Cape Town - BMW South Africa has launched its sixth-generation 7 Series locally, claiming that the new luxury sedan is the "best BMW ever built".
The 7 Series, first launched in 1977, has always been regarded as the "big daddy" of the brand - the most luxurious and sophisticated car in BMW's stable.
Image gallery: 2016 BMW 7 Series
It's one of the ultimate 'presidential' cars in SA, a vehicle our politicians love being chauffeured in.
Best BMW yet?
Is it the best car BMW has built yet? That's debatable but more on that later. One thing is for certain though, the latest 7 Series is definitely opulent, spacious and built for the pleasure-loving driver.
The automaker reckons "it's the pinnacle of what BMW can do in terms of luxury and innovation".
With technology such as iDrive, integral steering, xenon headlights and night vision, the sixth-gen does not disappoint when it comes to in-car tech.
The new BMW 7 Series range has been extensively updated with a V8 engine, two six-cylinder in-line variants, as well as a four-cylinder hybrid 2.0-litre petrol. All engines are mated to a specially-developed eight-speed Steptronic transmission.
First up in the range is the BMW 750i (BMW 750Li) powered by a V8 petrol featuring BMW TwinPower Turbo technology (two TwinScroll turbochargers, direct injection, Valvetronic, Double-Vanos) - it arrives later in February 2016.
Its 4395cc unit is capable of 330kW/650Nm. It reaches 100km/h in 4.7 seconds with a claimed top speed of 250km/h. Average fuel consumption is rated at 8.3 l/100km while CO2 emissions are 194 g/km.
Then there's the BMW 740i 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology good for 240kW/450Nm. It reaches 0 to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds.
BMW 730d 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line diesel engine produces 195kW/620Nm and reaches 100km/h in 6.1 seconds.
A BMW 7 series that can return 2.1 litres/100km?
The fourth model is the plug-in hybrid 740e which features BMW eDrive technology. It's powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, with a total output of 240kW. This model will head into production in June/July and is set to arrive in South Africa later during the third quarter of 2016. Fuel consumption is rated at a claimed 2.1 litres/100km while CO2 emissions stand at a claimed 49g/km.
What's it like to drive?
I anticipated a sturdy drive and was expecting this massive car to feel sluggage behind the wheel, instead it's size belies its agility. The vehicle weighs 130kg lighter than the outgoing model, making it one of the lightest cars in its segment. This translates to smooth, comfortable driving on the road.
The steering is as light as a compact car and the drive feels as if you're floating along the road even when flooring it. And of course overtaking is effortless.
The 730d was almost as silent as driving an electric car even the more powerful 740i has an elegant, quiet drive on the road. Insulation is top-class in this model and road/wind noise is barely noticeable. There are also active air-vents, known as the active air-flap control system, with adjustable bars in the kidney grille.
BMW says: "Whenever more cooling air is required, the additional bars automatically swing open. This combines with the flaps in the lower air intake to allow the supply of air for cooling the engine and brakes to be adjusted in a total of five stages as demands dictate. During the warming-up phase and when operating at low loads, the BMW kidney grille is closed completely to reduce air drag at the front of the vehicle."
'Chews up corners for breakfast'
Driving dynamics are taken care of with a host of technology - dynamic damper control, active electromechanical roll stabilisation and '2-axle' air suspension with self-leveling, means the 7 Series chews up tight corners for breakfast.
The drive is supremely comfortable and the dynamic straight-six units are utterly enjoyable on the road. Even the pedals seem to be more delicate to the touch. Of course the accelerator pedal can be the devil, if you're not paying attention the engine can easily be coaxed into giving more and more power.
In terms of looks, the new 7 Series seems to have gone back to its roots with lean design. Yes, it's still big and bold but that serious load of chunk from the outgoing model has been minimised.
There's a host of innovation packed into the car. It's as if BMW has been working on redefining the term luxury in one model, namely its flagship.
There are driver assistant systems galore, and it comes with all the bells and whistles one would expect from BMW's premier sedan.
The highlights on the new car is its new remote parking control system and its uber cool remote key. You can literally step out of the car and park into a tight space in a garage or shopping mall parking lot, as long as you're only moving forward or back. The system will only be available locally in May 2016.
The most impressive thing about this feature is its price. According to BMW SA's communications manager, Edward Makwana, this option will only cost you R7200 - that's cheaper than a satnav option or even sunroof from most premium manufacturers!
Another nifty gadget is its smartkey which features its own touchscreen LCD to control the remote parking and other functions.
The new 7 Series uses BMW's Laserlight, first debuted in the i8 sportscar. The BMW Selective Beam is dazzle-free, says the automaker, and can be specified for the new 7 Series as an alternative to the standard full-LED headlights. It has a bright, pure white light which shines 600m - double the distance of the LED headlights.
No more buttons
I can't decide which is my favourite though, the fact that the car can park it self, or this new gesture control system which is a display control concept. The buttons on the centre console and facia can now be deemed irrelevant with this world-first innovation. With that said, there are still loads of buttons and the interior looks very much like any other BMW, except for these new integrated functions. Yes the materials are sensual to touch and quality is non-negotiable of the highest standard.
You can use voice control or hand signals to control functions on the display. Hold your hand up and make circular motions in a clockwise direction and it turns up the volume, turn anti-clockwise and the volume is turned down. Make a swiping movement to the right and you reject an incoming phone call.
The hand movements are detected by a 3D sensor. The gestures can be used for various functions. There is also the option of pairing a specific gesture with an individual choice of function, meaning you can customise.
And if that's not enough there's also a new smartphone holder integrated into the centre console, which allows wireless, inductive charging for mobile phones.
Driver assistant systems
Steering and lane control assistant, lane-keeping assistant with active side collision protection, rear-collision prevention and crossing traffic warning functions have been added to the Driving Assist Plus system.
As one would expect there's an array of driver aide systems such as the usual lane departure systems and so forth. The neat thing about BMW's steering and lane-control assistant is that it actually jerks the steering wheel back into the lane you're supposed to be in when straddling lines.
The traffic-jam assistant applies the brakes when you're too close to the vehicle ahead and is capable of slowing down/stopping if a vehicle swerves in front of you.
I imagined the 7 Series to be the size of a mini-office in the rear. I would've liked to have driven long-wheel base versions (rated as the best legroom in its class) as I was disappointed by the legroom. Don't get me wrong, it's luxurious and spacious, there's just not as much legroom as one would've hoped.
To be honest, I stretched my legs out further in an Audi A8 and the space I shared with my co-driver was more cosy than palatial.
Other than the removable tablet which controls your seats, the entertainment system - yes you can change the volume or audio mediums in the front too and massage functions - there isn't much else.
I was of course expecting to be able to control the world from the expectations which were set before driving this machine. The massage functions are adequate, not amazing, just adaquate. You get more of an invigorated Swedish kick from a Mercedes-Benz CLS AMG than this premier BMW.
My co-driver could hardly feel the massage - which was set on maximum - and thought he was just 'thick-skinned'.
Is it is the godfather of luxury?
No, at least compared to its rivals. I think the technology in the new 7 Series trumps its rivals. Perhaps its the high expectations of wanting 'more car' for such a steep price tag.
Is it the best car BMW has ever built? In terms of technology and engines, yes. The drive in the 7 Series is thrilling that's for sure but if thrills are what you're after you're better off purchasing an M5 or M6.
More from BMW
If the 7 series is not your cup of tea, the M2 Coupe and the highly-anticipated M4 GTS is set to arrive later in 2016. For the more conservative driver, the X5 plug-in hybrid arrives towards the end of 2016.
BMW 7 Series 730d - R1 365 500
BMW 7 Series 740i - R1 339 000
BMW 7 Series 750i - R 1 755 000
BMW 7 Series 750i Li - R1 893 500.