The uber rich, the 1%, have never had more options when it comes to flaunting their riches. From supercars and hypercars to mega-luxury and performance sedans and SUVs, there’s no shortage of ways to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on rubber, plastics, leather, and carbon fibre.
The flagship luxury barge segment is rife with big, fast, and sexy cars. Quite frankly, making heads or tails of which showroom to throw the equivalent of the value of an average American house towards a new car can be complicated. And sometimes, it really isn’t. Japanese? German? American? Lexus? Audi? Cadillac? Pick your poison.
It’s a rare treat when I get to rumble the Earth in such a car. It transforms the psyche, manipulates the senses, and just plain makes you feel that you’re better than everyone else. The sad truth is that you’re really not better. The car, however, is. The 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive is bested only by the mad M760Li xDrive (look it up) in the Bavarian brand’s lineup.
Why is this car “better?” Simple: It’s faster, smoother, roomier, more comfortable, handles better, and has more gadgets than almost any other car on the road… and possibly even Inspector Gadget himself!
Big = Beautiful
One thing that all full-size luxury cars have in common is a subtle design. You won’t find ghastly spoilers, massive chrome wheels or unnecessary scoops anywhere, not even on the 600-horsepower M760Li or the 605-horsepower Audi S8 plus. Powerful, purposeful elegance is always the name of the game. The all-new 2016 BMW 7 Series is a testament to that.
This car was completely redesigned, although you’d be hard-pressed to point out the changes. In fact, most of what you see was absent on the previous generation. What you don’t see is also all-new, starting with the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic passenger cell. Carbon fibre not only makes the car lighter, but also stronger. It’s magic, and cool at the same time.
What’s important about the 7 Series’ physical appearance is that it is unmistakably boss, the king of the heap. The headlights, the grille, the beltline, and the rear are all reminiscent of other models in BMW’s portfolio, and it’s certainly all good. I tested a long-wheelbase version, which typically ruins a car’s proportions. BMW has, however, managed to camouflage the extra 252 millimetres without affecting the big sedan’s looks. Chalk that up to handsome 20” wheels and the right amount of exterior accents.
The 2016 BMW 750Li’s cabin is where it’s at. There’s in fact far too much to say when it comes to luxury amenities, comfort, and all-out pampering of occupants.
The magic really happens in the second row where the passengers are in control of everything, save for the throttle and steering wheel. The “L” in 750Li is only for those sitting in the rear, but it’s the rear passenger-side traveller who is the real winner. My tester featured the Executive Lounge Tier 2 package designed to cajole with its heated, cooled, massaging, and fully adjustable rear perches, not to mention near ottoman seating, a massive centre console with a pull-out folding table, and screens everywhere. This is the automotive equivalent of a 787 Dreamliner’s first-class seat.
The people up front are far from neglected, mind you. Both are treated to heated, cooled, and massaging thrones. A nicety with the new car is that iDrive 5.0 is now available with a touchscreen function ― an unusual feature to call “new” in 2016, I know.
Gesture control is a new gadget that works well, kind of. The volume control gesture is the most common (some can be programmed), but more often than not, the 3D sensors would over- or under-register the desired action (there are buttons for that). The redesigned 7 Series also includes the largest head-up display in the business, and I must say it’ll be tough to get behind the wheel of the next car devoid of this technology.
A word on the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system: Spend the $5,000. Do it.
The heart of the 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive is the German automaker’s well-established twin-turbocharged 4.4L V8. For 2016, this mill was revised with the turbocharger now mounted within the 90-degree V and the compression ratio being raised. The result? Output is still rated at 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque, but there’s a twist.
It’s all about torque. Every pound of it is now on tap at just 1,800 rpm and hangs on all the way to 4,500 rpm. This, combined with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission’s brilliantly calculated gearing, makes for a rocket ship on wheels ― a 2,091-kilogram, 5.25-metre long rocket ship that’ll clip the 100km/h mark in 4.5 seconds.
The new carbon-fibre core eliminates nearly 90 kilograms (200 lbs) from the car’s potential weight compared to 2015. As well, the use of aluminum is more extensive, which further reduces mass and lowers the car’s centre of gravity at the same time. This translates into a land yacht that hugs the road like no yacht should.
The Driving Dynamics Control switch allows the 750Li driver to toggle from a variety of drive modes, changing the sedan’s personality from granddad-smooth to very sporty and sharp. At full throttle, the front end raises (in Comfort mode) while the rear end squats intently. From there, torque takes over and shoves you forward.
There’s little drama overall as the car remains silent (although the V8 is just audible enough), lush, and comfortable at all times. The brakes are immensely powerful, and the ship stays relatively flat and stable even when pushed hard around a bend. Be that as it may, it took me a few days to adapt to the car’s steering, which is devoid of feel, feedback or fun.
At just over $140,000 with options, the 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive is far from being the priciest executive sedan on the road. With enough determination, though, it is possible to spec the car to nearly $160,000. The Audi A8L would be a top consideration in my books, as would the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but there are two more players that should be on your radar.
The Cadillac CT6 is an impressive bargain by comparison without sacrificing anything ― try it out. And then there’s the Tesla Model S that outsells them all for many good reasons, one of which is the P90D model.
Like I said, the choice is yours.