Finding that middle ground
For as long as we can remember, the BMW 7 Series has never been wanting for power or quickness despite its large size. When we tested the latest 750i xDrive, it ran from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. That’s 0.4 second quicker than its Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic rival despite sporting a slight 10-horsepower disadvantage. For 2017, BMW has returned with a 601-hp V-12 model, which will no doubt lure in those who crave the highest iteration of Roundel performance and prestige, but that isn’t likely to change the 7’s overall reputation as a comfortable cruiser and technological titan.
As you might already know, the M760i is not a proper M model, but it’s the next best thing. BMW doesn’t seem eager to introduce an M7 anytime soon, deeming the milder M Performance treatment more appropriate for this range-topping saloon. The model benefits from the 6.6-liter V-12, M760i-specific gearshift programming for the eight-speed automatic transmission, and special tuning for the steering and chassis control systems. Also look for M Sport brakes, M Sport exhaust with adjustable flaps, larger air intakes in the front apron, and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires wrapped around 20-inch M light-alloy wheels.
The final product is a solid and confident vehicle. It’s hard to imagine, but this full-size sedan puts sexier cars such as the i8 and M3 to shame. Despite weighing a manufacturer-claimed 5,150 pounds (2,336 kg), the M760i pounces to 60 mph in a BMW-estimated 3.6 seconds. The automaker says it’s the quickest 7 Series BMW ever.
Now the question is: Does it feel as heavy and powerful as it is? We recently had the opportunity to take the M760i around a racetrack at the BMW Performance Center in Thermal, California. Even with traction control turned off, the sedan has plenty of grip, latching onto every bend and curve like a good pair of spandex workout pants. As long as you’re going relatively quickly, you forget you’re driving a 2.5-ton sedan.
The M760i proved capable in this exercise, but let’s face it. Who drives a full-size luxury sedan on the track? Buyers are much more likely to gravitate to the model, in large part, for its luxury, innovative technology, and cylinder count, which are exactly what the M760i offers.
Although it’s less sumptuous and flashy than the Mercedes-AMG S65’s cabin, the BMW’s interior has its own understated elegance and just as many goo-gah features. Subtle M badging can be seen on the pedals, footrest, and steering wheel, and a V12 logo appears on the center console. Bathed in Nappa leather, the seats are soft to the fingertip but firm for the body. Not to mention the BMW might just have the nicest headliner I’ve ever seen. I suppose it might not be able to compete with Rolls-Royce’s Starlight Headliner that illuminates the roof with hundreds of lights. But for $150,000 USD, you can’t beat baby-soft anthracite Alcantara.
On the display screen, drivers can change the color of the interior lights that illuminate a horizontal strip running along the doors and dashboard. Like other 7 Series models, the M760i allows you to adjust the volume, switch radio stations, and answer phone calls by gesturing with your hands in the center of the cockpit. We’ve mentioned in previous reviews that this BMW-exclusive feature might feel a bit gimmicky to some, but it generally works well. In the center console, there’s a wireless charger for mobile phones. Optional rear amenities include massaging seats, a majestic electric reclining seat and footrest, an entertainment system, and a 7.0-inch tablet for operating climate and media controls, the ambient lighting, and the sunroof.
If you must drive, perhaps for a sunset stroll by the beach—or in our case, by the Anza-Borrego desert just south of Palm Springs—you might think Comfort mode would suit the occasion. Yet despite its name, Comfort feels a bit disengaged and makes the car seem heavier due to disconnected steering feel. Activate Sport mode, and you’ll be perfectly happy no matter the driving situation. It tightens up the steering considerably, but the car remains supple and comfortable. Offering a relatively nimble experience, Eco mode serves a nice dynamic middle ground between Comfort and Sport, nut it might take just a little more pedal effort to get up to speed.
We haven’t always been in love with the handling of the new 7 Series in general, but we do appreciate the model’s other strengths. Much of the drive experience is about comfort and stability. Aided by smooth gearshifts, the ride is calm and pleasant, but some noise inevitably seeps into the cabin. Cruising along, the power of the M760i hits you like a cheeky chocolate wine. You’re coasting along and feel nothing, but before you know it, you’re gliding along at 75 mph (121 km/h) in a stupor. Of course, there’s plenty of juice when you want it. Give the throttle a quick tap, and the less than engaged driver is sure to wake up promptly.
When we first drove the current-generation G11 750i, we lamented that it failed to capture much of the same magic as the S-Class. Striving toward luxury and performance, the V-8 model didn’t seem to get either part of the equation exactly right. Although it’s loaded with technology and creature comforts, the materials aren’t quite as plush as the S-Class. And although it performed well in the 0–60-mph and quarter-mile tests, it lacked in terms of handling and athleticism. With tightened reflexes, the M760i starts to put some of the misgivings about the 7 Series’ performance to bed. But make no mistake: This is still a world-class luxury cruiser.
Used Car Lot Crystal Ball
Today, 20 models on the market (all European makes) offer a V-12 engine. Needless to say, the V-12 is a true luxury available for those who want to enter the 500-hp club, but that glory comes at a significant cost. You can get a BMW 750i xDrive, complete with a 445-hp V-8, for $98,595 US, but a V-12-powered M760i xDrive requires shelling out at least $154,795 USD.
But there’s one important silver lining. Fat depreciation comes with fat prices—unless you’re in the business of collector car speculation. Based on data from IntelliChoice, the 2017 V-12 7 Series is actually projected to hold more of its value after three years compared to the V-8. The V-12 will retain 40.5 percent of its value by January 2020 compared to just 33 percent for the V-8.*
For the rival Mercedes-Benz, the opposite is true. The V-8 is projected to hold slightly more of its value compared to the V-12. The V-8-powered S550 is projected to hold 39.5 percent of its value after three years, and the V-12-powered S600 comes in at 37 percent.**
The V-12 might be essentially unobtainable to the common man on the new car lot. But give it a few years, and that acquisition cost might be more palatable. Or you could just go hunting for a secondhand V-8 7 Series.
*Estimates are based on the 2015 BMW 750Li M Sport and the 2015 BMW 760Li M Sport
**Estimates are based on the 2015 Mercedes S550 and the 2015 Mercedes S600
|2017 BMW M760i xDrive|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||6.6L/601-hp/590-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,150 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||206.6 x 74.9 x 58.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.6 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||13/20/16 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||259/169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.26 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|