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    Leading Role. We head off to California to sample BMW’s most powerful road car, the stunning M #BMW-760Li-xDrive-G12 / #BMW-7-Series-G11 . BMW continues its fine V12 tradition with the range-topping M760Li xDrive, but does it deserve the M badge or is it just acting the part? Words: Shane O’ Donoghue. Photography: Uwe Fischer and Barry Hayden.

    To help us get into the mind set of potential buyers of a car like the new M760Li, BMW brought us to Palm Springs in California. There, we got to have a close-up look at how the other half lives, the other half that we watch on our cinema screens, for example, marvelling at their acting talents. I presume that these people don’t need a degree from RADA to feign disinterest in the sticker price of a car, but they’re not impervious to numbers, which is partly why there remains, in 2017, a BMW you (they – no offence) can buy with a prominent ’V12’ badge on its flanks.

    And as we stood sipping cocktails with BMW’s engineers on the lawn of a house owned by Leonardo DiCaprio (you couldn’t make it up), there sat a clear reminder, in the guise of a highly original looking E32 BMW 750iL, that BMW has previous with the #V12 engine layout. Indeed, #2017 marks the 30th anniversary of its introduction and there has been a healthy stream of #V12-engined BMWs ever since.

    But this one is different. This is the first developed by BMW M and wearing the evocative red, blue and purple striped badging. The name is a little longwinded, but that indicates its positioning as an M Performance Vehicle, not a full-on M car. We asked Frank van Meel, BMW M’s boss, why not call it simply the #BMW-M7 , and he explained that, to back that up, the 7 Series would have to lose some of its comfort and comportment in a bid to give it the razor-sharp responses and focus of a true M car. He reckons there isn’t really a market out there for such a model. That doesn’t, he insists, mean that the M760Li should be seen as a pretender to the throne. The remit for the #BMW-M760Li was simple: give buyers the absolute best-in-segment combination of driving dynamics and ride comfort.

    Before we get to that, however, we really should address the powerplant, as it’s a tad special. The 6.6-litre V12 is fed air by two mono-scroll turbochargers (twin-scroll ’chargers were deemed unnecessary to reach the target output and responsiveness) making for maximum figures of 610hp at 5500rpm and 590lb ft of torque from just 1550rpm all the way around to 5000rpm – just below that peak power point, notice. It starts up with a purposeful rumble, but unless you’ve selected Sport mode it settles into a subdued idle and it’s whisper quiet and smooth around town or even at a high-speed cruise. The sound changes markedly if you either pin the throttle for an extended period or you press the Sport button. There’s a bypass valve in the exhaust that opens automatically at wide open throttle under load or when the car is in the Sport setting and it lets the V12 sing in its distinctive voice, though being an M car it’s given a harderedged note here than it might otherwise have had. Oddly, BMW thought it necessary to amplify the sound by small amounts through the car’s speakers. We wouldn’t have thought it was required with such a power unit to play with.

    Although the long wheelbase 7 Series uses its ’Carbon Core’ to help reduce weight, it’s still not far off two and a half tonnes, so the official 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds is scandalous – it’s the quickest of any BMW in production right now. And owners of the car can attempt to repeat that feat over and over thanks to the inclusion of a simple-to-use launch control function in the eight-speed automatic transmission. Come to a stop, keep the brake pedal down hard with your left foot, floor the throttle without releasing the brake just yet and a little chequered flag appears in the all-digital instrumentation as the revs settle at an optimum point. Release the brake within three seconds and the rear dips, the nose rises and before you know it you’re doing licence-shredding speeds, punctuated by fast, smooth gearchanges exactly where the computer thinks they should be. It sounds dramatic, but actually it’s so controlled and so effortless for the engine that it’s almost an anti-climax. That transmission is a beauty though, perfectly smooth and refined in Comfort mode and a little quicker in the Sport setting without ever feeling as razor-sharp or uncouth as BMW M’s dual-clutch transmission can be. Even on two different tracks we found little need to take over control via the tactile wheel-mounted gearchange paddles.

    That’s right, we brought this long wheelbase luxury car weighing over 2200kg to a race circuit and lived to tell the tale. In fact, the M760Li gave a rather good account of itself. Before we were let loose on the ’Triple Crown’ race circuit at The Thermal Club (adjacent to the new BMW Performance Center West in California and basically a purpose-built five-mile track for the well-heeled to play on with their expensive toys – it’s possible to buy a villa overlooking the circuit with all-inclusive access to the track at any time, for example), we tried out the big Seven on a handling circuit that initially looked more suited to karting than a big limousine. Even in Comfort mode the car didn’t feel out of place, while selecting Sport upped the fun quotient considerably and all four tyres were soon squealing with delight (that’s what it is, right?) as it felt perfectly natural to push the M760Li to its limits, even on such a narrow piece of tarmac.

    Following other drivers in convoy it was possible to see that the rear wheels were steering too, the presence of Integral Active Steering helping the long Seven feel profoundly agile in tight and acute direction changes in particular. Mapped to the driving modes, the rear-wheel steering system steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds to help manoeuvrability and agility in slower corners, while turning them in the same direction at higher speeds to enhance stability – such as in the case of a high-speed lane change. It’s remarkably effective on track given that the rear wheels have a maximum angle of just three degrees, though its inclusion in the chassis has allowed BMW to use a more direct front axle steering ratio – itself featuring a variable ratio rack. And there’s even enough information coming through the steering wheel rim for you to adjust your line at speed.

    We discovered that more so on the wide expanses of the Triple Crown track, where lovely long and reassuringly wide sweeping bends allowed time to explore the outer limits of the chassis’ ability. The most impressive aspect of all this was perhaps the unflappable brakes. They’re steel discs all-round and we had no issues with pedal feel or fade after a few fast laps, each featuring several high-speed straights into much slower corners. The Michelin Pilot tyres eventually became the weakest link as they heated up, but even so, the chassis balance means it’s all well-telegraphed and controllable. Leave all the driver assistance systems in place and the M760Li will lap smoothly and quickly with little drama, but even with traction and stability control turned off, it’s no handful in the dry.

    What’s more, the chassis is highly resistant to understeer, instead preferring to gradually move into a neutral four-wheel slide – after quite a bit of provocation I should add. When this happens, there’s little reason to back off the throttle fully, instead trimming the line by slight adjustments with your right foot, helping the M760Li feel more rear-driven than you might expect. Unsurprisingly, xDrive four-wheel drive is standard, but it’s undoubtedly a system that prefers a rear-drive bias. By default, 100 per cent of the engine output is sent to the back axle, and an army of sensors help the control unit decide when it would be prudent to send power to the front. But even then the maximum that can be apportioned to the front wheels is 50 percent.

    There’s plenty more trickery in the suspension, and the clever part of this car, which few buyers will appreciate, is how all the sub-systems interact with each other. So the air suspension (same volume as in the rest of the 7 Series line-up, but retuned to suit the M760Li) and Dynamic Damper Control systems are brought together with active roll stabilisation within the Executive Drive Pro system. And this is the key to the M760Li’s breadth of abilities. On track, being driven faster than any real buyer of this car is likely to drive it, the M760Li does feel big, but it’s remarkably controlled and controllable; there’s no unseemly lurching or body lean or pronounced nose dive under hard braking – it just gets on with it, even if you are aware of the battle with the laws of physics.

    When we finished our circuit driving, we took the same cars out on the public road where it revealed its alter ego. There, despite the low profile tyres and a more sporting remit than any other #BMW-7-Series , the M760Li was just as comfortable as them – even on really poor road surfaces. What’s more, it was eerily smooth and refined and comfortable even in Sport mode when not in a hurry, while Comfort and Comfort Plus delivered the clichéd magic carpet experience. That active roll stabilisation system plays a large part in that, as it allows for greater wheel movement in a straight line than fixed anti-roll bars, while quickly reacting to turning forces and cancelling them out before you’ve realised in the corners. It’s so effective that the best driving mode for the public road is Adaptive. This uses data from the sat nav, a stereo camera and other variables defining driving style to best set the car up for any given moment. Few will find fault with it, though many will still prefer to actively choose a given mode, of course.

    For those that want all the performance and dynamic ability of the M760Li, but not necessarily the attention it might attract, there’s the ’Excellence’ version of the car (pictured below), which is available for the same £132,310 price. This does without the M aerodynamic package, has a lot more shiny chrome, unique (much less sporting) 20-inch wheels, less M badging and a quieter exhaust at all times. Inside, it gets a few other bespoke touches (for the already sumptuous cabin with its #BMW Individual leather upholstery and lots lots more) and the gearchange paddles are removed.

    For completion (ok, we just wanted more track time), we took the Excellence variant out on the Triple Crown track for a few fast laps and, in honesty, it felt no different at all. In truth, many will think that its subtle #V12 badging and appearance mean a less vulgar looking car, in keeping with the wishes of certain members of The Rich and Famous Club to keep a low profile. Hence it may not fit in around Palm Springs way…

    The M760Li does feel big, but it’s remarkably controlled and controllable; there’s no unseemly lurching or body lean.

    Despite the low profile tyres and a more sporting remit than any other #BMW-7-Series-G12 the M760Li was just as comfortable.

    It starts up with a purposeful rumble, but unless you’ve selected Sport mode it settles into a subdued idle and it’s whisper quiet and smooth.


    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #2017 / #BMW-M760Li-xDrive / #BMW-M760Li-xDrive-G12 / #BMW-G12 / #BMW-G11 /
    ENGINE: #V12 , 48-valve, turbocharged

    CAPACITY: 6592cc
    MAX POWER: 610hp @ 5500rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 590lb ft @ 1550-5000rpm
    0-62MPH: 3.7 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (can be upped to 190mph with M Driver’s package)
    ECONOMY: 22.1mpg
    EMISSIONS: 294g/km
    WEIGHT (EU): 2255kg
    PRICE (OTR): £132,310
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    Another Individual Seven / #BMW-G12 / #BMW-7-Series-G11 / #BMW-7-Series-G12 / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-Individual / #2016

    You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a bit early in the new Seven’s life to be spawning a series of special editions but hot on the heels of last month’s Individual #BMW-G11 7 Series models comes another one, the snappily titled #BMW-Individual-7-Series-The-Next-100-Years .

    This is a bit of a birthday present to itself and it shares the limelight with #Montblanc as each of the 100 Individual Sevens will come with an exclusive BMW Centennial fountain pen. The Next 100 Seven is available with three different engines – 740Le (both two-and four-wheel drive versions), 750Li (again both normal and #xDrive ) and the range-topping #BMW-M760Li-xDrive / #BMW-M760Li-xDrive-G12 .

    The anniversary model is available exclusively in BMW Individual Centennial blue metallic and will have an exclusive, hand-crafted signet bearing the lettering ‘THE NEXT 100 YEARS’ adorning the B pillars, the interior strips above the glove compartment and on the front and rear seat headrests. The cover of the cup holder boasts the inscription ‘1 of 100’.

    Inside, this special edition features BMW Individual fine-grain Merino full leather trim in ‘Smoke white’ with black accents and this is used for the seats, door panels, the upper and lower sections of the instrument panel, the centre console, armrests and door pulls, too. The interior ambience of the centennial model is capped by Individual interior strips in Piano Finish black and an Individual leather steering wheel with fine-wood applications in the same finish. The seat surfaces are quilted in a woven look and have hand-woven piping while the carpet, floor mats, safety belts and the BMW Individual Alcantara headliner also come in the Smoke white colour. The lucky owners will have to be very careful with that Montblanc pen… or perhaps it uses Smoke white ink?
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    7 SERIES MADNESS / #BMW-G11 / #BMW-G12 / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW / #BMW-M760Li-xDrive / #BMW-M760Li-xDrive-G12 / #V12 / #Apina-B7-G12 / #Apina-B7 / #Alpina / #BMW / #Alpina-G12 /

    Alpina and BMW have lost the plot and produced arguably two of the most mental cars we’ve ever seen from either company – and they’re both 7 Series. From BMW comes the M760Li xDrive, which is one hell of a mouthful, but it’s also one hell of a car… Under the bonnet sits the new #M-Performance #TwinPower Turbo #twin-turbo-V12 engine, now weighing in at 6.6 litres and making a monstrous 600hp backed up by 590lb ft of torque and, with the #4WD #xDrive system on board, that means 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. BMW says the xDrive system has been given a rear bias and the suspension has been tuned specifically for this car and while it’s not an M7, it is an M Performance model like the M135i and so enjoys unique styling elements to distinguish it from lesser models. It’ll be launched at the end of the year and while pricing hasn’t been announced, we’re guessing it’s going to be too much for the likes of us…

    Alpina, meanwhile, has taken a different route for its all-wheel drive B7, utilising its fettled version of the #N63 4.4-litre twin-turbo #V8 with the wick well and truly turned up, meaning the cylinder shortfall and capacity deficit is no handicap, the B7 outdoing the #M760Li on power, with 608hp, and matching it for torque. It’s quicker too – the 0-62mph sprint takes an unbelievable 3.7 seconds and the aerodynamically-restricted top speed is 192mph. A two-wheel drive version is available but considering it’s only £2155 cheaper and also slower, we’d pay £96,150 for the full-fat, all-wheel-drive B7.
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