At Wheelmen, we have a passion for older cars, BMW in particular. There’s just the feel and smell of an old German car that comes close to the single reason why people love French and Italian cars; character. Add acceptable performance even for todays standards and very high reliability to the equation and we wonder why to even bother with modern cars.
This doesn’t mean we don’t keep our eye on the ball when it comes to new cars. Most new BMW’s are driven by a Wheelman as soon as they are available. For me, one car that could put me off driving old motors for good is the F02 BMW 7-series.
Many features on this car have been around for a while, for instance head-up display, soft-close, active cruise-control, active suspension, active rear axle steering etc. I feel however that this is the first car they really work on, especially the active cruise. Sadly, BMW is mandated to use EU-standards on distance, making even the closest following position too far away to keep other motorists from constantly duckling into the minimal allowed gap. The way it works though is astonishingly accurate. Also, the stereo system, in-car entertainment screens, seating position, ergonomics and road noise are class-leading. Downside, the interior lacks storage space, where the E65/66 could take A4-sized papers into the armrest cabinet, the F02 hardly manages to cope with its own owner’s manual folder!
Having a lot of experience with 7-series, in the guise of E32, E38 (4x), E65 and E66, it was hard to imagine the F02 to be better than its predecessors. Especially since BMW went for turbo-engines only, something we’re not very keen on. The 750Li convinced me from day one though, it’s one of the most composed cars I’ve ever driven. Since the nose is not too heavy, the most spectacular feature for me is the turn-in of the car. Its almost racecar-precise. A lot of this has to do with the wishbone/McPherson strut front suspension, but, as can be seen below, the engine also sits quite far back in the engine bay. A very trick, multi-adjustable chassis makes up for the laggy turbo-V8. On a side note, this 7-series is also the most economic petrol-7 I’ve ever driven, doing as well as 1 liter on 10km when driven moderately. The curb weight of this car, with full options, is just 1955 kilos. This is in fact 219 kilos lighter than a Mercedes-Benz S-class and even 29 kilos less than an all-alloy Audi A8 V8.
The N63 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8 is ofcourse powerful enough, however still flawed by turbo-lag. When quickly jolting the throttle pedal twice, the car chokes up. When briefly flooring it completely whilst idling, the rev-needle barely moves. Try that in an E30 325i!
However, there are redeeming thoughts about this lack of throttle-response. A 7-series is meant to be driven moderately, quiet and with a lot of anticipation. Hard braking or accelerating is a bit daft, whenever I see people with fur-collared coats in S8’s, Panameras or Cayennes accelerate like crazy at a traffic light, I can’t help but sigh on the next dopedealer that got the wrong motorcar. Driving a large, top of the line sedan is a distinguished activity. Grace and smoothness are priority. This doesn’t mean the F02 can’t corner, it’s the best large BMW so far on corners, staying with many sportscars in either short or long corners and roundabouts. It’s just that you don’t DO it.
Note the engine position, sitting almost completely behind the front axle. On contemporary Audi’s, the exact opposite is the case.
Think of Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary II* of England as she walks about on Sandringham Estate. She can run too, but she never has to.
So, the F02 750Li is more like Usain Bolt being the King of the United Kingdom. Ability, but no necessity.
* Little people know Her Majesty was trained to be a driver when she was a UK Army enlisted woman