High-profit luxury cars are great business. Amazingly, sales can even increase in bad times as many are bought as chauffeur cars. That’s why BMW expects to sell 2,500 new 7-Series in a year. And we can’t see why not – the latest model is an exceptional car.
We’ve come away amazed after driving one of the first off the production line. After the shock of the 2001 model, fears fade right away when you set eyes on it. Yes, the look is still related to one of Chris Bangle’s first and most controversial BMWs, but it’s immeasurably more elegant and cohesive. The interior, too, is decadent, inspired by luxury hi-fis, not video games machines.
And that’s despite a feast of technology including world-first on-board internet. Dealers will delight in showing off Google searches in the showroom; particularly as the customer can, right away, take over themselves. That’s right. Completely overhauled iDrive is now child’s play to operate.
Behind, there’s ample room even in the standard model, never mind next year’s long-wheelbase version. That will get air suspension, in the interests of ride quality. Let us tell you, it barely needs it. Even the standard car has a magnificent, magic-carpet ability to absorb the bumps. It’s right up with arch-rival Mercedes’ S-Class.
But the Merc doesn’t handle anything like this. BMWs always steer tremendously, and the new 7 is no exception. Indeed, turn the computer-controlled suspension from ‘Comfort’ into ‘Sport’, and it’s like a 3-Series; front-led, agile, precise, super-stable, balanced and controlled. You can’t believe such a large car can be this dynamic.
It’s even more agile if you choose rear-wheel steering – but interestingly, the biggest benefit here is to rear passenger comfort. As the rear ‘turns’ through corners, rather than ‘rolls’, those in the back are jostled about less. It will be a must-tick option for chauffeurs.
Another must-have is the 3.0-litre turbodiesel. With 245bhp and nearly 542Nm of torque, this is a bit of a beast. The 60mph sprint takes 7.2secs, and it won’t give out (when in Germany, of course…) until 145mph. Yet it also returns 39.2mpg, easily the best of any luxury car. Sub-200g/km CO2 emissions are bang on for company car tax, too.
The only slight jink in the 7’s repertoire is the six-speed auto – it is jerky at times, and really needs the forthcoming eight-speed auto. The diesel also sounds ‘dieselly’ at times – not a disaster, as it’s very smooth, just not as sophisticated as the rest of it.
Prices start at £54k; you can go up to nearly £70k for the staggeringly fast 750i turbocharged V8. And, while 85 per cent will limit themselves to the diesel engine, many will choose a welter of options in the process. Think of the margins!
Despite what you may think, it could actually be a good time to launch a luxury car. Particularly when that car is, in our opinion, the best exec express money can buy.
By RICHARD AUCOCK