The 2018 BMW 7 Series comes with more semi-autonomous driving features than before. Otherwise, the BMW 7 Series carries over unchanged for the 2018 model year. 2016 brought an engineering leap, perfecting the balance at 50/50 and saving weight by using tricks from the i electric car: carbon fiber in the chassis, and aluminum in the doors, trunk lid and suspension.
The 7 Series cars are sporty and comfortable to drive. Some models are available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The BMW 740i uses a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 making 320 horsepower, a sweet engine. The BMW 750i packs a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 making 445 horsepower, mated to a silky 8-speed automatic transmission, pulling zero to sixty in 4.3 seconds.
There’s also a new 740e plug-in hybrid that mates a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a 9.2-kilowatt hour battery to get a total of 322 horsepower. All-wheel-drive is standard. We’ve found the 740e to be very relaxed because the hybrid system is seamless. But it’s burdened by additional weight of about 400 pounds. BMW says it can travel 23 miles on all-electric power.
The Alpina B7 xDrive uses the 4.4-liter V8, and is fitted with Integral Active Steering that combines variable-ratio electric steering at the front axle with active steering on the rear axle. This helps to blast the Alpina from zero to sixty in a supercar-like 3.6 seconds.
With its V12 engine, the M760i xDrive is nearly as quick, with zero to sixty performance of 3.9 seconds. The twin-turbo V12 makes an awesome 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.
On all models, Driving Dynamics Control sets the steering, throttle, shock absorbers and transmission, to three modes: Sport, Comfort and Comfort Plus. A complex system called Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview adds anticipatory functions to the active chassis with air suspension, while the Integral Active Steering (variable-ratio rear-wheel steering) now comes with all-wheel drive. The automatic transmission downshifts on its own, based on what the navigation system tells the transmission about the road ahead, for example a hill.
The 740i gets an EPA-rated 23 Combined miles per gallon with all-wheel drive, or 24 Combined mpg with rwd. The 750i gets 19 Combined mpg with awd, 20 mpg with rwd. The 740e gets 27 Combined miles per gallon, using all of its 23 miles of electric range.
The 7 Series hasn’t been crash-tested because it’s a low-volume product. Standard safety equipment is bountiful, from active headlamps to active headrests to rearview camera. Optional safety equipment includes everything from night vision to a watchdog sensor that flashes a coffee cup if it sees you getting tired.
Driver Assistance Plus Package II includes adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assist, Side Collision Avoidance, and Traffic Jam Assistant. It provides semi-autonomous driving, following cars ahead and providing steering assistance to keep the car in its lane.
The 2018 7 Series includes the BMW 740i ($83,100), 740i xDrive ($86,100), 750i ($96,400), 750i xDrive ($99,400), Alpina 7 ($138,800), M760 xDrive ($156,700), and 740e ($90,700).
Options include the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package with a sliding front passenger seat, footrest, rear entertainment with two 10-inch screens, a fold-out table, Touch Command Tablet enabling the passenger to control all his or her own creature comforts including web surfing. The Luxury Rear Seating Package includes heated and ventilated rear seats, massage, and a Vitality Program.
The 7 Series styling is classic again, after more than a decade of BMW pushing boundaries with wedges and swirls. There’s a formal profile, lots of glass, and clean sheetmetal. The nose is fairly blunt, with a proud kidney grille that actively manages airflow, behind the grille. The beltline from hood to taillamps is beautiful. Chiseled brightwork runs low along the sides, lifting the car.
Now it’s the cabin’s turn to push boundaries, by maximizing and exaggerating BMW design themes, taking ideas from the futuristic i8. The instrument panel is like a horizontal shelf, its formality enforced by satin-metallic brightwork on the knobs, many of which change temperatures for the comfort of your fingertips. It might be called retro-futurism. You’ll want to linger there.
The corners are pushed outward to make more space in the cabin, and the rear is limo-like, luxurious for two (who might be optionally ventilated and massaged), but room for three. Superb front seats hit the sweet spot between comfort during hours in the saddle, and support in the twisties.
The interior wood and diamond-stitched leather is the highest quality, as expected from BMW. Heated armrests, front and rear. Ambient carpet lighting standard. Fragrance is available, under a panoramic LED roof.
Although late to the theater, BMW does touchscreen now, to the max. The iDrive 5.0 uses a 12.3-inch landscape-oriented screen. Still, some people don’t like all those finger-smudges a touchscreen collects. So on the 7 Series there is also the familiar iDrive controller, now with a handwriting touchpad (also steering-wheel controls and voice recognition).
More futuristically, iDrive also now has Gesture Control. There’s a 3D sensor in the iDrive knob, and you just flash the sensor one of five hand signals, to get the sound system volume raised or lowered, answer or don’t answer the phone, or browse a 360-degree of the cabin. The system is a bit slow.
The Bowers & Wilkins surround sound is certainly not dull, with 1400 watts and 16 speakers. Nor is the head-up display. The standard Adaptive Headlamps don’t just turn with the car, they consider speed, steering angle and yaw.
The 740i is our favorite. With 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine isn’t the quickest but it’s the sweetest.
The 740e hybrid performs well enough, but it’s a four-cylinder. We’re not ready for a 2.0-liter four in a full-size BMW, even if it is enhanced with an electric motor. Besides; its 27 mpg vs the 740i’s 23 mpg isn’t enough of a difference for us, and that 27 mpg is only if you use up 23 miles in all-electric first.
As for the 4.4-liter V8, it’s strong, but it’s not the best V8 out there.
The B7 Alpina and the M760 with its V12 engine are in another league, more expensive and less practical.
In Sport mode, the active anti-roll bars keep the 740i fairly flat in fast corners, and help this car feel unlike any 4600-pound sedan you’ve ever driven. The power is responsive, the light steering is made heftier and quicker (some might think too quick), and there’s road feel without rigidity, although sharp bumps get through the low-profile tires.
Due to its considerable mass, the 7 Series is not exactly nimble, but it changes directions easily. The electric power steering is light and direct; in Sport mode it can actually feel too quick for everyday driving.
With double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension, all with active air dampers, any 7 Series can be set for firm or comfortable; the ride height changes with the settings. Sport mode makes the ride choppy, especially with the big wheels and low-profile run-flat tires. Comfort mode backs off on the aggression and smoothes out the ride, while Comfort Plus makes it buttery for rough streets or bumpy highways.
The chassis combines high-strength steel, aluminum, and carbon-reinforced plastic. Lighter suspension pieces reduce unsprung weight by 15 percent, a significant step in the chase of good handling. The latest bonding methods add thermal and acoustic insulation, reducing the amount of sound insulation needed thereby reducing weight.
The 8-speed automatic transmission is linked to navigation data, making the shift characteristics change with curves and terrain. The transmission itself excellent, though we’re not sure about navigation-based shifting. To save fuel, it coasts at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. To improve EPA ratings, an automatic Stop-Start feature turns off the engine when the car stops, then back on again when it’s time to move. BMW was the first with this system, but is not noted as being the smoothest.
The BMW 740i is an excellent choice for the class, powered by a sweet twin-turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. The 8-speed automatic is excellent. The 50/50 weight distribution makes the handling of a 7 Series feel special, for a full-size sedan with a comfortable ride. The cabin is very roomy, with elegant wood and leather. The lines are gorgeous.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.