It’s not like any of them are crappy.
Or even mediocre.
That’s the kind of decision you face when considering a top-of-the-line executive sedan like the BMW 7 and its two main uber-roller antagonists, the Benz S-Class and the Audi A8.
They’re all cut from the finest cloth (so to speak) and extremely exclusive.
This goes beyond their price.
Well, it’s a function of it.
No expense is spared making these liners the finest things on four wheels. They do not have interiors. They have staterooms. You feel like a president – or a Roman Emperor.
The BMW can launch its 4,500 pounds and seventeen feet of steel and glass and brushed pewter and perforated leather massaging lounge chairs to 60 in just over four seconds … which is dead-heat with a new Corvette that’s 1,200 pounds lighter and three feet less car.
The BMW does this with ferocious calm, too.
While your backseaters recline and settle in, adjusting their seat settings with the factory LCD tablet that pops out of the center console like a space-age Pop Tart.
Perhaps a spritz of your favorite scent?
No, really. The BMW has that, too.
It also parks itself. Without you even in the thing. Via the key fob.
WHAT IT IS
BMW’s flagship sedan, the biggest – and (cue Donald Trump voice) most luxurious model on the docket.
There is the 740i, which is defined by its twin turbocharged straight six engine and rear-drive layout.
It lists for $81,300.
Next, the V8 powered (445 hp) rear-wheel-drive 750i. It’ll cost you $94,400 for openers.
Adding xDrive AWD brings the entry price to $97,100.
This can sail to about $130,000 and loose change with a few options such as the $4,100 Autobahn Package, the $3,200 Executive Package (seat massagers, yeah baby, yeah) and the $3,000 M Sport Package.
What was it Ferris Bueller said… ?
Rivals are chiefly the Benz S-Class, which starts at $95,650 for the V8-powered S550 (there is no six-cylinder S-Class) and the Audi A8 – which is the only one of the three that still offers a diesel engine and comes standard with all-wheel-drive.
It starts at $81,500 for the L3 Quattro with gas V6 (supercharged).
The 2016 BMW 7 is all-new, unlike its two main rivals – which are pretty much the same this year as they were last year – and the year before.
The 7 therefore has the drop on them both – and it shows.
It has more room inside than either as well as more (and more up to date) electronics, including the already-mentioned factory-installed tablet controller for the rear seaters, Gesture Control for the iDrive system up front (adjust stereo volume with a wave of your hand), “light carpet” exterior illumination, heated arm rests, in-car fragrance spritzer (choose your scent) Road Preview suspension tuning that adjusts shock damping in anticipation of the road you’re about to drive on, remote parking capability and a key fob with its own touchscreen controller.
More technologically cutting edge than its two main rivals, which are older designs (three years old for the A8; two years old for the S Class).
Even roomier inside than its rivals.
V8-powered 750i is nearly as quick as V12-powered S-Class Benz (and just as quick as the W12-powered A8).
It corners like a 5 Series.
Annoys Bernie Sanders.
This car is the equivalent, car-wise, of an F22 jet fighter in terms of the electronics suite. F22s have crew and support. And so will you … as long as the car is under warranty.
This is a car to lease rather than buy.
UNDER THE HOOD
You can go six – or eight – but (for now) not diesel.
BMW has shelved the formerly available turbo-diesel six that was available in last year’s 7. Possibly because of the fallout from the VW TDI debacle.
It may return later in the calendar year.
For now. the 7 is available with either of two gas engines.
The 740i comes with an updated version of BMW’s signature inline six. It’s got two staged turbos to maintain boost from near idle all the way to redline. Horsepower peaks at 320 (up five from last year) and torque at 330 – the latter available from 1,380 RPM and holding throughout the powerband.
This version of the 7 is rear-wheel-drive only.
Pedal to the metal, it can get to 60 in about 5.7 seconds, a half step or so behind the Audi A8 3.0T (supercharged 3.0 V6, 333 hp) and about a furlong behind the Benz S550, which (unlike either the BMW or the Audi) comes standard with V8 power (4.7 liters, turbocharged, 449 hp and 0-60 in about 4.8 seconds).
However, it’s not really a fair stack up – vs. the Mercedes, at least – because the V8 S550 costs $95,650 to start vs. $81,300 for the 740i, a difference of more than $14k. Even at this rarified level, that’s not small change. The Audi, on the other hand, makes a pretty strong case for itself given its base price of $81,500 is virtually the same as the 740i’s – and the Audi comes standard with all wheel drive. It’s the only executive-class sedan that does.
AWD continues to be optional in the BMW and the Benz.
The 740i’s six is sweet but for serious hustle you’ll want the 750i’s 4.4 liter V8, twin-turbocharged and making 445 hp and 480 ft.-lbs. of torque at just 1,800 RPM. This is less of both than the Mercedes S550’s also-turbocharged 4.7 liter V8 (which makes a Kenworth-like 516 ft.-lbs. of torque at the same 1,800 RPM) but because the BMW is lighter – 4,500 for the 750i (rear drive) vs. 4,630 lbs. for the S550 – it is quicker: Zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds.
The weight difference between the two is, however, only 130 pounds – so another factor must also be in play. Possibly, the more advantageous gearing of the BMW’s standard eight-speed automatic vs. the the Benz’s seven-speed automatic.
The Audi A8 also comes with an eight-speed automatic (both gas engines and the still-available 3 liter turbodiesel engine) and the V8-powered A8 4.0T (435 hp, 444 ft.-lbs. of torque) matches the BMW’s 0-60 run and (not that it matters, at this price point), gets about the same gas mileage (18 city/29 highway) with the also-standard AWD system as the rear-drive 750i (21 city, 29 highway).
The AWD-equipped 750i xDrive’s mileage is 16 city, 25 highway. That’s thirsty, but – like the others – the BMW has a large gas tank (20.6 gallons) and even at 16 MPG, it takes a while to drain it. On the highway, you can travel almost 600 miles – about the same as a Prius but much more enjoyable.
Worth a mention here, if you’re looking at these three cars, is that the V8-powered 750i is quicker than the W12-powered (and $137,900 to start) A8 W12 and just as speedy as the V12-powered (and $169,050 to start) Benz S600.
What do you get when cost is – almost – no object?
When the usual compromises can be chucked?
You get a car like this.
A car that’s 1,200 pounds heavier than a new Corvette but which will keep up with it in a drag race and in the curves. With more room – and amenities – in its back seats than the Corvette has up front.
Sure, they are 2016s, just like the BMW. But both of them date back a couple (or more years) and the current iterations are – some trim and tweaks notwithstanding – the same cars this year as they were last year.
This matters, because at this level, change comes as fast as the latest version of the iPhone and what was the most and the ultimate just a few months ago even, doesn’t remain that way for long.
The straight-line pull of the V8 Seven, for instance. It’s now clearly the pick of the litter. Whether it’s the new car’s lower curb weight (160 pounds less vs. last year) or because of some other thing, this thing flies.
Not that the S550 or the A8 4.0T are slow. They’re not. But the BMW beats them both and when you’re paying close to six figures, being first matters.
Turbos on top of V8 power. It’s like having sex after you’ve already had sex.
You’ll feel as good afterward, too.
Turn on the 20-way MultiContour seat massagers – there are several options. Back, shoulder, whole body.
My test 750i had the Autobahn package, which includes predictive auto-adjusting shocks. Sensors scan the road ahead and anticipate potholes and such, preparing the car to deal with them – so that you never feel them.
Push the little steering wheel icon on the steering wheel – and the car semi-steers itself. With a wave of the hand (really) adjust various infotainment settings. Swirl your finger to the right to play Tannhauser (or perhaps Beethoven’s 4th, choral) at top volume; wave your hand dismissively to reject an incoming phone call. The onboard closed-circuit camera can also be manipulated by gesture.
The 12.3 inch LCD main gauge cluster also changes – though you have to actually touch a button on the center console. Depress Sport or Sport Plus and a red-backlit digital tachometer and speedometer appear; select Comfort and the display reverts to a chronograph look, white backlit. There is also an Eco Pro setting – which dials up a cobalt blue display that shows Power and Charge. Yes – the car is actually a kind of mild hybrid in that there is a regenerative braking function that converts the latent energy of momentum into actual energy (electricity) via the brakes. This takes some of the parasitic load off the alternator and pumps up the mileage just slightly.
If you can resist driving this car the way it was meant to be driven.
This Seven was born to run and at 80 – the highest legal speed in the U.S. – it is barely even walking fast. Such a shame. Such a waste. Given all the electronic tech they are putting into cars like this, how come no manufacturer has though to put in countermeasures? Built-in (and state-of-the-art) radar and laser detectors?
It’s not politically correct. But then, neither is Trump. And look who’s running away with the votes.
Well, you can at least have fun in the corners, too.
The Seven is notably excellent here relative to its rivals. They are all serene at feloniously illegal speeds. A buck fifty feels like 80 …and 80 feels like 45.
The BMW stands out vs. the S and the A8 when the movement desired is lateral. You have to drive a Seven to appreciate the way it manages to corner as flat as the deck of an aircraft carrier at pierside while also managing to be ultra-smooth at all times. The Benz and the Audi are wonderful cruisers but you sense their weight – and their length – when you attempt to play Transporter in them.
It can be done, but it’s done better in the BMW.
AT THE CURB
This ups the ante size-wise and (naturally) price-wise. It’s a $6k bump up in base price, last year vs. this year. But, this helps keep the riff raff away.
It also makes the new Seven look – and feel – more like an executive-class sedan.
The extra-long rear doors (and the six inches of additional length, overall) give the Seven and its rivals gravitas. Make it obvious this is something special, even to non-car people. If you want to get a sense of what it must be like to be like Trump, ride in the Seven’s back seats.
After all, executives often ride in the back seat – and there’s now almost half a foot more legroom back there now (44.4 inches vs. 38.9 for the ’15 regular wheelbase 740i). This, incidentally, is also more legroom than in the Benz S (43.1 inches) and the Audi A8 (42.9 inches).
Headroom, too: 38.9 inches for the Seven vs. 38.5 for the A8 and 37.4 for the Mercedes.
Naturlich, the Seven’s backseats recline and massage and so do the Benz’s and the Audi’s… but there is a factory-installed LCD tablet in the Seven’s center console to control various amenities wirelessly. Like the Gesture Control up front, this is a feature unique to the Seven.
The secondary LCD screen for the infotainment, GPS and apps is larger (10.2 inches) and more tablet-like, too. Using it is – surprisingly – quite easy.
It takes awhile to get used to all the things this car can do – all the configurable/programmable/adjustable possibilities. Then remembering where the menus and sub-menus are. But once you do imprint all that, the car is both easy to deal with and impressive, a true tour-de-force of what’s possible.
Which brings up the one real worry I have about this car.
Consider a juggler. He has two bowling pins. Probably, he can juggle flawlessly for a long time.
How long before he miscalculates? Drops one?
Complexity and the likelihood of something going awry track together like too much sugar and dia-bee-tus.
I was driving the Seven – a brand-new press car – when a warning flashed on the center-stack LCD: Driver Assistance Inoperative. Lane Keep Assist, Bind Spot Assist and two other assists I can’t remember the names of had gone cataleptic. The car was still fully operational – but some of of the e-gadgets had gone on hiatus. This means a trip to the BMW dealer for a reboot or whatever they do to get the apps online again.
The in-car fragrance spritzer also developed a hiccup. It could not be turned off. Ok, if you don’t mind the scent. But if you do… ?
Of course, the Mercedes and the Audi are vulnerable on this account, too. It’s the nature of the animal. You put this much technology into a car – all of it controlled by computers and sensors that are subjected to vibration and extremes of heat and cold, dust, moisture, etc. … things are going to stop working or not work right.
The more complicated the car, the sooner that is likely to happen. How much do you suppose the key fob costs to replace if you run it through the washer?
Do not buy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The e-glitches aside, this car is a long-legged Mack Daddy.
You’ll feel like one, too, driving it.
Spending a week in a car like this makes me almost regret not having gone to law school like my mother wanted.
It might have been worth it.
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