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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
Eight-speed transmission is attentive and smooth enough, though...it can seem busy.
The six-cylinder car, which is about 220 pounds lighter, exhibits less turbo lag off the line and therefore smoother, more linear acceleration.
Awkward low-speed behavior that trips up the ActiveHybrid 7....lifting off at those speeds [above 25 mph] in the hybrid 7 kicks on recharging instead--and the car starts to slow noticeably, as if it had driven into mud that was dragging it down.
Only the Normal setting feels harmonious. In Comfort, the soft damping can't control wheelhop, and in Sport, there's an agile car waiting to come out, but the artificial steering suppresses your urge to find it, and the ride becomes too wooden to allow good traction.
The Alpina B7 is an amazing machine. Defying all logic, the sedan seems to shed pounds as the g-forces increase – the uncanny feedback from the driver's seat is of a sports car wrapped in a lightweight paper-mâché 7 Series disguise.
BMW offers a new, sixth powertrain for 2015–a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline six in the 740Ld–in addition to its five other engine choices. Those range from the top-performing Alpina B7 and mega-luxury 760i models, to the green(ish) Active Hybrid 7, potent 750i, and more frugal 740i cars. Rear-drive is standard across the board, but many of these models can be had with xDrive all-wheel drive, which comes standard on diesel models.
xDrive all-wheel drive is optional on most of the model line--it's offered in six-cylinder models for the first time this year--and while the system does slightly affect the steering's feel on center, it does send 20 percent of the torque to the car's front wheels for better traction.
For those who want performance without as much consumption, there's the ActiveHybrid 7, which will join the lineup later in the model year and now pairs the six-cylinder engine (not the V-8 anymore) to a system using electric motors and a special lithium-ion battery pack. In general, in BMW's other models, we've found this system lacking in smoothness, while not all that much quicker or more efficient than the normal six-cylinder versions.
All versions get an air suspension, plus Driving Dynamics Control, a system that governs shock firmness, steering heft, transmission shifts, and throttle response--but allows drivers to twiddle with the settings to fit their habits. BMW also offers optional active rear steering, which turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts in some situations to enhance turn-in--and does noticeably speed up the steering response. Across all of these systems the 7-Series would comport itself better than any of the large German luxury liners--if only the steering feel weren't so artificial.
Electronics are indeed both friend and foe in the 7-Series. Without its battery of electronics, this big sedan might feel like a land yacht, but altogether they dramatically broaden the 7's driving feel. Even in Normal mode, the 7er is unbelievably nimble for a car so lengthy and heavy. Although we haven't yet driven the significantly changed V-8 models, our drives of the current-generation 7-Series have always left us awestruck over how planted and stable it feels--whether at Autobahn-style limits or on winding parkways.
While those who appreciate the 7-Series' sport-sedan pedigree will be able to parse out (and appreciate) the finer differences between these models, across the board you'll surely find that the 7-Series models accelerate swiftly, with amazing grip and more poise from a vehicle this size. These are for the most part surprisingly satisfying sedans for the driver, although comfort, luxury, and tech are at the top--and that also shows more for some models than others.
New this year is the BMW 740Ld xDrive, which comes with standard all-wheel drive and a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. That engine produces 255 horsepower and 413-lb/ft of torque, good for a 0-60 sprint in 6.1 seconds. This is one of the most efficient ways to pick up a 7-Series, with an EPA rating of 23-mpg city, 31-mpg highway, and combined fuel economy of 26-mpg.
The 2015 BMW 740i and 740Li are the base models in the lineup; they come with a version of BMW's twin-turbo in-line six, making 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. In this form, the 7-Series is probably as quick as you'll need or expect in a luxury cars--about six seconds to 60 mph--and the smooth, linear character of the powertrain makes it just as enjoyable churning out the torque quietly at low revs or rocketing along on back roads with the revs racing. These models are more than 200 pounds lighter than V-8 versions, so you might find handling more nimble and enjoyable as well.
750i and 750iL models step up to V-8 engines that were all-new last year. The twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 now makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, and these models can charge to 60 mph in an automaker-cited 4.7 seconds.
The 760Li might sound like one of the performance leaders of the group--and it is, with 537 hp from its twin-turbo V-12--but you might enjoy the other models over this one if tight, curvy roads are your norm (you do feel the extra weight of the V-12). It weighs a portly 4,800 pounds but can dash to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds to 60 mph.
The true athlete of the 7-Series lineup is the performance-focused Alpina B7, which has a special version of the V-8 underhood that makes 540 horsepower and 538 pound-feet. In addition to that, you get a suspension that's firmer than any of the other models can manage in Sport mode, as well as bigger brakes, and other enhancements. The 0-60 mph time is just 4.5 seconds here.
Throughout the lineup, you can also get an M Sport package that provides a body kit; 19- or 20-inch wheels; and Active Roll Stabilization, as well as a sport steering wheel.
The 2015 7-Series can fill a lot of different performance roles, from assertive, responsive luxury car to a downright scorching sport sedan.