New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

First drive: New BMW 7 Series

2009-03-06 07:33

Wilmer Muller

Has BMW finally succeeded with its fifth-generation 7 Series? We drive it for the first time.

Its controversial predecessor was, after all, the target of heavy criticism for its (ugly) design and iDrive setup. But with the new flagship BMW it is as if Belle has finally lifted the spell from her Beast, freeing it from ridicule.

In its new incarnation the 7 Series, which is now available in South Africa, is a car that you can’t help liking. From its imposing design and masterful engineering to its super luxurious aura, the latest Seven is mesmerising. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class now faces real competition.

Three engine options are available - a V8 and straight-six (both with twin-turbo technology) petrol units and a newly developed straight-six diesel engine. All engines are mated to BMW’s slick six-speed automatic transmission with optimised gearshifts.

Styling wise the new 7 Series boasts a neater and more together design than before giving the vehicle an imposing appearance and highlighting its dynamic proportions.

At the front you are greeted by BMW’s biggest trademark kidney grille to date, while the eye-catching rear design is dominated by elegant L-shaped light clusters with the latest LED technology.

The car looks, and is, longer with a svelte side profile thanks to a more defined shoulder line. Attention to detail is key to the Seven’s design with nice design touches such as elegant chrome trim for the side indicators.

The Adaptive Headlights is available as an option ensure appropriate illumination of the road ahead in bends and on winding roads, the swivelling motion of the headlights following the steering angle, the yaw rate, and the speed of the car.

Interior improvement

On the inside the 7 Series is light years ahead of its predecessor, which sported a rather uninspiring interior. With the new car BMW has managed to give it a real exclusive aura with a sophisticated, modern design.

The Seven definitely feels the executive saloon part and its plush, comfortable cabin is dominated by high-quality materials and ample space.

Unlike before, the dash is now (again) driver-oriented with a good ergonomic layout.

Since its introduction in the previous generation 7 Series, iDrive has also evolved significantly.

Featuring the latest software and much enhanced usability, iDrive finally has setup that is more logical and much easier to operate. Even the car’s handbook is now electronically accessible via iDrive, and you can search for relevant information about the vehicle via graphics.

A wide range of comfort functions and entertainment options are available.

Overall there are no doubts about the 7’s quality. The car seems well screwed together and on the inside and exterior you get the impression that it is a solid machine built to the highest German quality standards.

The optional Rear Seat Entertainment High System features 9.2-inch monitors and a controller on the centre console at the rear offering the same functions as the iDrive controller on the centre console at the front and enabling users to operate both the navigation system and telephone functions.

Under the skin

However, when you are lucky enough to fork out about R1-million for a 7 Series, you not only getting an über luxury sedan… Being a BMW, the 7 Series is a showcase of refinement, dynamic genes and the best of automotive engineering.

The car sits on a brand new platform and BMW kitted it out with its latest state-of-the art technology.

There is an all-new suspension setup to optimise both driving dynamics and comfort. It is the first BMW sedan with double-arm front axle, integral V rear axle and front and rear axles made largely of aluminium.

Buyers can also spec the 7 Series with BMW’s innovative Integral Active Steering.  This system slightly turns the rear wheels up to 3-degrees.

At low speeds the rear wheels are turned against the steering angle on the front wheels, giving the 7 Series a tighter turning circle. Then again, at higher speeds the steering wheel angle on the rear wheels increases in the same direction as the angle and movement of the front wheels. The obvious result is better dynamics and more control of the car.

The engine line-up is fresh too, starting with the 740i which gets Munich’s straight six twin turbo 3-litre unit. Power output is 240kW @ 5 800 r/min and torque is 450 Nm available between 1 500 r/min and 4 500 r/min. With a top speed limited to 250 km/h the 740i goes from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds.

The 730d makes a return too, but its turbo-charged straight-six has been reworked and now develops 180kW @ 4 000 r/min and 540 Nm from 1 750 - 3 000 r/min. BMW claims an average fuel consumption of 7,2 litres per 100 km and a C02 figure of 192 g/km for the 730d. It’s no slouch either and will comfortable do 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds.

Topping of the range is the 750i, which is available in long wheelbase too.
This model gets BMW’s impressive 4.4-litre V8 with twin turbo and direct fuel injection. Power is 300 kW while torque is a mammoth 600 Nm from 1 750 - 4 500 r/min. The 750i has a 0-100 km/h sprint time that will leave sport sedan drivers red-faced and it will reach the 100km/h mark in  5.2 seconds (5.3 lwb).

All models benefit from BMW’s Efficient Dynamics package, which boosts output and performance but cuts fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. This is achieved by several weight-saving techniques and the newcomer is 55 kg lighter than the old car.

A lane change warning system is now available. Other gizmos include including speed limit indicator, head-up display and side view cameras.

Sporty drive

Luxury cars such as the 7 Series are usually comfortable cruisers, but being machines that weighs around two tonnes, their dynamics are often compromised. This is not the case with the latest 7 Series. BMW made sure that its flagship is as agile and dynamic as any of its other products.

The 7 Series offers an involved driving experience unlike any of its rivals and it is a car which can hug corners with as much confidence as other BMW cars.

To enhance the driving experience one can choose between three settings – Comfort, Normal and Sport. Naturally, Comfort is the setting of choice when you're cruising along, but if you hit an entertaining stretch of road you can instantly transform it from a limo to sport sedan by switching to Sport mode.

There is a Sports+ option too for an even bigger hooligan driving experience with reduced/deactivated DSC.

Whether you're a fan of the new 7 Series or not, one has to give BMW credit for its efforts to recreate its flagship into an impressive piece of automotive engineering.

With the latest BMW gadgetry it’s a vehicle that stands out in its class, while greater efficiency makes the 7 Series more attractive too. Furthermore the 7 Series is also now a real driver’s car with agile handling.

The current class-leader, the S-Class, now faces a battle of note as the 7 Series is beautifully built, spacious, awesome to drive and comes with cutting-edge technology. 

Through its interior design, the BMW 7 Series is a particularly modern rendition of pure luxury.


Base models
730d - R928 000
740i - R907 500
750i – R1 135 500
750Li - R1 243 500

BMW 7 Series Innovations
730d - R963 200
740i - R942 700
750i - R1 170 700
750Li - R1 278 700

BMW 7 Series Individual
730d - R1053 000
740i - R1 032 500
750i - R1 260 500
750Li - R1 368 500



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