtown city driving. It takes 4.4 hours to fully charge the battery at a rate of 3.7kW.
Sum of it all
With the latest updates, the 7 Series is refined further to be even more luxurious and comfortable.
While the 750Li highlights the height of performance such a big car can reach, the 745Le (aka new 740Le in Malaysia) strikes a sensible balance in the parameters that define a luxo barge.
BMW 750Li Gallery
BMW 745Le Gallery