Last week, BMW of North America invited us to an exclusive preview of the 2016 BMW 7 Series. The private show and tell event for the new 7 Series is geared towards VIP customers of the brand. Hosted in a beautiful 17,000 square foot house, the new 7 Series feels at home (no pun intended) with luxury surrounding it. Posing right across from an infinity pool, the new high-end limousine aims to retake the crown from the successful Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Unfortunately photography was forbidden at the event (for unknown reasons since the car has already been shown in official photos), so we will have to relate our experience through words.
More often than not, official photos don’t do any justice to the car and in the case of this new 7 Series, nothing comes closer to the truth. While in photos the G11/G12 7 Series looks nothing more than a glorified F01/F02 facelift, in reality the BMW design team has done a great job improving upon an already successful design language. The new high-end limousine was penned by no other than Nader Faghihzadeh, a talented and experienced BMW designer who already has some valuable experience designing production cars: BMW 6 Series Coupe and Gran Coupe, and the interior of the previous generation 7 Series.
There is obviously a trend in this segment to create large and dominating front fascias, and the new 7 Series adheres to the same principles. The sedan comes with the largest kidney grille we’ve seen on any BMW in the last decade, a 3D approach to the famous and iconic grille which now employs active slats for aerodynamic purposes. BMW says that the opening and closing of the aero slats is controlled by the computer to help with the engine cooling.
The redesigned LED headlights are slimmer and more attractive than on the previous generation 7 Series, and following the recent BMW design language, they now flow seamlessly into the kidneys. The sculpted front hood is also lower and leaner, a design approach to emphasize sportiness and dynamics. On the side, the one piece Hofmeister Kink flows elegantly across the quarter panel and fits perfectly within the 3D sculpted model around it. There’s also a new design item, an air breather, now typical of most BMWs, which has a strip of either chrome or black, depending on the Line chosen, which runs the length of the bottom of the doors. It looks a bit tacky at first, but if looked at it from behind, you can see why BMW chose to use the sporty design element on this elegant limousine.
In the rear, the trunk of the new 7er now molds perfectly into a new set of taillights which are also slimmer and beautifully sculpted, thanks to the constant improving LED technology. The model also features a lower center of gravity and has a front and rear self-leveling air suspension, both emphasizing the driving dynamics advertised by BMW.
But where the new 7 Series really shines is inside the cabin. This is where BMW has taken a revolutionary approach with a design that makes the previous generation look outdated and simplistic, by any standards. The materials, leather and trims used are of the highest quality possible. From the moment you step inside, it becomes hard to ignore the amount of work that went into creating a viable competitor for the S-Class. The leather with ample stitching and unique design resembles the ones found in even higher-end cars and it’s as comfortable as it can get. Everything within arms reach is covered in either leather, beautifully finished wood or aluminum. And we mean, a lot of brushed aluminum which makes the cabin look even more luxurious. There is ambient lighting everywhere, on the door trim, in the footwells and under all of the controls, and the optional Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof with light emitted by LED modules on the glass surface, it’s the icing on the cake.
We’ve looked even deeper into what makes this 7 Series so special and the BMW reps pulled out the “scent cartridges” that can be controlled from the air conditioning control console or iDrive. There are three levels of intensity and 8 scents to choose from, but only two at a time can be placed in the car. We’ve asked what the replacement cost would be, but BMW of North America has yet to finalize the pricing strategy.
The car shown in Chicago had a Luxury Rear Seating package which includes Rear Ventilated and Comfort Seats, Heated Front and Rear Armrests and a 7 inch Touch Command Tablet. The massage function for the comfort seats offers a choice of eight programs. An optional Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package takes the luxury to a new whole new level transforming the car into a mobile office. A high-quality one. With a touch of a button, the rear seat can be slid forward by an extra 90 millimeters /3.5 inches and its backrest tilted all the way forward. By pressing another button, a fold-out footrest extends from the back of the front-seat. Even for someone measuring 6 feet 2 inches, the rear setting was more than comfortable. To top it off, a tray table can be pulled out from the rear center console to allow you to do some work on-the-go. For a second, we felt like we were riding in a private jet.
One odd thing though was a BMW remote which controls the rear LCD screens rather than offering a touchscreen experience as the large LCD found in the front.
Now if you love driving your 7 Series, then this new limo is for you. The driver-oriented setup, the comfortable seats, the thick and sporty steering wheel and the easy-to-access controls were made to enhance the driving experience rather than interfering with it. We haven’t had a chance to drive the car yet, but the weight reduction of around 190 lbs should make for quite a ride.
Most of our time inside the cabin was spent playing with the new iDrive system and its gesture controlled infotainment system. Not only BMW offers a touchscreen LCD, it also made it easier for people to operate through gesture controls. The drivers or the passengers can adjust volume controls, accept or reject incoming calls or change music stations through pre-defined gestures. Drivers can also configure a gesture for a function of their choosing, such as navigation to the home address, a deactivation of a screen or a pre-set radio station. BMW says the system operates based on a motion and heat sensors located in the headliner. It’s unclear whether it works with driving gloves, but we’ll make sure to try that next month.
It takes a few seconds to get used to the gesture control approach, but once you figure out where the sensors are placed, the experience is seamless and entertaining. While it doesn’t replace the traditional iDrive controls, the gesture technology can help with driving distractions and easier access to most commonly used features, so we see no reason why people won’t start poking at the screen with two fingers or sweeping their hands in front of the screen.
Next on our list was the keyfob gadget that we first reported on last year. The high-tech key can be used to control certain functions of the car (lock/unlock, lights) and to display useful information, like the driving range. Driverless remote-controlled parking via BMW’s Display Key won’t be available at launch in U.S. models, BMW says. There’s no word on when (or if) the key will arrive. BMW cites regulatory issues which are stricter on this side of the pond. The new 7 Series also comes with a “regular” keyfob also, similar to the one found in the X5 SUV. The BMW Display Key can be recharged through wireless induction charging found in the center console compartment. Smartphones which employ this charging technology can be “refueled” with inductive electricity as well.
There are many other features inside the new 7 Series which will take time to play with and learn their functionality, something we intend to do during a more extensive test drive. But for now, we came back to our office being impressed with what we’ve seen.
The market launch in the U.S. will take place in October and in contrast with the previous generation, BMW of North America will only offer the long-wheelbase – with a twist. If the European models are still labeled with “i” for short-wheelbase and “Li” to denote longer models, the U.S. 7 Series cars will drop the “Li” badge. When asked about the reasons behind this decision, a BMW product manager said that the entire luxury sedans segment is moving towards a simpler naming convention and BMW is following the trend. BMW also says the reason for dropping the short-wheelbase from the U.S. line-up is solely based on the previous sales data which indicate a 30 percent take rate for the shorter 7 Series.
The BMW 7 Series will be introduced in the U.S. as the 740i and 750i xDrive. Prices start at $81,300 and $97,400, respectively, not including destination and handling charge of $950. A BMW Individual program for the new 7 Series will be available in 2016. The M Sport package will come at market launch, but compared to the previous generation, it will only brings visual enhancements to the exterior; the cabin stays the same as the standard model.
It’s still out for debate whether the new G12 7 Series will be able to successfully compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it has all the ingredients needed and BMW has given its flagship the best technology possible to succeed. Stay tuned for our track review of the 2016 BMW 7 Series, or you can see our test drive of the pre-production 7 Series.