Lexus’s new IS has got the looks, but falls short due to some uninspiring engines
BMW 760Li review (2009 onwards)
Image © BMW
What – BMW 760Li
Where – Munich, Germany
Date – July 2009
Price – £94,440
Available – September 2009
Key rivals – Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8, Bentley Continental Flying Spur
Summary - Immense power from incredibly fast new big BMW. But high price and logic of 740d will severely limit sales in the UK.
We like – stupendous performance, agile handling, ‘special’ feel of mighty V12, rival-beating economy
We don’t like – too fast?, a bit anodyne in normal use, interior not distinct enough for the heady £94k price
If asked to name BMW's fastest car, chances are you wouldn't choose a 2.1-tonne, stretched-wheelbase luxolimo. That was before the firm unleashed this 760Li onto us, though. Want stats? Try 6.0-litre V12. Twin-turbocharged. Eight-speed automatic. 554bhp. 750Nm of torque. A (very) limited 155mph. Oh, and 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds.4.6 seconds! That makes it faster than a BMW M3 - all 4.0 V8 litres of it. Not that BMW is letting its new £94k range-topping model shout about this prowess. Chances are, if you encounter the rare 760Li you'll miss it; it may be the fastest car BMW makes, but it's certainly not the most outlandish.
V12 changes are limited to a bigger grille, quad square exhausts at the rear, 19-inch alloys, plus the odd bit of silver embellishment. Inside, it's long wheelbase only, so there's palatial room in the back, but again it's little different. Well, unless you count an Alcantara roof lining as a major change.It is in no way a particularly important 7 Series; nine in 10 7s are diesel, and this could sell barely 50 a year in the UK. It's here because, well, BMW can - and, for a limited few, the lure of the V12 means BMW's profits will benefit accordingly. But, speed apart, is it any good?
BMW went a little mad with this engine. In most eyes, 6.0 litres and 12 cylinders would be enough; after all, V12s are the purest form of engine you can get. The Gold Standard. Not BMW, though. What was missing? Oh, only two massive turbos, that's what...These fast-reacting blowers give it 554bhp, plus a huge slug of pulling power spread from 1,500 to 5,000rpm. Despite its massive weight, the effect is impossible to ignore: this car is fast. Ridiculously fast. Particularly so, given its ability to mask speed. Rarely has so much pace been gained so fast, yet felt so slow.
Soft initial response apart, the turbos react well, giving the 760Li serious muscle in any gear. That there are eight of them is barely an issue, as you floor it and see the traction control light flash at 120km/h. Indeed, it's only the constant, bland whistle of the turbos that has you grumbling.If you want to go really fast, let it rev. Here, the V12 soundtrack emerges - glorious, yet utterly smooth. This genuinely is a very special engine to use. In many ways, the automatic is equally impressive, with ultra-fast shifts. But it can, oddly, be a bit jerky at low speeds, which is a pity.
Ride and handling
We know the BMW 7 Series handles extremely well; it's the sharpest and most smaller car-like of the big German execs. With the lavish, stretched 760Li, BMW has changed the emphasis slightly. Standard self-levelling rear suspension is fitted, which makes the ride a bit more plush.At speed, there is a very luxurious absorbency, particularly from the rear seats. The car glides along, and cushions big bumps and undulations with composure. It never jolts or jars, yet also doesn't float about and make fat cats feel queasy.
The only penalty comes in town - at low speeds, it can be a bit bumpy. The big 19-inch wheels pick out city centre lumps rather too sharply for a luxury car. A Mercedes would be better in this respect. As for handling, it isn't quite as sharp as the standard 7 Series, but still highly impressive.And if you do want to tighten things up, switch the adjustable suspension from standard mode to Sport. The ride becomes harder but the body goes roll-free, becoming easy to thread quickly across roads you don't know. The pay-off, however, is a harder ride.
There's just not enough here to mark the V12 out as special. BMW does fit plush Nappa leather, plus Jaguar-like wood to the dash, console and doors. But both of these are available to 730d buyers with money to spend on options. The only real difference is the leather roof lining...That's not to say it isn't wonderful in the rear. Twin (just, note, only two) fully-adjustable seats offer a huge range of reclining adjustment, and are tremendously comfortable. Twin screens in the head rest display the same iDrive panel seen up front; you can control navigation, as well as watch TV.
Of course, it's loaded with options. You get digital TV, heated rear seats, four-zone climate control, lots of electric blinds and those decadent electric seats. BMW has spec'd its range-topper to justify its £94k price tag - although there are still lots of options remaining...It doesn't look as special as an S-Class or Flying Spur, but the interior has a logical, efficient layout. It's also roomy and accommodating, as you'd expect a long-wheelbase car to be. But, really, if we were paying this much, we'd like a little more other than licence-losing power to remind us...
Economy and safety
21.7mpg sounds far from impressive, at first glance. But, put it into context. This is a 544hp, 2.1-tonne super saloon, which is faster than any other new BMW on sale. Considering that, nearly 22mpg isn't too bad... particularly as with such meagre sales, the effect on the world will be negligible.For 2010, BMW has fitted an extra economy dial, showing when you're 'regenerating' power through the EfficientDynamics systems. This is neat, but of more relevance is the sub-300g/km CO2 figure. No car of this size and power can match it. Oh, and not only is it huge, the 7 is also a very safe car, too.
MSN Cars Verdict
You'd expect us to adore the fastest BMW you can buy. A big part of us does. The engine is simply incredible - insanely fast yet crazily easy to drive at speed. Trouble is, it's of little relevance to the UK. Over here, a 730d is ample; the new 740d V8 will be just perfect.That's this car's biggest rival: only super-rich BMW nuts will insist on a V12 7, when the V8 diesel is logically so much better. It's a mighty achievement, this car, but one China and the US will benefit from, not us.
Engines Petrol 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12
Power (bhp) 544
Torque (lb/ft) 553
0-62mph (secs) 4.6
Top speed (mph) 155 (limited)
Economy (mpg) 21.7
CO2/Tax (g/km/%) 299/35
Rating BMW 760Li
Ride and handling ***
Fuel economy ***
MSN Cars verdict ***
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