Knock knock knockin’ on Rolls-Royce’s door

Manny N. de los Reyes - The Philippine Star

SINGAPORE —The 7 Series has been the flagship model of the BMW range since the very first iteration came out in 1977.  And with the Bavarian company having owned Rolls-Royce for over a decade, it’s inevitable that the British carmaker’s stratospheric levels of luxury will find itself in the German brand’s range-topping model. (Not that BMW is just shopping on Rolls-Royce’s parts shelves; most of its features and technologies are developed in-house in Munich.)

But one can’t help feel the similarities in ultra-luxury. It’s fitting that just three months ago, I was in Hong Kong to experience Rolls-Royce’s smallest and sportiest car, the Ghost. And now I find myself in another shopping paradise to witness and experience another ultra-luxury sedan from its mother company.

“Since 1977, BMW has been delivering ground-breaking innovations and setting new standards with our flagship BMW 7 Series. Today, this sixth-generation BMW 7 Series has made yet another breakthrough by introducing new technologies such as carbon core that reduces overall weight by up to 130kg, and a full suite of innovations like Touch Command, Gesture control, Sky Lounge with Panorama Glass Roof, just to name a few,” said Anutarasoti Sethipong, Corporate Affairs Director of BMW Group Asia. “This all-new BMW 7 Series embodies our quest for modern mobility, the highest quality and absolute precision. This is truly a masterpiece from BMW, and probably the best car we have ever built.”

Big words from what are usually conservative and tight-lipped BMW PR executives. Then again, the all-new 7 Series could very well be speaking for itself—and it would certainly be speaking even bigger words.

For starters, its body construction uses BMW’s Carbon Core technology, first introduced in the pioneering i8 sports car. Despite adding dozens of new technologies and features which would have added weight to the car, the new 7 is much lighter than its predecessor. Using steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in a monocoque body is extremely tricky, but BMW mastered the art and science for the 7 Series.

Secondly, the 7 is probably one of the most intelligent machines ever made by man. It has voice-, touch-, and gesture-control interfaces for several dashboard functions. It’s engine, transmission, suspension, steering, and brakes are all computer-controlled. Cameras work with the navigation system to program the suspension’s Active Roll Stabilization and Anticipatory Damper Control to stiffen when the car senses it is about to enter a curve at high speed.

With four-wheel steering, the rear wheels even help steer the car. Below 60 km/h, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to help the big car negotiate tight turns while above 60 km/h, the rear wheels steer in the same direction so lane changes—even at high speed—are barely felt by the passengers.

Under the hood are two powertrains with BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology (both mated to 8-speed automatic transmissions): a 3.0-liter straight-6 engine with BMW’s direct-injection, Double-VANOS and VALVETRONIC engine wizardry developing 326 hp and 450 Nm of torque—enough to propel this more-than-two-ton sedan to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds—and a 4.4-liter V8 with 450 hp and a monster 650 Nm of torque (for a 4.5-second 0-100 sprint).

Both have an electronically limited 250 km/h top speed (owing to German carmakers’ “gentlemen’s agreement” to limit top speeds in the interest of safety and emissions controls). Needless to say, both powerplants develop greater power while consuming less fuel and emitting fewer emissions than their predecessors.

I got to ride and drive the 6-cylinder 740Li variant around the streets of Singapore (the V8-powered 750Li won’t be available until March 2016). Truth be told, I could close my eyes and imagine that I was in Hong Kong gliding around in the Rolls-Royce Ghost. The 740Li’s riding comfort was sublime (it has individual four-wheel self-leveling air suspension). The motor was eerily quiet. Even the aroma from the ultra fine-grain leather was just as sweet-smelling. (The car actually has eight different fragrances with up to three intensities that you can release at the push of a button.)

Singapore being a “fine” city, we had to strictly obey all traffic rules—which meant no Mission Impossible-type of driving. Still I was able to put pedal to the metal on the occasions when didn’t I want to be left behind a stoplight and had to accelerate the car to catch up with the convoy (I was in the tail car). On these occasions, all those big thoroughbreds made themselves felt (together with a scintillating engine and exhaust soundtrack coupled with athletic handling and braking that practically define the car company with “motor” as its middle name.)

The car’s ride/handling balance can be adjusted (Comfort, Comfort+, and Sport) while the ride height can be raised by 20mm when driving along rough roads or when negotiating steep ramps.

BMW’s familiar iDrive system now comes with BMW’s gesture control, which is being premiered in the new 7 Series. By making specific hand movements in front of the center console (where there is a 3D sensor), the infotainment system can be controlled intuitively and conveniently. Various gestures serve to adjust the audio volume, control the 3D surround view display, and accept or reject incoming phone calls.

Style-wise, the new 7 is every bit as imposing as a car in this size and price class commands. The familiar twin-kidney grille are bracketed by BMW’s trademark quad headlamps, this time rendered in state-of-the-art LED or even optional cutting-edge laser lights (which double the range of LED lamps without dazzling oncoming traffic).

The Air Breather surround on the front fenders spawns a chrome trim strip which runs along the lower edge of the doors. The exterior mirrors appear to grow organically out of the window frame, a slender aerodynamic stalk providing the sole connection between mirrors and car body.

The new 7 comes in two non-metallic and nine metallic shades. The 740Li and 750Li come standard with 19-inch and 20-inch alloy wheels, respectively.

Inside the spacious and opulent cabin is a new dimension in comfort and well-being. The Design Pure Excellence interior package lends the cabin an elegant and choice ambience through the use of exclusive Nappa leather trim. This includes features in Ivory White, among other colors, with contrast stitching, fine wood interior trim elements in American Oak and a full leather surface for the instrument panel and door panels in Atlas Grey with contrast stitching. The lower section of the instrument panel comes in matching colors that buyers can choose from for that Rolls-Royce-like bespoke experience.

Hand-woven piping and woven-look quilting on the seat surfaces lend expression to the precision workmanship and detail. The floor covering and floor mats, seat belts and BMW Individual Alcantara headliner come in the same upscale Tartufo color.

A massage function for the driver and passengers is activated via the iDrive controller and offers a choice of eight different massage functions (with three intensity levels) in the backrest and seat surface in order to stimulate or relax muscles in a targeted manner.

BMW Touch Command’s removable 7-inch tablet can be used from any seat and even from outside of the vehicle. It lets the occupants control comfort functions such as seat adjustment, interior lighting and air conditioning, as well as the infotainment, navigation and communication system. It can also be used to play external audio and video files, as a games console or for surfing the internet.

Other high-tech features include courtesy lights that approximate the brightness and coverage of ambient light using precision interior lighting and a panoramic glass sunroof. Light emitted by LED modules along the sides in the dark is spread evenly throughout the glass surface, creating the magical effect of a starlit sky.

There is also a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system powered by an active 10-channel 1,400W amplifier and 16 partially illuminated speakers with five acoustic scenario settings.

The Driving Assistant safety package uses warning lights and audible alerts to warn the driver of potential and imminent collisions, even going so far as tightening the seatbelts and closing the windows and sunroof in an unavoidable crash. The Driving Assistant package also includes the Approach control and Person Warning with light city braking function, Lane Change Warning and Lane Departure Warning and Speed Limit Info.

The new 7 Series comes standard with Surround View, which includes the camera-based functions Rear view camera, Panorama View, Top View and 3D View. Cameras all around the vehicle provide a 360° view around the vehicle. The images captured by the cameras are then shown on the display and can be controlled via Gesture Control to have a better view of the car’s surroundings.

Yet another unique high-tech feature is the BMW display key, which shows various information like fuel and range, service notifications, door locks, windows, and sunroof—and lets you control them. With a built-in SIM card, the 7 Series comes equipped with the full suite of BMW ConnectedDrive Services & Apps including BMW Online, BMW Apps as well as ConnectedDrive Options such as Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Concierge Services, Remote Services and Teleservices.

Local retail prices will be announced when the car makes its Philippine launch. But it should be a tad higher than the outgoing 740Li, which stickers for between P7 to 9 million. Breathtakingly expensive, yes; but far from the otherworldly price of a Rolls-Royce, which costs three to five times more. It’s in this regard that the new 7 Series—one of the finest automobiles ever made—can seem like a relative bargain.














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