The 2016 BMW 7-Series takes driving a large, luxury sedan to a new level of sporty performance, connectivity and pampering.
The revamped vehicle offers lots of new technology such as Gesture Control, where a driver merely waves his or her hand to send an incoming phone call to voicemail. There's a key fob with a small computer display that tells with a swipe whether the sunroof was left open, the car unlocked and how many more miles one can get on the fuel in the tank.
On-board wireless charging and even more technology — the flagship model's own Samsung tablet and Wi-Fi hotspot — come with the usual luxury auto trappings such as leather-covered seats, chestnut wood trim with intricate inlays, massaging seats, power-operated footrest and window shades and rear-seat entertainment.
A few things were only mildly refreshed in the rear-wheel-drive, four-door sedan, including the two BMW engines — a 320-horsepower, turbocharged six-cylinder and a 445-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8.
The new 7-Series is some 190 pounds lighter than its predecessor (though it still weighs as much as a full-size pickup truck) because it has a carbon core body and, for the first time, aluminum-skinned doors and trunk lid.
The engine's thrust is exciting: The test 750i xDrive with twin-turbo V-8 can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in just 4.3 seconds. Passengers were strongly pushed into their seatbacks during quick acceleration. Torque peaks at an impressive 480 foot-pounds at a low 1,800 rpm and continues to 4,500 rpm.
The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $82,295 for the base 740i and $95,395 for the base 750i. The lowest on the test model, which has all-wheel drive, is $98,395.
The roomy 7-Series is a well-crafted, corporate chauffer car, but it needed some sprucing up to better compete with the sales leader in its segment, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It's obvious where BMW put its attention. Taking the beefy steering wheel in hand, a driver selects from several ride modes, including "sport," and the suspension immediately firms up and the steering response is quicker.
The large car maintains its poise in curves and turns, driving and darting around obstacles as if it were a smaller car without feeling like it will tip.
From the sport driving mode to the plusher "comfort plus" setting, the interior of the 750i xDrive was serene with just a hint of a strong engine heard at sudden acceleration. At times, neither the driver nor passengers could detect the shift points from the eight-speed, Steptronic Sport automatic transmission.
A small table stored in the center rear-seat armrest operates like those in airplanes and allows executives to keep working as they are shuttled from meeting to meeting.
There is more legroom in the back seat than in the front: 44.4 inches vs. 41.4 inches. The right-side back-seat passenger has controls to move the front passenger seat farther forward than it might be otherwise. Other thoughtful touches include soft-close doors so the back ones don't slam shut loudly, optional "luxury rear floor mats" with deep-pile carpet and wood trim on the seatbelt latch covers. Trunk space, at 20.6 cubic feet, is adequate for most needs.
Fuel economy isn't a big priority, and the test car averaged 18.1 mpg in combined city/highway travel, which is less than the federal government's estimate of 19 mpg. Later in the model year, BMW plans to introduce a 740e xDrive plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid model.