The new BMW flagship 760Li
Of the 20,000-odd examples of the new 760Li that BMW expects to build in the next five or six years, just three per cent will come to the UK. Not a very big number, but enough to earn PistonHeads
an invite to Bavaria for an early drive of the car last month. Which was nice, because we're always up for sampling a bit of 'uber-engineering' and a Weiss beer or three!
Predictably enough, the most impressively 'uber' bit of BMW's new flagship 760Li is under the bonnet, where lurks a mighty 532bhp, 5972cc twin-turbocharged V12 mated to BMW's latest eight-speed (count 'em) automatic transmission.
Biggest Bimmer packs a twin-turbo V12
But before being 'unleashed' in the new model on the road, our motley group of assorted hacks was led to a bunker in the depths of the BMW Welt complex for a classroom-style presentation on the new 760Li's technical highlights - which it turns out are many and varied.
BMW's new all-aluminium powerplant is the first 12-cylinder unit ever to use twin-turbo technology, Double-VANOS variable valve technology and high-precision direct injection technology, we learned. It makes its 532bhp at 5,250rpm and 553lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm through to 5,000rpm, which is over 100hp and 110lb ft more than the previous model.
V12 identifying marks are subtle
As a result the latest big Bimmer has performance to shame many sports cars, with a 0 to 62mph time of 4.6 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. In fact a stopwatch might be the best way to recognise the 760Li on the road as the visual cues are minimal. But in case you don't have a timer handy, look out for the chromed indicator repeaters with V12 badges, twin 'quadrilateral' tailpipes on both sides at the back, and a unique kidney grille with chrome vertical slats. The car also has chromed door sill finishers with illuminated V12 designation, but you'll only see those if you're going for a ride.
Look out for quad-quadrilateral pipes
Which we did, in due course, because having survived BMW's bunker-based 'media durability cycle' we were led upstairs to the main deck of the architecturally stunning BMW Welt complex, where a fleet of dazzling white press cars were lined up in serried ranks.
The exit ramp out of this giant glass and metal temple to the BMW brand deposits new car customers (the ones who elect to pick up their purchase from BMW HQ) on the road directly opposite the BMW museum, which would have been a good time to pause and ponder on the history of V12 engineering that provides the backdrop to this latest installation.
Complex V12 engines are hand-built
The 'tradition' started back in 1925 with an aircraft engine, but first made its way into BMW road cars with the 750i model launched in 1987 - the first post-war German V12. The car we are sitting in is the fourth generation 7-series with V12 power, and its engine and transmission combo is significantly more advanced than those that went before. Built from lightweight aluminium, with the traditional 60 degree V-angle for optimised NVH, the engine is 22 percent more powerful and 5 per cent more frugal than its 446hp predecessor. The twin turbos sit neatly either side of the cylinder banks and, such is the engine's complexity, it has to be almost entirely hand-assembled, with each step checked and initialled by a second employee to eliminate possible Friday afternoon aberrations.
19ins alloys are standard
We didn't stop and ponder this at the time, as I was too busy working out where the road went, while playing with controls of a driving seat which has enough adjustability in enough different directions to keep a new owner pleasantly diverted for a morning at least. Fortunately the memory setting means you won't lose a morning every day you swap seats with the chauffeur, but it does make it difficult to imagine the proportions of the fellow who couldn't find a perfect driving position with the range of adjustment on offer.
Wonder if there's still a gold option...
Drifting (in the traditional sense of the word - sorry!) out of Munich and onto the motorway revealed this newest V12 limo has lost none of its ability to cosset and pamper the fortunate few who'll get to travel in it. The ride is quiet and very comfortable indeed over most surfaces, although when riding in the back some of the more prominent road imperfections - potholes and expansion joints - occasionally intruded slightly. But that's the trade-off for a giant of a car that once, on the open road, has the poise and balance to cover ground at a phenomenal lick, and not only on the autobahn, but also on more challenging A- and B-roads.
On the autobahn, as everywhere, the V12 delivers its monster performance in a thoroughly undemonstrative fashion. Depress the throttle and it goes, with a seemingly relentless surge of linear thrust from little more than idle speed, and an engine note that's barely audible until the upper rev-range - although even then it's not a noise to set the hairs on your neck twitching.
8-speed auto can be shifted manually
Changes up and down the eight-speed auto gearbox seemed marvellously silken at first, slurring fast and virtually imperceptible between ratios, with the effect that you never really know which gear you're in. At least it did for 99.99 percent of the time, but we did seem to upset it a couple of times by demanding sudden kick-down when the gearbox thought we were quite happy in 'loafing along' mode - for which rude awakening it rewarded us with an unexpectedly jarring jolt. Otherwise, it's a truly impressive drivetrain package, and although you can shift cogs manually using the shifter (there's no steering wheel/paddle option), there's frankly little point in trying to improve on what the transmission decides is for the best.
Ahem... yep, it all appears to be in there!
Off the autobahn, BMW is proud of the way the 760Li can be made to eat up cross-country tarmac, where switching to 'Sport+' mode stiffens up the damping and quickens the throttle response. It is an impressive display of power and control, but the level of performance on offer means you'd need to be driving stupidly fast to feel you were contributing much to the rate of progress, and it's more a case of sitting back and watching it all happen. But most probably you'll just want to start fiddling with the seat settings again.
If you want to travel in the greatest luxury that BMW can afford you without handing over the keys to a Rolls-Royce, you'll first need to find the not inconsiderable sum of £94,440. As somebody old enough to remember when £100k was officially a small fortune, this does make me wince just a little. To my mind the level of interior opulence is not quite what I'd want for that kind of money - the feel of the car we tested being a little more 'up-graded executive' than the 'bespoke luxury' I'd be looking for. With that in mind, the 760Li may find itself struggling to compete with the remarkably luxurious ambience offered by the imminent new Jaguar XJ (at least if the couple of early XJ press cars I've seen are a fair reflection of the range), even if the Bimmer wins on passenger space, especially where rear headroom is concerned.
But saying all that, some people will always want the best BMW 7-series that money can buy, and with its huge dynamic capability, massive haul of toys and undeniable presence on the road, this latest V12 model is unlikely to leave them disappointed when it goes on sale next month.
Plenty of toys for the driver
The executive suite
||0 – 62mph (secs)
||Top Speed (mph)
|BMW 760Li M Sport
Engine and transmission: twin-turbocharged V12 engine with Double-VANOS
and high-precision direct injection; eight speed automatic transmission.
Wheels and chassis: 19-inch light alloy Multi-spoke style 235 alloy wheels and Dynamic Drive.
Safety and technology: Lane departure warning system; Reversing Assist
camera; Speed limit display. TV function; Voice Control (with improved full
address entry) and USB Audio interface.
Interior equipment: Alcantara Headlining; BMW's Professional Multimedia
navigation system with 12 gigabyte hard drive; Climate comfort laminated glass;
Comfort Access; Comfort seats front and rear; DAB digital radio; Exclusive Burr
Walnut wood trim; Exclusive Nappa leather upholstery and instrument panel;
Loudspeaker System - BMW Professional; Seat heating front and rear and Soft
Optional - The 760Li also comes with elements of BMW's award-winning EfficientDynamics technologies:
Active Cruise Control with 'Stop and Go' function; BMW's Night Vision system with individual pedestrian recognition; Head-up Display; Integral Active Steering; Lane Change Warning and Side View cameras.