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2016 BMW 7 Series: First Drive Review

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author photo by Colin Ryan September 2015

Perhaps the 2016 BMW 7 Series should be called the 14 Series, because it feels like two cars in one or even twice the car it needs to be. Normally, the BMW 7 Series competes with large upper-class sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Audi A8 and the Lexus LS. The big winner is usually the S-Class, but when the recipe calls for luxurious appointments, including sumptuous leather upholstery and fine wood trim, BMW never forgets the wishes of the person behind the wheel.

The Luxury Side

Every new 7 Series on sale in the U.S. is a long-wheelbase version, though there won't be an L in the badge, as in previous models. There's still plenty of legroom, especially if the Executive Lounge package is optioned, which allows the occupant behind the front passenger to send their seat forward for maximum space and use the supplied footrest.

The rear seats can also recline and massage, while a metal table folds out from the center console, a detachable tablet allows control over many of the car's functions, and the sunroof can be ordered with an integrated LED design. With powered sunshades, ambient lighting and fragrant air, even the most pampered person (regardless of height) should be content and cosseted in the new 7. The air suspension set in Comfort Plus mode insulates occupants from rough road surfaces and provides a ride fit for royalty.

The Sporty Side

Click the iDrive system (which keeps getting easier to use with every new BMW) over to Sport mode, and the suspension, steering and engine responses sharpen. Although this is a large luxury sedan, it suddenly takes on a new, nimble character. An optional Autobahn package includes rear-wheel steering, which definitely contributes to the agility. Remarkably, the car can tackle quick corners and never gives the impression that it's working hard. That's the BMW driving talent shining through.

The Lighter Side

This is where the quiet revolution is happening. The new 7 Series is around 190 pounds lighter than the outgoing generation due to the frame. BMW is using a mix of high-strength steel, die-cast aluminum and carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). Note the car's relatively thin A-pillars; inside are cylinders of CFRP running all the way from the hood down to the trunk. An aluminum hood, trunk lid and door panels go on top of the frame. This method of construction will be applied to other BMW models in the future.

The Tech Side

Because this is BMW's flagship sedan, top-notch technology is an absolute must-have. The company claims its full-color head-up display (standard in the 750i) is the largest available.

Gesture control is a cool addition. To answer a phone call, point to a certain spot. To decline the call, make a swiping action. To turn up the Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound audio system, spin a finger clockwise; counterclockwise turns it down. There's also the ability to customize a gesture for a personal command, such as telling the navigation to calculate the route home.

Among the sonar and radar setups, the new 7 has a camera that can recognize road signs, supply night vision and, in the Autobahn package, read the road surface, which prompts the computer-controlled suspension to react accordingly. Another way of interacting takes place with the navigation system and transmission. Through GPS, the car knows what's ahead, such as a hill or a set of curves, and will automatically select the right gear. Naturally, there's LED lighting inside and out, wireless phone charging and a smart key that performs functions beyond simple locking and unlocking. There's so much stuff that BMW will even arrange a second delivery where a technician can repeat and go into greater detail on all the various capabilities.

The Business Side

As the roomiest sedan the company has ever built, the 2016 BMW 7 Series goes on sale in October 2015, starting at $82,250 (including $950 destination). The entry-level model is the rear-drive 740i, packing a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine delivering 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Fuel consumption is estimated at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.

There's also the all-wheel-drive 750i xDrive propelled by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, kicking out 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Preliminary Environmental Protection Agency figures for this setup are 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy and 19 mpg combined. Both versions use an 8-speed automatic transmission, while active shutters behind the double-kidney grille contribute to aerodynamic efficiency. A 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid is coming in 2016.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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Certified 2016 BMW 7 Series
Certified 2016 BMW 7 Series
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Used 2016 BMW 7 Series w/ Executive Package
Used 2016 BMW 7 Series
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 BMW 7 Series: First Drive Review - Autotrader