BMW 7 Series review
The BMW 7 Series offers high levels of quality, comfort and quiet but is also the best of its breed at going around corners. Its options are expensive, though, and the petrols are thirsty
What's not so good
Find out more about the BMW 7 Series
If the BMW 7 Series was a plane, it’d be a private jet. If it was a boat? A Sunseeker. It’s designed to be luxurious and comfortable for pin-striped business people, but you’ll also find that it’s genuinely fun to drive for such a hefty upmarket saloon.
But it isn’t without competition. The Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes S-Class all offer similarly sumptuous cabins and quiet, wafty driving experiences when you want it. And, like the 7 Series, they all come in short or long wheelbase versions depending on how much rear legroom you require.
But what helps the 7 Series stand out? Well, its humongous (and divisive) grille for starters, but more importantly its infotainment, which is the most advanced version of BMW’s brilliant iDrive. You (or Parker) get a 10-inch screen mounted high on the dashboard that can be operated via a rotary dial and menu shortcut buttons between the front seats, via touch or by using your voice. It’s extremely easy to use, and DAB radio, wireless charging, WiFi, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay are all included.
Then there’s a standard set of digital dials for the driver which are easy to understand but don’t have quite the wow-factor of an Audi A8’s Virtual Cockpit. BMW’s Personal Assistant does, though – say ‘hey BMW’ and this standard feature will help you with everything from changing the climate control to finding you the nearest Michelin Star restaurant. Or McDonald’s, y’know, if business has been slow.
The BMW 7 Series gives its alternatives a run for their money with its quality too. An A8 feels slightly better put together inside, but the 7 Series is more interesting to behold. On the other hand, while the S-Class’ interior is more striking, it doesn’t have quite the BMW’s solidity. All-told, the 7 series’ dark gloss-wood trim, chrome accents, ceramic-look switches and metallic gear selector will all impress.
Of course, there’s a long list of options to make the cabin look and feel even higher quality and more personal to you. The most notable of those is in the back where you can add more comfortable rear pews with features such as electric adjustment, a massage function, rear screens mounted on the front seats and a small tablet for controlling various functions.
To be honest, you don’t need the long wheelbase model to ensure brilliant legroom in the back – even in the shorter model a couple of tall adults will be able to stretch out. And in case you were worried, Parker and a front passenger will have no complaints about space in the front, either.
That grille. There, I said it. It’s actually 40% bigger than before and bigger, too, is the 7’s bonnet badge, borrowed from the firm’s new X7. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds...
That said, you’ll like driving the 7 Series yourself. There are petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engine options, the best of which for most people being the 730d diesel. It accelerates swiftly but remains smooth and quiet for a diesel while officially returning more than 40mpg. However, if most of your driving is done in town, the 745e plug-in makes more sense – it can travel around 30 miles on electricity alone and is completely silent at low speeds.
All BMW 7 Series models come with air suspension, which in its softest setting provides a very comfortable drive wherever you’re sat and whatever road you’re driving on. Standard sensors and cameras help you guide this sizable saloon town, and you can add rear-wheel steering to improve its turning circle. However, if the mood takes you, selecting the 7’s stiffer Sport drive mode makes it genuinely fun on a country road.
But the fact that it’s library quiet on the motorway will be more important to most buyers, plus the fact that the 7 Series has a high-quality cabin that’s packed with the latest tech. Just be careful not to get too carried away with the pricey options list, and if you want to keep your fuel bills down, avoid the petrol models.
Watch our video group test to see how the BMW 7 Series fares against the new Mercedes S-Class and the Audi A8:
There’s a huge amount of room inside the BMW 7 Series and it has a generous boot, but don’t expect folding rear seats
Let’s start with the business end of the BMW 7 Series. Quite literally the rear of the 7 Series has been designed as a place for work, but once you’re finished, also to kick back and relax.
As such legroom is vast even in the shorter of the two models, while headroom is equally generous. Seat heating in the rear (as well as in the front) is standard and you can add ventilated and massage seats in the rear as an option.
In truth, most people won’t need the long wheelbase version, but it’s worth it if you want the ultimate in luxury. There’s so much rear legroom that you’ll be able to stretch out your legs and adding BMW’s Executive Lounge Seating takes the rear seats from three to two, adds electric adjustment, an electric footrest, luxurious rear floor mats and a folding front passenger seat that allows you to lie out almost flat.
The 7 Series has huge rear doors as standard, but the long wheelbase car’s are even bigger, so getting even the bulkiest child seats inside is a piece of cake and the driver won’t need to adjust their position.
However, once inside the 7’s Isofix points are behind zips which can be tricky to access – plus you risk scratching your lovely merino leather. Still, an adult will stay pretty comfortable on a short journey between two seats mounted in the back.
And fear not, Parker will also be just fine in the front. Head and legroom for a couple of tall adults is also very generous and the driver gets electric seat adjustment including four-way lumbar adjustment as standard, as well as electric steering wheel movement.
Not many cars’ glove boxes will actually be used to store gloves, but the 7 Series’ just might – depending on how posh your chauffeur is. The good news is that even ski gloves will fit plus more given its generous size.
Beyond that there are plenty of extra cubbies. There’s one in front of the gear selector under a sliding cover which includes a wireless charging pad and a couple of cupholders, while under the central armrest is a nice deep cubby for chucking your wallet.
Each door has a bin big enough to swallow a large water bottle and depending on which rear seat configuration you have expect a flip-down armrest with twin cup holders or a larger central console containing a couple of fold-out trays.
The BMW 7 Series’ boot is 515 litres, which means it’s very slightly larger than that of an S-Class or A8, although not by enough to make much of a difference. It also suffers the same drawbacks as those cars’ boots in terms of access, as being a saloon, the boot opening is fairly modest and the space is quite shallow.
Still, at least the boot is uniform in shape and the wheel arches don’t encroach on the space too much. With the rear seats in place, there’s space for two large suitcases, two small suitcases and two or three soft bags. A set of golf clubs slides in with ease, and so does a pushchair, although there’s a slight lip to negotiate. A bike will go in, but both wheels will need to come off.
Sadly, you can’t fold down the rear seats and lie them flat, but BMW does offer the option of a through-loading hole for thin items such as skis, plus the tailgate is electric as standard.
There are also a couple of cubbies either side, some lashing points and a handy hook for hanging bags. There’s even better news for buyers of the plug-in hybrid model – its battery is now located under the rear seat, meaning its boot stays the same size as the rest of the range.
The BMW 7 Series is one of the better luxury saloons to drive, but you’ll want to spend most of your time in the back.
The 7 Series has always been among the best of its breed to drive, but it now rivals an S-Class for comfort too
There are no less than two diesels, three petrols and a plug-in hybrid to choose between when buying your BMW 7 Series. Two of those make the most sense, but which you should go for will depend on your circumstances.
The first is the entry-level six-cylinder 730d diesel which has 265hp and is capable of 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, yet will return more than 40mpg if driven carefully. That’s an impressive set of stats for such a behemoth and is a superb choice if you’re planning on doing lots of miles, particularly on the motorway. You needn’t worry about this diesel being noisy, either – it’s always quiet and smooth when driving.
The second recommendation is BMW’s 745e plug-in hybrid, which combines an even smoother six-cylinder petrol engine, battery and electric motors to offer a combined 286hp. In a sprint, it’ll crack 62mph in just 5.2 seconds, but can also run silently on electricity alone for around 30 miles. It’s a real jack of all trades, and is the one to buy if you run your 7 as a company car or spend most of your time creeping around city streets.
These two engines are so good, in fact, that the rest seem a little unnecessary. There’s a 740d diesel that’s quicker than the 730d, but not by much while costing more to buy. Then there’s the six-cylinder 40i, eight-cylinder 50i and mammoth twelve-cylinder M760Li petrols, the latter offered in long-wheelbase form only. Even the 40i is a decent amount thirstier than the diesels, but the V8 and V12 petrols guzzle fuel on a monumental level.
Happily, all 7 Series come with BMW’s brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard which is just as happy being hurried along in manual mode via the car’s paddles as it is flicking between gears by itself. The reassurance of all-wheel drive can be had with every engine, save the entry-level 40i petrol too.
Air suspension at the front and back is standard on every BMW 7 Series, meaning it deals with all manner of lumps and bumps with ease – especially when adding BMW’s Executive Drive Pro option that uses cameras to read the road ahead and adjust the suspension accordingly. Even so, at low speeds over lumps and bumps the 7 Series is very slightly firmer than a Mercedes S-Class or Audi A8, albeit by tiny margins.
And in any case, the trade-off is that the 7 Series feels more composed when being pushed along a winding country road. Switching from its softest Comfort Plus mode to Sport stiffens the suspension, primes the gearbox and accelerator and adds weight to the steering. OK, so the 7 Series is no sports car, but its precise steering and good body control mean you’ll be confident driving it. You’ll even have fun – honest.
Calm things down to a cruise on the motorway and the 7 Series is every bit as relaxing as its alternatives, remaining extremely quiet inside thanks in part to windows fitted with a special noise-cancelling laminate as standard. Even more relaxing is the 7 Series’ Driving Assistant Professional, which will accelerate, brake and steer to keep you in your lane on the motorway as well as in slow moving traffic.
Back in town, the car’s vast size (especially in long-wheelbase form) is a little daunting at first, but its standard parking sensors front and rear, multiple cameras that offer a 3D view of the car and a parking aid that’ll parallel and reverse park for you leave you with no excuses. And, for an even better turning circle, you can add rear-wheel steering to help in the tightest situations.
The BMW 7 Series has an upmarket cabin and one of the best infotainment systems in the business. An Audi A8 manages to feel even more solid inside though.