Overall rating: 4.5/5
Packing a biturbo 4.4-litre V8 engine, the range-topping BMW 750Li xDrive is a deeply impressive machine that mixes astonishing performance with the same exalted levels of luxury experienced in the rest of the launch line-up. However, punitive running costs mean that in Ireland, if you're after a Seven, you're much better off sticking to the all-round splendour of the 730d.
In the Metal:
You'll not spot much of a difference between a regular wheelbase 7 Series and a longer version, unless two of them are parked together. Then you'll notice the stretched roofline and colossal rear doors that speak of the additional 140mm of metal (bringing with it 45kg of extra weight) that are grafted in to the BMW to create the 750Li. It's in long wheelbase guise that the latest Seven looks at its most unconvincing - the middle of the car teeters on the verge of being bulbous, while the lack of defining swage lines that keeps it looking clean as a short wheelbase model suddenly leave you with big slabs of plain metal along the flanks. It's still not ugly in our eyes, though, certainly not in the way the Bangle Seven so wonderfully and unapologetically was, and it has more visual interest than the Audi and Merc rivals - while not being as beautiful as the Jaguar XJ.
There will be no confusion about the presence of the 'L' in the boot badge once inside, though, as entire boardrooms of businessmen could be lost in the back. Every last millimetre introduced to the car is to the benefit of people in the rear chairs; thusly, our test example was equipped with the Executive Lounge package that brings in massaging, heated and ventilated, electrically adjustable and reclining chairs, a big rear centre console command area, including a tablet screen (making the Seven a strict four-seater) and other luxuries like ventilated pews for the people up front. Likely to be a four- or even five-figure cost option, this one's only for the truly loaded. Anyway, suffice it to say that the interior of an Li 7 Series is comparable to that of a private jet: as in, decadently splendid.
The might of that 4.4-litre V8 driving through all four wheels is not something to be sniffed at. Despite the Li weight penalty working in conjunction with another 70 kilos of ballast courtesy of the xDrive system, a BMW i-inspired build programme (the 'Carbon Core') ensures even this 5,238mm-long 7 Series does not exceed two tonnes; in fact, it's a commendable 1,915kg.
So the glance at the stats that probably has you widening your eyes at the 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds only tells part of the story. Without ever shouting about it in a vulgar manner - the V8 makes a marginally louder, muted yet cultured sound under heavy acceleration than the 730d - the 750Li piles on the pace with near-terrifying nonchalance. The 450hp really comes into its own when moving from middling legal speeds, such as 80km/h, up into the realms of the anti-social, as the velocity just keeps coming in one long flood of acceleration. It'd be exhilarating stuff in any car, to be fair, but when you're sitting there in ventilated-seat, quilted-leather luxury, with the car using its Driver Assistance Package software to make piloting this behemoth easier than commanding a 116d; it's truly jaw-dropping.
Luckily, the extra weight and driven axle of the 750Li xDrive doesn't have a detrimental impact on either the handling or, more importantly, the supreme comfort the Seven can summon up. Throttle back to more acceptable cruising speeds and the V8 does the same vocal disappearing act as the 3.0 turbodiesel to leave the BMW's occupants wafting along in almost funereal silence. Magnificent - if it weren't for those darned door mirrors making such a racket (actually, they're hardly making any noise at all, it just seems that way in the absence of any other sounds from the car).
What you get for your Money:
Well, it's going to be a lot more expensive than the 730d and despite sub-200g/km CO2 emissions, the 750Li cannot - try as it might with stop-start and brake regen technology - sneak into tax Band E, which would mean €750 per annum. Instead, its Band F rating results in a €1,200 annual bill, €1,000 more than the 730d's requirement. Couple that with the 22.6mpg economy returns we actually saw, instead of BMW's rather fanciful quoted combined figure of 34mpg, and the 750Li just doesn't make much financial sense here, save for bragging rights. We estimate a starting price for the 750Li xDrive of about €140,000.
Audi S8: quattro grip, super-cool image, rather dull driving experience, all told.
Jaguar XJR: similarly mental performance in a car supposed to be all about supreme comfort. Similarly mental purchase price and running costs, too.
Mercedes-AMG S 63: well, why not? Thunderous V8 soundtrack and much more overtly sporting than the 750Li.
It's glorious to be in a Jekyll and Hyde car like the BMW 750Li xDrive, which packs massive firepower into a sober suit. There's very little wrong with its dynamics or comfort, but unless you've got either very deep or, preferably, bottomless pockets, there are far more sensible and preferable models in the excellent new 7 Series range.