(Pocket-lint) - The 2015 BMW 7 Series is one of the most tech-crammed cars on the road right now. If you drove this back in time, even by 10 years, the people lucky enough to get a ride in it would have expected it to fly.
While the BMW 730Ld M Sport, as reviewed here, doesn't literally fly it does manage to offer powerful performance. By comparison the Tesla Model S P85D also offers a lot of tech and crazy performance, but not to the same level of luxury.
So is the BMW 7 Series both a top-end luxury saloon as well as a sports performer? We found out just what £96,000 of specced-up future-proof motor gets you.
BMW 7-Series review: Designed like a spa on wheels
From the outside the 730Ld M Sport is classic BMW, but not overly eye-catching. And this is a good thing; it's subtle.
The front grille offers a lick of aggression, along with those 20-inch M Double-spoke style 648M alloy wheels (£1,100), but the lines along the bonnet and sides are flowing with elegance. It looks, as you'd expect, like a perfect blend between sporty and luxury.
But that's just the outside. Look inside the car and it's another world of cream leather luxury and elegant wood finishes. It's arguably the best car interior in the world right now. Even the puddle lights create lines like a carpet of light leading you to the door.
Step inside and you're met with a scent that makes it feel like a luxury spa. This is thanks to the ionic scent dispersal, which offers eight cartridges that can be loaded in two at a time. We were worried this might be overpowering when on full – but it never seems to get beyond a subtle whiff.
The steering wheel is crammed with buttons, levers and paddle shift gears, like a pilot's cockpit. There's even more controls on the seat to adjust every imaginable permutation of comfort. With the Heat Comfort Package the heated seats in the front mean even the arm rests in the centre console and doors get warm, as does the steering wheel. Cosy.
Inside feels spacious with the panoramic glass sunroof – we've gone all out for the Sky Lounge Panoramic which has markings that light up like coloured stars at night. Lighting continues throughout the car with sill and dash underlights that can be changed in colour and brightness. At night, when the green colour is on, you really feel like you're in a Tron movie. In the rear are individual lighting options for reading as well as a front-positioned light bar to create the atmosphere of being in a room. A room with very comfy seats.
The rear leather seats have been specced-up with to be massage chairs and come fully adjustable. Since this is the long wheel-base model there's enough room to stretch out in the rear, even at six foot one tall. As well as myriad massage options from back to full body, there's a workout option. BMW wants you leaving the car feeling refreshed so you can follow a training session that involves pushing shoulders back into the pressure sensitive chairs while following on screen instructions. It's not going to get you to break a sweat but, like the massage, will keep blood flowing leaving you comfortable.
And as if all that wasn't enough there's also a fridge in the rear centre with a perfect shape rack for a bottle of Champagne. Of course there is.
BMW 7 Series review: Power when you need it
The ride in the BMW 730Ld is, as you'd expect, very comfortable. There are pre-set modes that allow for specific results like Comfort for soft suspension and smooth power delivery. In this mode you really feel like you're wafting along the roads on marshmallows rather than tyres.
Switch the car into Sport mode and the digital dials change to red, the suspension tightens and the engine revs higher. The result is an ability to be thrown back into your seat as that six-cylinder TwinPower Turbo 3.0-litre diesel engine with 265hp and M Sport tuning hurls the heft of this machine forward. Cornering is tight and if you misjudge it the car intelligently redistributes wheel power for a safe turn.
If you're looking to save fuel there's an Eco Pro mode, where the dials turn blue. This also has a readout showing when fuel is being consumed versus recharging – legacy from the plug-in hybrid models which here only refers to the battery charging, but there's not a battery which drives an electric motor in the 7 Series of course.
Finally there's an Adaptive mode that will change to suit the roads using BMW algorithms. This felt like Comfort mode most of the time with Power mode kicked in when you floored it, hopefully Eco Pro is in there somewhere too working its magic.
Fuel consumption is said to be between 56.5 - 61.4mpg, but we mainly drove in Sport mode which meant a whole different experience. We started with a full tank of diesel and were told by the car that meant a good 700 miles. We didn't come close to using that up in a week, despite driving it enthusiastically and regularly – hence achieving around 30mpg. For a car this size and this fast that's not unexpected.
BMW 7 Series review: Connected infotainment
This car is more connected than some smartphones. There's a 4G SIM as standard (with the M Sport model anyway) which means constantly updated sat nav. It also means a local Wi-Fi hotspot for anyone in the car – plus it's removable so you can carry it outside the car too. There's even digital TV direct to the screens, although that does cost an extra £1,050.
In the front is a 12.3-inch touchscreen display that can also be controlled via the BMW iDrive click-wheel. But more exciting is the gesture controls, if you opt for them. By swirling a finger in front of the dash, as if moving a virtual dial, you can control, say, the volume of a track. While it seemed like a fad at first we found ourselves using it all the time – it's far safer and easier than looking for and reaching to control a knob on the dash. Two fingers forward pauses sound while a pinch allows for 360-degree camera rotating around the car for parking.
This 3D car image, known by BMW as surround-view, is an impressive optional extra – it shows the car as if it were being looked at from outside, complete with surroundings thanks to the car's many sensors and cameras. It's a feature we've seen in other cars, such as the forthcoming Audi Q7 e-tron. Unlike other BMW models this also features side sensors so the entire car is tracked – meaning crashing or bumping while parking is near impossible.
The 7 Series can also park itself, controlling the steering and power, at the touch of a button (this is a standard feature for the M Sport). This is genuinely useful in a car of this size where we found a few three-point turns looking more like an Austin Powers manoeuvre by the time we'd turned around. It's something the Rolls Royce Wraith also offers – ideal for larger high-end cars then.
In the rear of our specced-out 7 Series were two 10.2-inch screens for viewing entertainment, navigation, internet browsing and music controls. The £2,740 cover price of these also includes a 7-inch "Touch Command" tablet unit in the centre armrest which can be removed, using a very cool automated eject and return function.
This extra tablet allows complete control of the rear, including changing lighting colour and brightness, seat massage control, closing and opening sun blinds, choosing entertainment and more – if you've selected those options as part of your purchase. There's also a dedicated remote for controlling screen access, and next to the 4G Wi-Fi module is where the optional rear telephone lives. Because, you know, mobile phones just aren't enough these days. It's quite the kit list for rear controls.
Sound-wise, beyond the basic system, there are two options: the £995 Harmon Kardon install; or the £4,675 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround system – the latter as featured in our review car. With a 10 channel amplifier, output of 1,400 watts, and 16 partially illuminated speakers for a cool lighting effect that can be controlled, it's quite the system. In the rear are wireless BMW branded headphones too, so passengers can watch or listen to whatever they please without pestering the rest of the car.
At this top spec wherever you are in the car there's an internet connection and a screen. If your phone is connected via Bluetooth you can make and receive calls, check texts and even emails – there's really no need to take your phone out of your pocket.
BMW 7 Series review: Smart driving really works
The BMW 7 Series comes with a lot of self-driving safety kit as well as extra options. In the model we drove the car could nearly drive itself – although that's not a claim it makes. With lane departure assist and adaptive cruise control most motorway drives were spent with just enough grip on the wheel to stop alarms going off. We even found it worked on back roads, at night, in the wet, with leaves all over the markings.
And while the car can't technically drive itself, one thing you can legally do is park the car while outside of it by using the touchscreen Display Key fob. We didn't have this update on the early model we tried but could see it being useful for getting into a tight spot without worrying about opening the doors. This key will allow for future updates, a nod to how future-proof the 7 Series is.
BMW 7 Series review: It's expensive for all this luxury
As you will have gathered from the various mentions of "optional extra" throughout this review, the BMW 7 series isn't a budget buy. It can be bought, at the very lowest price, for £63,750. The 730Ld M Sport model starts at £72,260. But with all the extras this review model ended up costing nearly £96,000.
Things like laser headlights (£2,450), the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system (£4,675), the Sky Lounge Panoramic Glass Sunroof (£1,695), Executive Drive Pro (£2,450) comforts and more obviously add a lot to the price tag.
Is it worth it? It's a world of luxury. But why not opt in for the car to suit your needs? Or, perhaps more accurately, your luxury wants?
The latest BMW 7 Series combines decadent luxury with high-end technology and performance. With all the options boxes ticked for those spoil-yourself extras we've found ourselves going out to the car to enjoy a massage and listen to the sound system while it's parked on the driveway.
But such specs don't come as standard, which leads up to the car's obvious downside: it's expensive and the optional extras really add up fast. The £96,000 of our review car simply means it won't be an option for many. Although with its long wheelbase and plush rear seating the 730Ld feels like it's aimed at those who can afford their own driver anyway.
While we didn't want to give the car back after living with it for a week, for the money we'd be tempted to trade in a little of that luxury for a bit more power and fuel economy. And let's not forget about the competition, with the likes of the Mercedes S-Class being a real drivers' option too.
When it comes to luxury, power and gadgets the BMW 7 Series is a near perfect car. The hefty price tag is quantifiable given just how much is crammed into the machine – and, of course, how great it is to drive.