- A (relatively) lightweight big sedan
- Spacious, isolated cabin
- Responsive driving experience
- iDrive goes touchscreen (and gesture-based)
- Only an evolutionary design
- Overload of active/anticipatory systems
- Even pricier than before
The 2017 BMW 7-Series has a deceivingly conservative wrapper for its radically reengineered underpinnings and tech-centric cabin.
You can count on the BMW 7-Series to make a technological leap with each of its generations. And with the latest sixth-generation models that made their debut last year, the 7-Series is certainly no exception, as it benefits from some engineering lessons learned, inside and underneath, with the automaker's "i" electrified cars.
The 7-Series earned an 8.6 overall rating out of 10, which is an exceptional score for an exceptional car. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
On the outside, you might mistake the 2017 BMW 7-Series for a vehicle not significantly different from that of a couple model years ago; yet this one is radically different within, with a new Carbon Core platform that uses a combination of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP), ultra-tensile steels, and aluminum to cut up to 90 pounds there alone.
Lighter doors made of aluminum and lighter-weight suspension components are just a couple of the other changes; and they've managed to maintain a perfect 50/50 weight distribution.
After a decade or more of pushing boundaries with exterior designs, BMW seems committed to restoring some of its classic sport-sedan proportions. What it set in motion with the latest versions of the 3-Series and 5-Series sedans, it continues with the latest 7-Series—including more window glass, an upright, formal profile, and clean sheet metal. An especially upright version of the BMW family grille (an Active Kidney Grille that manages airflow) gives the look a somewhat more blunt nose, while otherwise the look is remarkably even-keeled—without the wedge-like upkick near the rear that's added to other sedan designs.
Inside, we'd call it a dose of retro-futurism, as the 7-Series incorporates an exaggerated horizontal look for the dash, combined with some up-close details that look to us to be borrowed from the i8 sports car—but then finished off with the formality of additional brightwork, including satin-finish tones for the climate and audio controls.
The 740i is motivated by a TwinPower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 making 320 horsepower, with the 750i packing a 4.4-liter TwinPower turbocharged V-8 that produces 445 hp. For 2017, the 7-Series offers all-wheel drive for the 740i as well (it was only available in 750i form for 2016); and the BMW M760i xDrive now gets a twin-turbo V-12, making 600 hp and 590 lb-ft and capable of getting to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. For performance enthusiasts, there's also the 2017 BMW ALPINA B7 xDrive, which includes Integral Active Steering, combining variable ratio electric steering system at the front axle with active steering on the rear axle. It can get to 60 in just 3.6 seconds and has various other performance upgrades.
At the other end of the spectrum is the new 740e xDrive iPerformance plug-in hybrid. It teams a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline inline-4 engine, with a 111-horsepower electric motor that’s integrated within an 8-speed automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion battery pack. It can drive 14 miles on electricity alone at up to 87 mph and carries EPA ratings of 27 mpg combined and 64 MPGe.
The 740e is meant mostly to be used as a hybrid as the 111-hp motor can really only handle low-speed city driving duties. Use it as a hybrid or drive it in Sport mode, though, and it can use all of its 332 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. That's good for a 5.1-second 0 to 60 mph time.
The twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 in 750i models works with the 8-speed automatic transmission to provide 445 silky smooth horses with little fuss. BMW says the 750i is capable of a 0-60 mph sprint in an incredible 4.3 seconds; that's the only model we've driven so far, but we don't anticipate the 740i feeling short on power in any way.
Underneath the 7-Series, a series of electronic chassis controls have become far more complex. An air suspension and electronically controlled dampers are standard on all models. An optional Autobahn package comes with a system called Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview, which adds anticipatory functions to the dampers, air suspension, and the included active roll bars. It also includes the Integral Active Steering (variable-ratio front and rear-wheel steering), which is engineered so it can work in combination with all-wheel drive.
The dampers, steering, throttle, and transmission are all adjustable in the standard Driving Dynamics Control system, which has Sport, Comfort and Comfort+ settings. In Sport mode, the available active roll bars help keep the car relatively flat through corners and wrestle its 4,600-pound curb weight around like a smaller, lighter car. We did notice, however, that the handling suffers without those roll bars and the Integral Active Steering, tending to push in corners instead of rotate. The Sport mode also makes the power more readily accessible, adds a little more heft and responsiveness to the steering, and provides more road feel without creating a firm ride. Overall we've found all these chassis systems, plus the weight savings of the new structure, to bring a far lighter, leaner driving experience than you'd expect from a sedan this large.
Comfort, safety, and features
BMW has pushed the corners of the 7-Series cabin outward as part of the revamped instrument-panel design; and it at least visually frees up a little more cabin space for those in front. For the U.S. market you'll only find long-wheelbase versions, with a (meaningful) extra inch of rear leg room. The back seat area, as it always has for the 7-Series, can be equipped for typical luxury-sedan accommodations or something far greater and chauffeur-worthy. New ambient lighting and a fragrance option help personalize the interior, while there’s a panoramic LED roof available. And all doors now have a soft-close feature.
Now that heated rear seats are more common, the 7-Series takes it a step farther, with heated armrests, front and rear. A Luxury Rear Seating Package adds those plus rear ventilated and comfort seats, and a removable Touch Command Tablet, with a wireless hotspot, for those in back. There’s also a massage function, and rear-seat passengers get a "Vitality Program" so that “passengers can engage in active training to revitalize the body on longer journeys,” according to BMW. Separately, there’s a Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package that gives the right rear passenger an extra 3.5 inches of leg room and a footrest. That package also includes a fold-out table, two cupholders, and a separate storage compartment.
Interface plays a big part in making the 7-Series' vast array of technology features useful and accessible. To that, there’s a new Gesture Control feature for the iDrive interface, as well as a newly available wireless charging system. The head-up display covers a larger area, and a second-generation Night Vision 2 system adds pedestrian detection, while new Adaptive Headlamps now take into account speed, steering angle and yaw.
BMW has finally caved to touchscreen technology. With iDrive 5.0, the 7-Series includes a big 12.3-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen. Bowers & Wilkins surround sound with 1,400 watts and 16 speakers should help take care of your entertainment needs, too.