BMW has unveiled its new 7 Series flagship model that will go toe-to-toe with the all-conquering Mercedes S Class, but is it enough to overthrow the established master of the luxury sector?
BMW has always been known for driver’s cars. It’s a calling card that has served it well in the lower echelons and its 3 and 5 Series models have always sold well. In the luxury sector, though, the Munich firm has always suffered and Mercedes, based just two hours down the road in Stuttgart, has always been the benchmark for luxury limousines.=
The new car is sleeker in design and in objective terms is the prettier of the two cars. Mercedes has opted for fussy and somewhat brutal designs of late, while the 7 Series has a smoother and more cohesive look that wins the design war.
Most cars are getting bigger and the new BMW is no exception, in fact the long wheelbase version, which is offered as the executive choice alongside the ‘standard’ car, is a full 14cm longer than the outgoing machine. The base car is 26cm longer, which is huge, although the width and height remain unchanged.
Despite the bigger dimensions, though, the new car is 130kg lighter than the outgoing car as BMW has learned lessons from its i8 and other machines in a bid to improve fuel economy through reduced weight. Carbon reinforced plastics feature heavily in the structure, which are much lighter than the steel and aluminium items they replace.
Cars like the BMW 7 Series are more about the clever interiors, though, and BMW has given Mercedes a run for its money with a slick freestanding sat-nav/infotainment screen. It comes with a touchscreen, which is a major update for those that have struggled with BMW’s signature iDrive in the past, as well as the traditional rotary controller, and a new gesture control system that makes its debut.
This high-tech approach to interacting with the car’s infotainment system should put an end to studiously trying to hit the right button while hammering down the fast lane of the Autobahn at 150mph, which has to be a good thing in terms of safety.
Massage seats, which have a long way to go to catch up with the S-Class, which offers professional grade Shiatsu massage at the touch of a button, is now part of the package. Wireless phone charging joins forces with a climate control system so advanced it offers separate temperatures for the individual armrests, as well as the front and rear seats, and there’s a removable tablet that can control the whole car from the outside.
Owners will be able to park the car while nobody is inside, thanks to BMW’s parking assist and the tablet computer.
Is this enough to overthrow Mercedes? On first glance it looks like a tough fight for BMW and while the company will undoubtedly make sales with executives that don’t want to follow the herd, it may well remain a niche seller rather than a new world champion.