What is it?
Facelifted last year, BMW's luxo-limo lacks the harmony of something like a 3-Series. The diesels are great, but the ride is lumpy and the 7 can't disguise its weight like the Audi A8 can. It's as plush as any rival inside but, while it's closer, it still trails the Merc S-Class.
Four-wheel steer (a first on a BMW) gives stability at high speeds and a real smile when you try to park - it's got a great turning circle. It does the usual trick of shrinking when you go faster - but the steering is possibly a little too ‘connected'. For this class of car everything needs to be a bit more wafty - the German connection seems to have forgotten.
New suspension that can cycle between Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus is a boon, but the big BMW never really settles in any of the modes. There's too much wind noise, too much bobble and far too much tweakery through the steering - the old car was better. Ooops. Still, we're talking about degrees of issues - it's lovely if you've come from, say, a 5-Series, but Merc S-Class owners won't be impressed.
You can't argue with the way any of the variants goes in this generation - there isn't a duffer in this bunch. The best is the 730d - it hits 62mph in 7.2 seconds and 153mph with 41.5mpg economy. If you want the big hitter, then you need the 760Li; 6 litres of twin-turbo V12 power, 544bhp, 553lb ft of torque - it's fast and surprisingly fun - if you really need more than 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and a limited 155mph top end, then you're a faster driver than us...
On the inside
The ride and wind noise issues might bother you if you're a sound-specialist, but otherwise the quality is top end. The cabin has a massive multimedia screen, the iDrive is now properly sorted - it's a very good thing. There's something about sitting in the driving seat of a big BMW that feels right.
The new Seven is biiiiiig. There's space for Playboy Bunnies galore, or hefty business guts. The boot is huge, and you get a massive range from a 730d. Even parking is easy - radar parking sensors and that turning circle work in the real world.
The BMW 730d is remarkably useful - you'll get 41.5mpg, 178g/km of C02. Ok, so it's a bit expensive and insurance is high, but it's worth it. If you want to simply ignore any credit crunchery, then go for that 760Li - 21.7mpg (which isn't that bad considering the performance) and group 20 insurance.