Porsche Panamera encroaching on its sporty limo vibe from beneath and the Bentley Flying Spur offering 200mph potential and a posher badge at the next level up the 7 Series is squeezed from below and above.
The M760Li comes out fighting though. 30 years after the first 12-cylinder 7 Series, a 610hp 6.6-litre V12 at this price point is impressive, especially considering the cheapest W12 Flying Spur is £160K and the newly announced S version with its 202mph top speed is nearly £170K. V12 S-Classes are pricey too, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 (relatively) down on power at 530hp and costing £172K while the full beans 630hp S65 AMG costs a hefty £185K. If big numbers are your thing both also thump BMW's motor for torque, the S65 doing the full 1,000Nm/737lb ft for ultimate bragging rights.
This is an M Performance BMW, not a full-blown M, but that letter brings with it some expectation it'll deliver more than just Autobahn blitzing pace. So you get V12 status in a package designed to encourage owners out of the back seat every once in a while. That, it's hoped, is BMW's major USP in the sector. Maybe it's time to dust off that old 'Ultimate Driving Machine' tagline lads...
Kicking off the press drive with some track action behind a works DTM driver is certainly a bold statement of intent. With the potential to backfire somewhat. In the desert heat outside Palm Springs on The Thermal Club 'driver resort' (entry requirements include buying a plot and house for $3m and coughing up $100,000 a year for membership), the M760Li starts wilting like the fat lad on a bleep test. After a couple of laps the brake pedal is going long, half way round the next the engine flashes up a temperature warning and cuts power and the promise of xDrive offering a traditional BMW rear-biased cornering stance is drowned in a howl of understeer.
In Comfort mode it lurches and rolls around as you'd expect on a tight little test track. Knock it into Sport and the difference is significant. The electro-mechanical anti-roll bars tighten up, the air springs stiffen, the steering gains weight and the effect of the rear-wheel steering suddenly feels more significant. It's no M2, but as a demonstration of the breadth of ability engineered into the package it's a success.
it is on the M4?
The Interstate south finds the M760Li in more comfortable territory, literally. American road surfaces aren't the best but the BMW rides with both authority and refinement, bumps and expansion joints smothered by the air springs and decoupled anti-roll bars. The V12 settles back to a murmur, the only worry being the thought of how California Highway Patrol might react to a convoy of matt grey BMWs at what we'll describe as an Autobahn cruising pace. Such technicalities aside you'd hope a flagship 7 Series could do this kind of thing all day long and there's little doubt the M760Li can. But then the route gets a little more interesting.
In that Californian way grid-spaced suburbia gives way to serpentine mountain road in the space of one block. Sport mode is an obvious temptation given the way it proved its worth on the test track. But the 7's ace up its sleeve is the Adaptive mode, which reads both the nav for what gradients and corners are coming and also your driving style. So when you're stuck behind a bimbling Prius - also standard for California - it'll revert to Comfort mode waftability. As and when he pulls over to let you past (credit to American drivers for their willingness to do this) it takes just a few seconds for the black boxes to recalibrate and automatically set the car up into something approaching the Sport mode. It's really quite creepy. But also incredibly clever.
Engine response is mighty, the turbo V12 able to hold a high gear and use the torque but also happy to rev out more than you'd expect of such a sizeable lump. You can manually shift the gears if you'd like but Adaptive Mode is very good at predicting and - if necessary - holding the gear you need at the appropriate time. Up here the xDrive four-wheel drive gives you confidence to really exploit the power, even with the occasional patches of snow melt running across the road.
And then for the final push back into Palm Springs and a switch to the back seat the other side of the 7 Series' character is revealed. Reclined into sleep position and with the massage seats gently kneading your buttocks as you browse on the integrated Samsung tablet, you begin to understand why some owners may leave the driving to someone else.
They'll be missing out though. Because there is enough M sparkle in this car to make it as entertaining to drive as it is comfortable to be driven in. A V12 at this price point is something of a steal too. May take a few years before it's on Shed's radar though.
M760Li versus the Thermal Club circuit here
BMW M760Li xDRIVE
Engine: 6,592cc V12 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, xDrive variable AWD, rear-wheel steering
Power (hp): 610@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 590@1,500rpm
Top speed: 155mph (limited; 189mph limited with optional M Driver's Package)
Weight: 2,255kg (EU with driver)
MPG: 22.4 (NEDC combined)