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First Drive

First Drive: BMW 7 Series

BMW 730d M Sport
The story: A mid-life revision for the big BMW saloon flagship brings a much bolder grille to bring it in line with the new X7 at the top of the BMW line-up
Key rival:Mercedes S-Class
On sale:Now

BMW wants its 7-Series to take a larger share of the luxury saloon market, and reckons the way to do it is with the car’s mid-life revision.

And it’s a bold one, with that new grille certainly grabbing the eye. The nose is a full 50mm taller than the previous car’s, most of which is taken up by a kidney grille that is 40% larger; it’s a look that doesn’t sit completely at ease with what is a pretty conservative sector, although it may work better in markets that have more ostentatious tastes. It also links the car with BMW’s new SUV range-topper, the X7, which has an equally brazen face, while the new 8-Series Coupe and Convertible complete the top-end line-up.

Away from the front of the car, the styling changes are a little more subtle, constituting an extra 22mm of length thanks to the larger bumpers, and slimmer tail lights with an LED bar stretching across the boot lid. The front bumper and bonnet have also both been re-profiled for a mixture of aesthetic and aerodynamic reasons.

First Drive-June 2019-BMW 7-Series-Image 3The cabin is mildly uprated, with a repositioned wireless phone charging plate and new material for the rotary controller surround, while the control system is now the latest iDrive 7.0, as featured on the brand’s newest vehicles. It’s still more intuitive that most, but as the sheer quantity of connected functions increases, it becomes ever-harder to keep up with where to find and operate everything.

Nevertheless, the set-up comprises a 10.3-inch central screen and 12.3-inch dashboard display, both of which can be configured to personal taste in terms of what is displayed. Unfortunately, as is BMW’s current attitude, the Apple CarPlay system is free only for the first year, after which costs £85 a year, £255 for three years or £285 for unlimited use.

The 7-Series still comes in regular or long-wheelbase forms, the latter offering an extra 140mm of legroom for important rear passengers able to stump up the additional £4000 or so. The car launches with a total of eight engine and drive combinations, kicking off with the 730d, which will remain the most popular model in the line-up, while the 740i is a new addition to the range, offering 340hp for just over 160g/km, which is a potent combination. But the diesel gets as low as 138g/km in regular trim, rising to 142 for the M Sport.

As is expected of BMW these days, the 730d engine is an absolute peach, propelling what is getting on for two tonnes of car with ease.

The 7-Series is also a big saloon that manages to feel smaller than its dimensions, controlling its bulk with more poise than might be expected.

Paul Barker

The verdict

It’s a tough act to depose the phenomenal Mercedes S-Class, and the BMW’s upgrade lacks a certain elegance with the huge new grille, but behind it is a supremely capable and high-tech car.