When Technology Takes Over
The last time you went to an auto show, you might have seen a concept car with some wild features and thought to yourself, “Nah, that’s never going to happen.” Well, the new BMW 7 Series might just be the car that proves us wrong. The flagship sedan doesn’t look dramatically different, but its new lightweight body, gesture control technology, and plug-in hybrid option represent significant changes from the previous model.
The all-new BMW 7 Series will be offered in the U.S. exclusively as a long-wheelbase version, and it gains more than 1 inch in length over its predecessor. But the biggest visual changes are up front, where the sedan’s “eyes” are now connected to the kidney grille. That iconic design feature is now called an active kidney grille because its flaps open automatically to help cool the engine when needed. The model also features a lower center of gravity and has a front and rear self-leveling air suspension.
The 7 Series loses 190 pounds as a result of the use of lightweight materials under the sheetmetal. BMW says the model is the first car to use mass-produced carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in combination with steel and aluminum, and for the first time, the doors and trunklid are made of aluminum.
The base 740i model now produces 320 hp from its 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and promises improved efficiency and responsiveness from its predecessor. The 750i xDrive model features a 4.4-liter V-8 with 445 hp and greater efficiency. These models are both paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which is linked with the car’s navigation so the car automatically adjusts its shifting mannerisms to accommodate the driving situation and route profile.
Starting in 2016, BMW will offer the 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid that was developed with technology BMW gleaned from its i3 and i8 electric cars. A 2.0-liter gas engine pairs with an electric drive unit integrated into the eight-speed transmission. Its lithium-ion battery can be recharged from a standard domestic outlet, a public station, or even a BMW i Wallbox. Drivers can activate two driving modes by pressing a button on the center console. In MAX eDrive mode, the car runs purely on electric power at speeds up to 75 mph for a top range of 23 miles. In AUTO eDrive mode, the electric unit helps provide extra power when the gas engine is in operation.
One of the new flagship’s most intriguing features is the redesigned iDrive system. Not only does a new touchscreen make it easier to operate, but gesture controls also bring an entirely new element into the game. By gesturing near the center console, drivers can adjust volume controls and accept or reject incoming calls. Drivers can also configure a gesture for a function of their choosing, such as navigation to the home address or deactivation of a screen. These gesture controls are not an add-on but come standard with the iDrive system and are recognized by 3-D sensors.
Other features include built in Wi-Fi connectivity, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster display, fold-out rear tables, a display key, and wireless charging for cell phones. In the Luxury Rear Seating package, drivers can indulge in heated front and rear armrests as well as a 7-inch command tablet. To top it off, this package offers eight massaging choices and three levels of intensity. Drivers can even select a “Vitality Program” that BMW describes as “active training to revitalize the body on longer journeys.”
Another interesting feature is an Ambient Air package that will spritz the car with one of eight scents. Meanwhile, BMW has updated its head-up display with better graphics and a larger projection area, and the new-generation parking assist helps drivers pull into perpendicular parking spots by controlling steering, gear shifting, acceleration, and braking maneuvers.
The BMW 7 Series will be introduced in the U.S. as the 740i and 750i xDrive. Prices start at $81,300 and $97,400, respectively, not including destination and handling charge that will cost about $950. Watch for the new 7 Series to arrive in showrooms this fall.