Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Anger. Envy. Pride. Back in the 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great might have broadly said that these were things for people to avoid if they wanted to reach paradise. But it was Dante Alighieri who, to put it mildly, Hollywoodised it. Dante’s allegorical epic Divine Comedy fleshed out these sins in excruciatingly great detail. It essentially put the fear of God in people by describing what happens when you sin. That was in the Middle Ages; now, with the passage of time, the idea of sins has changed. So much so that the Vatican has put out a new list of the seven deadly sins: Polluting, Genetic Engineering, Being Filthy Rich, Drug Dealing, Abortion, Paedophilia and Creating Social Injustice. So does that mean it’s okay now for a believer to lust after his neighbour’s wife? Or stuff his face with McMeals? With extra cheese? Well, not exactly; I fear it’s become 14 deadly sins now.
Anyway, the new seven deadly sins was an aside, an FYI thing if you haven’t read about it already. The original batch of seven stays, in varying degrees, as I found out while evaluating the new BMW 750Li. How? Here goes...
Will you turn your head when you see one gliding on the road? Sure you will. But will you lust after it? Not for the way the car looks, but because it makes a statement that the owner of the car is extremely loaded. You lust after the 7 Series only for what it conveys, rather than how it looks. In other words, an M3 is lust-worthy, but the new 7 is not.Having said that, there is no doubt that the new 7 looks the part. The long wheelbase version which is the only one (and rightly so) sold in the country, is huge. Your eyes need to have fish-eye lenses to take in its full size; a head of state won’t look out of place commuting in it. When parked, the bulk of the BMW flagship hits you. It’s all about size and some exaggerated features. Like the angry nose and large grille for instance. Or the massive but gorgeous alloys and 19-inch rubber. And the large doors. But when it’s on the move, it seems to shrink in size at anything above 60 kph.
Despite some of its in-your-face-ness, there are some delicate touches to the car that are not so easily apparent. For example, at last year’s Paris show, where the fifth generation 7 Series made its debut, I got a chance to meet Chris Bangle at the BMW pavilion and even got him to sketch the car for me. The defining line he drew was the Rolls-Royce Phantom-like base line, running like a long, lazy ‘L’ from the front doors to the end of the rear doors. To him, that line gave it the elegance and hid the bulky profile of the car. Anyway, Bangle has left BMW now, and what Adrian von Hooydonk has done is to make the new 7 a natural evolution of the previous generation. Overall, there is not much of flame-surfacing; the car is clean and smoothened up. The rear-end treatment is also way less complicated. The new 7 is like one of those non-wrinkle European suits which are perennially in fashion. Oh, and Adrian has shut that boot too.
Lust rating: «««««¶¶¶¶¶
In the category that the 7 Series fits in, what goes inside is more important than how it looks outside. It has to pamper the owner like nothing else; it must make him feel good when he’s sitting inside. And I am happy to say that the new 7 takes the bar a notch higher than the current world champion in this segment, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. And that is reason enough to dwell on this aspect of the car a little more. The 7 Series can make you so lazy that pressing the button for the side blinds can make it seem like you are pumping iron. Like the owner, the 750Li is really, really loaded. There are a host of options you can tick, but the list of standard stuff itself is pretty stunning. The rear of the car is where the action is. Longer than the standard 7er by 5.5 inches, legroom is not an issue. The seats are like the business class seats in a premium airline, with controls for all seating angles plus temperature control, memory settings and even a massage function. Additional airconditioning vents are there for cooling you and that too, they are draught-free. You get two independent 9.2-inch monitors to watch DVDs separately. There is a neatly integrated storage space between the two rear seats as well. Oh, and needless to say, there’s an iDrive controller at the rear too, which means backseat driving gets an all new meaning altogether. Speaking of iDrive, it has become much more intuitive and easy to operate. And I dare say BMW has been ‘influenced’ by Audi’s own MMI in the way it functions and even in the way the functions are now displayed and scroll down on the screen. There’s another thing in the car which is not present in the S-Class as yet, something that will make you even more slothful, even when the chauffeur is straightening up some real tight corners at high speed. And that is what BMW calls Integral Active Steering. It is essentially four wheel steer and its primary purpose is to make the car more agile at high speeds and easy to manoeuvre/park at low speeds – but more of that later. For now, the side benefit that IAS provides is that rear passengers are much more comfortable, especially in a car this large. For the first time for a road test, I spent a disproportionately large part of the time experiencing the rear seats, which I thought is an absolute must in a car of this class. With IAS, I noticed that when the car is cornering, you don’t get thrown about too much in the rear seat. In a car this large, without four wheel steer, you would tend to swing from side to side like a pendulum when the driver’s cornering. But here, thanks to IAS, the yaw rate does not increase proportionately. This means the cornering forces are much more subdued. Which means you can read Business Standard or browse business-standard.com on your laptop without being tossed about. One more very, very important thing which I must inform you about right away – compared to the previous generation 7er, the new one’s ride is brilliant. Being slothful at the back is not the S-Class’ prerogative any more.
Sloth rating: «««««««««¶
You’d expect a car like this to be stuffed with lot of feel-goodies. And you can never get enough of those, can you? Well, the 750Li does not disappoint, even though some of these are on the options list: a high-end stereo, soft-close doors, night vision with pedestrian recognition, head-up display, side-view and rear-view cameras, adaptive headlamps, soft interior lighting, Bluetooth connectivity voice control, an 80 GB hard disk for music, automatic activation of headlamps and wipers and even an integrated electronic owner’s manual. Then there is yada yada yada...
If you do take the wheel occasionally, you won’t be disappointed at the front either. Innumerable seat and steering adjustments are de rigueur, while the overall design of the dash is typical BMW – you can’t mistake it for any other car. The kind of quality that has gone into making the flagship Beemer is pretty clear. To me, the interior of the car passes the blindfold test. If you shut your eyes and run through all the elements of the car, the quality of the materials that have gone in can be felt with your fingertips. The door locks are well-crafted, the leather is soft and supple and the plastics are of a high order. The switchgear is perhaps commonplace, but if you are willing to pay more, you can customise the controls further. Because now, you can get high-tech ceramic covers for stuff like the iDrive controller, the gear lever and the knobs for the climatiser and stereo. BMW is especially proud of the black effect on the dials. They call it the Black Panel technology. Essentially, only the four outlines for the fuel, speedo, tacho and temperature are visible, and when you turn the key – sorry, press the start button – all the digits come alive. It’s nothing new; I have seen it in the Suzuki Grand Vitara years back. Still, if you are a glutton for pleasure, the 750Li is just right for you, you greedy pig!
Gluttony rating: ««««««««¶¶
How much power does a luxury car buyer need? Okay, that’s like asking how much money he needs. And the answer, as you already know, is: it’s never enough. So the flagship 7er – for the moment, it’s the standard bearer till the V12 760Li comes along – is what you see here. The 750Li is powered by a 4395cc 32-valve V8 that’s further massaged by twin turbos. And more importantly, it features direct petrol injection. So the net effect is that you get all of 407 horses at 5500 rpm and over 60 kgm of torque between 1750 and 4500 rpm. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic, which is incredibly quick and smart enough to figure out if you are in a mood to out-drag that illegal hyper-tuned Honda or crawl while looking at the passing gir... sorry, scenery. Turbocharging petrol engines is something that BMW has been doing in their performance sedans like the 135i/335i/535i, which also feature gasoline direct injection – and it seems to have worked pretty well. So it was but natural that the flagship Beemer also received the turbo treatment.
But turbo lag in a luxury car such as this is a strict no-no; it will be as awkward as a ballerina wearing Doc Martens. So the engineers at BMW have ensured that by using one turbocharger each for one bank of cylinders, there is no turbo lag and performance is as seamless as in a normally aspirated engine. Not just that. Did you notice that torque figure? Remember, this is a petrol engine. That band of peak torque starts at a relatively low rpm and is maintained all the way to 4500; it’s almost like an oil-burner! And unlike a diesel motor, the engine revs to kingdom come. Plus V8s are known for their grunt across the range and the ability to come up to speed in no time at all. All this, plus BMW’s double Vanos variable valve timing also contributes to that torque delivery. Now that translates to an engine that makes this big Beemer extremely driveable, be it in the city or on mountain roads, on dual carriageways or on autobahns. The direct injection, on the other hand, makes the engine that much more fuel efficient. So much so that BMW says it’s the most fuel efficient eight-cylinder engine in the world. As if you cared. Now, 400-odd bhp from a V8 in a production car is very good by any standards. So is the car quick? Very. Forget 0-60 kph, it does 100 in just 6.61 seconds. 80-120 kph in a mere 3.9 seconds. 100-140 in 4.6. We attained a top speed of 235 kph, but that is not a reflection of the car’s capability (or ours!), but our roads. Anyway, the figures are one thing, and the experience is another altogether. The 750Li is an incredibly fast machine. It crunches kilometres effortlessly and before you know it, you have already reached your destination. It is just the kind of car you’ll need if you want to travel from one city to another, provided you have autobahn-like expressways. With a V8, this car’s so capable. I can’t imagine what the V12 will be like. I want. I want.
Greed rating: ««««««««¶¶
Okay, calling the driving dynamics section of the road test as Anger is a bit tenuous. The only thing I could think of was ‘Driven in anger...’ Well, this car is not to be driven in anger; it moves so rapidly and without any fuss that anger is unwarranted. But that did not stop us. Not only did we take the 7er across all sorts of roads, we also took it to some great mountain roads. Stupid idea. This car is too large for such places. And it’s not meant to be thrashed over here either. It’s too powerful for such applications.
Still, some lessons were learnt. The steering is completely unBMW-like. But I am not saying that is a bad thing – a car like this doesn’t ask for a sporting setup, despite the blue-and-white propeller badges scattered about. It’s softer in your hands, the inputs required are less and generally, it treats you, er, like the chauffeur treats the employer. It remains precise after making allowances for the overall bulk. In other words, if you have sacked your driver one fine day, emerging from your sloth and taking the wheel won’t be difficult on you. Compared to the last-gen 7, the new one offers a level of ride quality that’s unprecedented. The last one, despite being a flagship, was nowhere close to what Mercedes achieved even in their bread-and-butter E-Class, and for that reason alone Stuttgart need not have taken the 7 too seriously. Not anymore. The new 7 has raised the bar. The magic is thanks to a superbly engineered new front and rear suspension that uses aluminium and a host of electronic trickery to ensure your rich bottom is pampered well. The rear air suspension maintains the comfort levels despite the road conditions, and with what BMW calls Dynamic Damping Control, the dampers adjust according to the road surfaces. Over and above this, you can manually decide how you want to drive through the Dynamic Driving Control, which has several settings. I tried Comfort mode and it was so comfortable that I was almost rocked like a baby into sleep (I was driving, by the way). Anyway, the Comfort function makes the 7 Series buck like an American car, so I immediately (woke up and) switched to Sports+. You would think in this setup, the suspension would become too hard, but no. It was comfortable without being harsh, yet the car was taut enough to drive fast. The reason is that with Dynamic Driving Control, in the damping system, ‘the inbound and rebound stages are adjusted infinitely and more importantly, independently of one another.’ BMW claims this system is a world first. Well, more power to them, for having attacked their traditional weakness and completely negating it. When it comes to handling also, the new 7 has moved several notches higher. By using weight-saving aluminium in various large body panels (roof, doors, bonnet...) and clever usage of ultra-high strength steel, the car is fundamentally sound when it comes to dynamics. The behaviour is neutral in most aspects and no matter what BMW says about the car catering to the enthusiast as well, it simply is too much to expect from this barge. Being a BMW means you can take on curves with grace, but it does come through as being a large sedan. Switching off the electronic nannies and powering into corners means you can easily swing its tail out and catch it before it becomes hairy, but don’t inform your chauffeur about it. You can never expect something so large to shrink in size, it’s just not fair. But by incorporating Integral Active Steering, BMW has managed to make the new 7 as agile as a monster sedan can get. At high speeds, the rear wheels also move fractionally in the same direction as the front wheels, thereby giving it more stability on the bends. And at low speeds, the rear wheels move a tiny degree in the opposite direction to make the car easy to manoeuvre and park. Quick lane changes? Easy as Sunday morning. It really works. Integral Active Steering is an option, but I strongly recommend you tick it in the options list. I just have one recommendation for BMW. When the 760Li comes along, give it four-wheel drive, and make it the 760LXi, at least as an option. The idea is that anyway the 7 Series is not about the rear wheels powering out of corners, it’s more about balance, comfort, safety and control. Four-wheel drive in the new 7, like in the 335Xi, would really tilt the scales against the V12 S 600 (the W12 A8 is Quattro anyway).
Anger rating: ««««««««¶¶
So you just bought yourself a new Mercedes-Benz S 500. Should you be turning green in various degrees? Well, a parrot green, if not British Racing Green. The thing is that the Merc is a refined, smooth automobile which guarantees a sublime experience. It’s a wonderful, elegant car, but I think it’s also slightly old-fashioned. The new 7 is younger and trendier, and presses the right buttons too, pun intended. The Star is the star, but you know, younger folks and young-at-heart folks can live with that. Like the S, it’s the same case with the A8 too, which is up for replacement next year. The new 7 is a NOW! car.
Envy rating: ««««««««¶¶
For about a crore of rupees, the new BMW 750Li is money well spent. Pride of ownership is guaranteed, but it’s the inward pride of a person who has decided to buy this one instead of the equivalent Merc or Audi. It has everything you’d expect and more. Buy one, but don’t let the wrong set of seven go to your head. You see, though the seven deadly sins are unfortunately more famous, there are seven holy virtues too, if you didn’t know. And those are Chastity, Abstinence, Temperance, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. Amen.
Pride rating: «««««««««¶