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Those over-sized kidneys makes the new 7 Series hard to miss, and a topic of heated debate, but the updates to the flagship BMW go deeper than the skin
Can we start by talking about the nose? I cannot fathom why BMW would want to make the iconic kidney grille so brutishly in-your-face. Whether it is them appealing to the tastes of the Chinese, or it is some guy in the BMW marketing office that convinced everyone that bigger grilles will translate to a stronger brand identity, I’m not sure. Either way, the combination of the stretched grilles (40 per cent larger than before, mind you) and the slim headlamps make quite an impact. Just… not a very pleasant one, to me at least. It’s not just the grille and headlamps that have seen an update though, the whole front end has been redefined to give the 7 more presence. The nose is now 50mm taller than before, and the bumper and bonnet have been given a refresh. The BMW badge has been made bigger too (95mm dia instead of 82, for the car nerds amongst us). The headlamps themselves look sharp, and the blue accents hint at them being BMW’s optional Laserlights — with a high-beam range of 560 metres.
In profile, the 7 Series cuts pretty much the same shape, the only major change being the air vents behind the front wheels and the elements around them no longer look like ice-hockey sticks and are more upright. The other big change visually is the rear. The tailpipes are slimmer and the full-width light bar below the traditional chrome strip is new. The exhaust pipes are wider and all of this contributes to the 7 having a more squat stance.
As for the interiors, there are a few updates though they are not as glaringly obvious as the outside. As expected of a limousine like the 7 Series, the interior is draped in leather and there are wood inlays in the dash. The steering wheel gets a few changes with the controls being rearranged, while it now gets a wireless charging tray for your phone in the front. The full-digital instrument cluster is now aligned with the rest of the brand’s new cars, and the infotainment screen gets the seventh-generation operating system of the iDrive — something that the rear entertainment screen and the tablet control in the rear armrest get too, allowing for more personalised configurations. Just like in the 3 Series, the 7 Series now gets a virtual assistant too.
Apart from these updates, the interiors carry over all the luxe elements from the pre-facelift model. Our car, with the Executive lounge package, gets a reclining rear seat and an electronically controlled footrest. There’s a Bowers and Wilkins stereo with 16 speakers and a panoramic sunroof, which now lights up in conjunction with the ambient lighting. Other features, like gesture control, and the ambient air package with its perfumes to make the cabin smell the way you want, remain. There’s very little to complain about with the interiors, but if I had to nitpick, it is that you sit fairly high up even in the lowest seat setting — and that’s especially evident in the rear.
The 7 Series is sold with four powertrain options in India — a 3-litre petrol, a 3-litre diesel, a plug-in hybrid (with the petrol), and a bonkers 6.6-litre V12. What we are testing is the diesel, the one that will probably be the most popular. The engine is familiar — used across a fair number of cars in BMW’s model range. An in-line six-cylinder with 2993cc, a single twin-scroll turbocharger mated to an eight-speed gearbox. Outputs stand at 261bhp and 620Nm, with peak torque kicking in as low as 2000rpm. The way the motor delivers its power is creamy smooth — the 7 Series is a large car, but the outputs from the engine are adequate and it doesn’t feel sluggish. It accelerates to a ton in a claimed 6.2 seconds, rather quick for a luxo-barge, and tops out at 250kmph. BMW knows how to make a diesel engine, and it is supremely refined, with barely any diesel noise and clatter entering the cabin. In fact, the whole cabin is rather well-insulated from the outside, and barely any road or ambient noise gets in. That’s because the 7’s air curtains and breathers for the front wheel prevent turbulence, as does the underbody which is almost entirely covered. The glass thickness has been increased, as has the insulation in the rear wheel arches — both to keep the cabin a more comfortable space. As for the gearbox, it isn’t a dual-clutch unit but the shifts are quick and with the sort of driving the 7 will usually be doing, you will never really ask for a quicker shift. The gearbox itself gets a few updates that now make it more efficient, as well as quieter.
The 7 Series gets air suspension on all four corners and the ride quality is great — it is set up for comfort and does a good job of absorbing bumps and undulations on the road. There’s a degree of firmness to it, where it allows you to feel a certain amount of the road’s surface through the seat of your pants, never ironing it out completely. It’s not uncomfortable, mind you, but it isn’t the floating-on-cloud-like ride quality from the S-Class. It can also raise itself up by 20mm to tackle bad patches. Dial up the driver modes to the sportier settings and the suspension firms up, while the steering gets a little heavier. The 7 Series does sporty driving fairly well if you really push it to do so, however you’re better off just enjoying the luxury that it provides.
The new 7 Series then gets a fair few visual updates on the inside, a little more luxury and a more composed, quiet driving experience. At Rs 1.31 crore, it is priced on par with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class but when you look at it within the BMW family, it gets harder to justify. The X7, which provides you the luxury of the 7 Series with the added benefit of higher ride height to clear our moonscape and some off-road ability is significantly more affordable at under a crore rupees. The only reason you would want the 7 is the X7’s kidneys are a bit too much for you. But then again, with that massive grille, the new 7 Series is trying its hardest on that front in any case. I guess none of that matters when you are in the back seat, though.