Driven: 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive
The 7 Series has always played second-fiddle to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Since the introduction of the range in the late-70’s, the 7er has been the driver’s choice in the luxury car field - a dynamic alternative for the businessman who prefers to leave the chauffeur at home and do the driving himself.
Since the E23 debuted in 1977, approximately two million examples of Munich’s finest have been produced - no small task for an expensive luxury car. The facelifted G12 faces stiff competition from its traditional rivals. The new S-Class is widely acknowledged to be the best car in the world, making things rather tough for the Bavarian contender.
Finished in the optional Dravit Grey paintwork (R37 700), our 750Li test unit looked positively elegant. The subtle paintwork comes alive in the sunlight, revealing a gorgeous gold shimmer. The controversial grille works far better in real life, giving the 7 Series some much-needed gravitas. While subtle and relatively restrained, the big Beemer still manages to catch the attention of many road users - it’s certainly got presence.
Step inside the palatial cabin and you’re overwhelmed by the finest, most luxurious materials. Rich leather and gorgeous wood trims cover almost every surface of the first-class interior, while plush carpeting spans the floor of the big limo. The interior has a sense of occasion to match the impressive build quality. Everything you touch feels solid and, more importantly, special. The Cognac leather works well with the rest of the interior finishes, to give off a ‘country club on wheels’ feel.
Naturally, the sumptuous seats are electrically operated and offer heating and ventilation. Massaging functionality is made available when you tick the ‘Executive Lounge’ option. At R86 600, it’s certainly a pricey option, but it’s worth it. For your money, you get rear entertainment, rear massaging seats (which are electrically adjustable) as well as ventilation and heating.
Despite the smorgasbord of tech and toys, the fascia of the 750Li never feels intimidating or complicated. Many of the functions can be controlled via the infotainment system - which boasts everything a driver or passenger could want. There are numerous ways to control the various vehicle features. BMW’s gesture control is entertaining, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a gimmick. The touchscreen is quick to respond but thankfully, the iDrive scroller is wonderfully responsive and easy to use.
The best seats in the house are to be found in the rear. Not only are they wonderfully comfortable, but the optional reclining and massaging functionality really heightens the grandeur. Seated in these first-class pews, you’re surrounded by the softest leather, with acres of legroom ahead for lucky business leaders to stretch out in.
Being upfront isn’t all bad, though. Fire up the fabulous twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, and from inside, all you hear is the faintest of V8 snuffles. It is eerily quiet, a mere hint of the 750Li’s Rolls-Royce rivaling silence. Offering a substantial 390 kW and 750 N.m of torque, this is one quick luxury liner. It wafts along in absolute silence, dealing with potholes and road irregularities as if they aren’t there. The air suspension soaks up everything it runs over, without relaying it to the relaxed passengers inside. At times, you can catch it out - driving over sudden undulations can unsettle the ride, but not enough to become noticeable.
But this is still a BMW. Put your foot down and that V8 responds instantly, repelling the 750 down the road with the sort of gusto normally reserved for serious sports cars. A subtle V8 growl permeates the cabin, while the scenery becomes blurry. 4.1 seconds is all it needs to rocket to 100 km/h, while the top speed is limited to 250 km/h.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is one of the best in the business. The ZF-sourced ‘box is a masterclass, responding quickly, shifting smoothly, and also providing a sporting experience when the time calls. A manual override can be accessed via the gear lever, but there’s no need for that in a relaxed car like this. The eight-speeder sends 390 kW to all four wheels - yes, the 750Li is all-wheel drive. Known as xDrive, it gives even greater stability to an already solid motor vehicle.
On the open road, the 750Li is wonderfully relaxing to drive. Plenty of torque makes for easy overtaking, while the fuel economy is surprisingly decent for a two-ton plus, V8-engined luxury car. BMW claims an average fuel economy figure of 10,2 L/100 km - easily achievable if driven with care.
Through corners, that BMW DNA is very much apparent. For the large leviathan it is, the 750Li isn’t uncomfortable being hustled through a set of corners. The steering is tuned for comfort but still provides direct feedback when cornering quickly. Body roll is apparent, but that is to be expected for such a large car.
The facelift has given the once anonymous G12 7 Series a heavy dose of much-needed presence. The styling updates (which include the controversial grille) may not be to everyone's tastes, but it certainly gives the big Beemer even more upmarket appeal. It also remains a joy to drive, blending that typical BMW joie-de-vivre with S-Class rivaling comfort. While it doesn’t manage to eclipse the big Benz when it comes to outright luxury, it comes very close. At R2 544 700, the 750Li is undeniably expensive. But then again, you pay for this level of luxury, refinement, and technology. It comes very close to its Stuttgart rival but falls a few inches short. That being said, it is good fun to drive, and perhaps the most dynamic alternative in this luxury class.