TEST DRIVE: 2019 BMW 750Li xDrive – A Promising Reboot Of The Luxury Limousine
When it arrived in late 2015, the BMW 7 Series was labeled by the Bavarians as one of their most technologically advanced cars ever built and one that aimed to take on the successful S-Class from Mercedes-Benz. And while the 7er featured some innovative tech and materials, its design lacked the beauty of a BMW flagship and it often blended with the lesser BMW models. It was not unusual to mistake the 7 Series for a 5 Series sedan, and that was likely one of the major obstacles in the 7 Series’ success.
Fast forward a few years later and BMW was faced with a tough decision – How do you ensure that the flagship is still in the game before the next generation comes out? The replacement 7 Series is still about three years out, so BMW had to get going on a massive mid lifecycle design refresh.
The result was seen back in January when the world was taken by surprise with the unveil of the 7 Series Facelift, a car coined by BMW Marketing as “The New 7” to emphasize the extensive visual changes. It’s fair to say that 7 Series topic has been the hottest one in the car community and still continues to be to date.
But what’s interesting though is that the public’s perception is slowly changing. Initially, the needle had not moved in the favor of the 7 Series Facelift, but additional photos and videos had people warm up to the polarizing design.
So what’s so polarizing about the 7 Series? Clearly, the very large kidney grille, one that’s bigger than the one found in the new X7. BMW designers say the massive kidney grille is 40 percent larger than before, while being paired with slimmer headlights, for that additional visual oomph. It also sits 50 mm taller to emphasize the boldness on the road.
On the side, the air breathers are now sitting upright versus the Hockey Stick on the outgoing model, while the front fascia – especially in the M Sport Package – houses larger air intakes. Out back, the refreshed 7 gets new taillights – 35 mm slimmer – that look similar to those found on the new 8 Series, which are now connected via a light bar. The LED, three-dimensional rear lights of the new BMW 7 Series are 1.4 inches slimmer than on the outgoing car. The integration of the light bar is actually quite seamless and looks really slick. The integrated exhaust tailpipes have broader chrome surrounds, while the three-dimensional rear lights of the new BMW 7 Series are around 35 millimeters slimmer than on the outgoing car.
So what’s another reason behind those bold changes? With the Chinese market taking over the 7 Series’ sales (41 percent), there was a need to cater to the opulence required by the Asian customers. Simply, BMW has used some of the Rolls-Royce lessons and applied them onto the 7 Series in an attempt to give the 7 Series more presence and luxury.
Inside, not many changes when it comes to the physical design, most of the additions are related to the technology, like the new Operating System 7.0 and extra Gesture Controls, and upgraded leather and trim options. The digital personal assistant launched in previous BMWs is now available for the refreshed 7 Series, so in its default mode you can say “Hey, BMW” and issue a variety of voice-driven commands.
What’s interesting about the new 2019 7 Series is that it actually has a different presence in person. It’s a cliche, but in this case, the car stands out when seen from upclose and it kinda makes sense. Will everyone love it? Likely not, but it has the power to win people over.
Whether it’s attractive or not is up to personal preference, but I came to embrace its design and it certainly turned heads during my extensive drive in Portugal.
The Driving Experience
My review of the BMW 745Le PHEV went live just before this one, but this test drive focuses on another popular model – the V8 7 Series, 750Li in most parts of the world and just 750i in the United States. Just like the PHEV models, BMW of North America only offers the 7 Series in the long wheelbase configuration and with the xDrive system.
Compared to the outgoing 750i, the facelifted BMW 750i xDrive gets the same new 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 as the M850i, so it makes a very healthy 523 hp and 553 lb-ft which is available between 1,800-4,600 rpm. The new engine has exactly 78 horsepower and 78 pound-feet more than the previous V8.
The 750Li xDrive is capable of 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, which is extremely quick for a large limousine.
At around 4,800 lbs, the 750Li shows its weight in some situations, like during a spirited drive on the curvy roads around Algarve, Portugal. It’s clearly not a car meant to be thrown in corners as you would do with an M5, for example, but in the right driving mode, it can do wonders to hide its size and weight.
As with most new BMWs, the fun happens in Sport mode where you’re not only getting a quicker power response from the 4.4 liter V8, but also a tighter configuration across all car’s essential systems. The ZF eight-speed gets sharper and more precise, and the confidence behind the wheel quickly builds up.
All variants of the new BMW 7 Series feature standard adaptive suspension including electronically controlled dampers and two-axle air suspension with automatic self-leveling. The suspension’s air supply is controlled individually for each wheel, making it possible to balance out an unevenly loaded car. Even on uneven surfaces and in the most aggressive driving mode – Sport – the 750Li is smooth over bumps and isolates the driver and passengers from an uncomfortable road feedback.
Furthermore, the air suspension can be raised by 20 mm with a touch of a button, should you find yourself in a situation when extra ground clearance is needed.
In Comfort mode, the air suspension is significantly smoother, calmer, making for a pleasant drive during long trips.
When speaking about the steering feedback, BMW engineers said that the Electric Power Steering system has also been refined in the facelifted 7er to improve both agility and handling precision.
It’s also fair to say in its base configuration, the 7 Series has been known for a lighter steering and some body roll, hence why for the best driving performance out of your 7er, the optional four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars are kinda needed.
The weight transfer is also obvious under braking, especially in some of the fun corners on our router, but it’s something you’d expect from a car in this segment.
What I found refreshing is that the 7 Series is exactly what it should be – a good balance between comfort and good handling. Regardless of the driving mode you’re in, the new 7er won’t let you forget that you’re still driving a BMW, so that sportiness embedded in the BMW DNA is still somewhat there. Customers looking for the most comfort possible also have plenty of options to customize their car, so for example, you can individually customize the damping settings independently from the steering or engine response.
The integral active steering that turns the rear wheels in either the same direction or the opposite direction to the front ones, depending on the vehicle speed, is still useful during spirited drives where handling and road feedback is quite important.
BMW’s latest 7 Series upgrade also comes with the latest generation driving assistant features – like lane departure system, active lane-keeping assistant with side collision avoidance and automatic lane change, collision and pedestrian warning, auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and autonomous parking. I had the chance to test all of these on the highway and I soon realized how important they are in today’s world of luxury cars. Customers are looking for the latest and greatest tech, not only for bragging rights, but also for added safety on the road.
A novelty for the BMW 7 Series Facelift is the Parking Assistant Plus with the Back-Up Assistant which some of you might be already familiar from the new 3 Series. The automated reversing is useful in confined spaces or situations where the driver does not have a clear view, such as multi-story car parks, entrances to courtyards or narrow driveways. The 7er Facelift stores the steering movements made during the vehicle’s last forward maneuver when traveling at speeds up to 22 mph. The system is then able to steer the vehicle for distances of up to 50 yards along exactly the same line it took when moving forward. All the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals and monitor the vehicle’s surroundings.
Another improvement in the drive quality doesn’t have to do with any electronics, but rather with the quiet ambiance inside the car. Thanks to thicker glass – 51 mm more – and further sound insulation materials, the cabin is properly insulated from outside noise and makes conversations and phone calls a pleasure to hold.
There is no doubt that the 7 Series has been playing catch up with the S-Class, but with the facelifted model, BMW is certainly taking a step in the right direction. The design is bold and quite unique, I might add, more luxurious inside, packed with all the tech goodies from Munich while still using some award-winning powerplants.
It certainly has the right ingredients to be successful in a tough segment and this is likely the best BMW can do for the 7 Series – for now. The next generation is shaping up to be more revolutionary when it comes to aesthetics, but we’re still at least a couple of years out.
And if you’re not a fan of large, luxurious SUVs, the refreshed 7 Series should be on your list.
It’s time to talk about how much the new 7er will cost once it goes on sale, and that magic figure is $87,445, including the $995 destination and handling tax. That’s only the starting price though and, as we all know, the price you actually end up paying can be a lot higher, depending on which options you get. The $87,445 price tag is for the 740i model, which is the cheapest you can get in the US.
The new BMW 750Li (750i in the US) starts at $103,645 and allows you to purchase options that aren’t available on lower trim versions, such as the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package.
The new plug-in hybrid model, the 745e version, comes with a starting price tag of $96,545. Last but not least we have the M760i model, with a starting price tag of $158,695. You also have to pay a $1,700 gas guzzler tax in this case.
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