Yes, okay, the kidney grilles. They're enormous, unmissable and divisive. Can we leave it at that? Because the facelifted BMW 7 Series can also be had with something new behind those nostrils: a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8. We know this engine from various applications, not least the M5, and with 530hp in this guise it has the potential to convert the big Bavarian saloon from comfortable back-seat rider to ultra-luxury driver's machine - something we've always thought the G11 needed if it was to offer a proper contrast with the super-svelte S-Class.
Grilles aside, the new styling effort arguably helps the BMW's cause. It's sharper and more aggressive for it; BMW says the changes have helped to improve aerodynamics and reduce wind noise, too. But what lies beneath is very much mid-life facelift in nature, the chassis still comprised of the same two-axle air suspension setup with active anti-roll stabilisation and all-wheel drive. On the 750i, the wheels are of 20-inch as standard and the rear tyres have a wider 275mm width to the fronts' 245mm, so the 750i appears to have a sportier stance. But by-and-large, the biggest technical alteration is the introduction of the motor itself.
Well, it is from the PH perspective, anyway. For everyone else, the 2019 car's new cabin might be an equally desirable factor - so let's run through the basics quickly, shall we? See the screens in the dash - they come as part of BMW's 7.0 operating system that runs with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25 centre console touchscreen, offering what the company claims is the most customisable interface yet fitted to a Beemer. It includes the firm's new voice command tech that can be activated by saying "Hey BMW", while in the back are a pair of 1080 pixel screens for passengers, a centre console tablet and seats that recline like a business class seat. As a place to spend time, the new 7 builds on its already impressive predecessor, although it still can't match the S-Class for outright ostentatiousness. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Anyway, we're here to drive. The 7 pulls away smoothly and with only a hint of the 4.4-litre's gravelly low-rev tone. There's nothing gravelly about the ride quality; think extremely supple building into genuine smoothness at speed. The motor and gearbox work in tandem to maximise low rev torque and there's so little wind and road noise that the national speed limit feels achingly slow. Left to its own devices, the 7 is bonafide luxury cruiser - only the effortlessness of the V8 suggests there might be something lurking beneath the millpond.
Press the centre console's Sport button and the eight cylinder's volume raises very slightly, with a gruff puff added to every upshift. Even so, it's background stuff. The ride, too, stays remarkably comfortable and there's barely a hint of added stiffness to the rebound rates. But steer the car into a corner with intent and the nose reacts more keenly while the body stays flat. There's none of the S-Class's Magic Ride counter lean, but rather the feeling that there's clever reactive damping going on to keep body control in check, no matter how hard you try to unsettle it. It does all this while remaining supple and composed over bumps; the result of the air suspension's proactive front-facing camera. Coupled with the traction enabled by xDrive hardware, the 7 can carry immense speed with what seems in the cabin like little fuss.
If you really go looking for it on a B road, the are hints of broader adjustability in the chassis; one crested corner had the car's rear kicking out of line by a few centimetres. But that's more a combination of circumstances rather than evidence of throttle-actuated oversteer because it wasn't repeated anywhere else. The nose is definitely the dominate axle, which is probably as 7 Series owners prefer. Still, it has an advantage over the resolutely neutral S-Class - albeit on a minuscule scale.
It's shame then that the 750i's standard-fit variable ratio steering is so numb, because a more communicative rack might have been the key to making it more rewarding to pedal. The four-wheel-steer-enhanced reactivity somewhat masks the pitfalls, but when you're really on it and expecting some proper feedback, there's nothing but a little bit of load-related weight to satisfy your nerves.
Still, the 750i's limitations feel self-imposed: it remains a luxe-barge first and foremost and therefore only interested in relaying a limited idea of what the road surface is actually like. A rear-wheel drive model with more exciting - but ultimately you get what most buyers are surely paying for: a very fast, immensely capable limo capable of shrinking a continent into manageable chunks while it serves up considerable space - and a lot of screens - to everyone on board. Its ghostly, mammoth-sized performance is merely the icing on the USP cake. And probably worthy of the badge on its nose.
SPECIFICATIONS - BMW 750I XDRIVE M SPORT
Engine: 4,395cc, V8, petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 530@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553@1,800rpm
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)