BMW 7 Series M760E Xdrive 4DR Auto
The big play here is the i7, not least because it’s still the only version we’ve driven in 2023. BMW has built much of its reputation on its ICE over the years so we don’t say this lightly, but drive the i7 back-to-back with the not-for-Brits 760i xDrive and it’s clear that the Rubicon has been crossed. The 4.4-litre twin turbo in the 760i is a hell of an engine, no question, but all the things that you expect a car like this to do are done so beautifully by the i7 you’d really need to be a diehard petrolhead to go there. We’re talking class-leading refinement, effortless performance, and that superior sense of well-being derived from travelling in something that’s so meticulously engineered.
Previous 7 Series’ have proven highly adept at repelling the real world and its myriad irritations. Well now there’s one that does all that while bathing the occupants in the holy glow of zero emissions.
The transition is not at the expense of BMW’s treasured dynamism, although bosses suggest the company has decided to broaden the traditional remit. Chucking your 5.1-metre electric super limo (über Uber?) into a corner isn’t really top of the list of priorities right now. But this is still one of those cars that feels instantly right and absolutely demolishes the first 50m test. We’ll get to the interior on the next tab of this review, but as for the rest, well, there are upgraded double wishbones at the front, a five-link set-up on the rear, with self-levelling air suspension and electronically controlled dampers... so yeah, the ride is absolutely magical.
Oh, and we also happen to have driven the i7 on the sort of driver’s roads that would have challenged the new M4 CSL.
Nope. But despite its sub-optimal mass – how does 2.6 tonnes grab you? – the i7 is an amazingly fluent machine on the move. In Sport mode, the ride height automatically drops by 10mm, beefing up the dampers’ responses at the same time (It can also be raised by 20mm to clear awkward garage entry ramps or rough ground). Electric power steering is standard, and active steering an option that brings with it rear steering up to 3.5 degrees that helps low speed manoeuvring and sharpens cornering inputs at higher speeds. BMW has been playing with active steering for almost 20 years, and it’s got the hang of it now. This is a very nimble large car, with a tidy turning circle.
There’s the further option of Executive Drive Pro which is basically a 48-volt anti-roll stabilisation system, that also suppresses body vibrations. In fact, the whole car has the most phenomenal acoustic properties (there are trick mountings on the front axle and on the motors for maximum hush). The i7 also includes BMW’s ‘near-actuator’ traction control system which means that corrective inputs are now 10 times faster than usual.
The upshot is a supremely comfortable car that handles in a way nothing this big and heavy has any right to, while maintaining an air of interior calm that Trappist monks might deem excessively quiet. Given no-one ever went looking for big sideways thrills in a 7 Series, we’ll forgive the i7 its deliberate, ingeniously engineered lack of drama. That’s the point of it. But boy, can it still move. And that’s the mid-range 536bhp xDrive60, remember. There’s still the 650bhp M70 xDrive if you want even more grunt.
The brakes are sensational, too, and use a fully integrated system that basically matches the driver’s inputs precisely for maximum feel and confidence. The friction brakes and regenerative element are seamlessly combined, to much greater effect than on the Mercedes EQS, for example. The regen now factors in downhill sections or traffic lights on a planned route, and the system can use the sat nav to work out the optimum charger location. An Efficiency Trainer encourages you towards the most energy efficient driving style, but the lack of noise and general refinement might mean that you accidentally end up at corners carrying far too much speed.
There’s also the full suite of assistance systems, as we inch ever closer to autonomous driving. Driving Assistant Professional, Emergency Lane Assistant, Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Cruise Control, Parking Assistant, Reversing Assistant… all the gang are here. Don’t get too clever or marginal with your reversing or the car will slam the brakes on. Sometimes we wonder if modern cars are basically infantilising the driver.
In North America, the i7 will let you drive hands-off up to 81mph, but when we tried it, it immediately asked for our hands to go back on the wheel (much to our BMW expert’s bewilderment). The controls on the wheel that govern this function are a bit fiddly, too. The 7 Series will also park itself remotely, or via the BMW App, but if you’ve got one of these cars, you’ve probably also got a driver. So they can finagle their way into the stupidly small multi-storey concrete hell-hole while you take the express elevator to the penthouse.
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