INTRODUCTION
Magnificent Seven The fourth-generation 7-Series (E65, launched 2002)
was acclaimed as a superb driver's car which did not compromise on comfort or refinement,
but there was one major objection: its challenging appearance.
Viewed alongside its elegant but conservative predecessor (E38),
the aggressively angular E65 polarised opinion - to put it mildly -
and there were even calls in the motoring media for the resignation
of styling chief Chris Bangle.

Three years on, Bangle's vision looks less controversial,
especially since the launch of the arguably more resolved new 5-Series,
stunning 6-Series and downsized-but-undiluted 1 Series.

In short, we've got used to it. However, BMW took fright,
and with sales of the E65 gettingoff to a slow start,
it has instigated a subtle watering-down for this mid-term facelift.

The startled 'eyebrows' over the headlamps have gone, for a start,
as well as the bulbous rear bootlid and spoiler. Addressing the other main criticism,
BMW has also tweaked the complicated i-Drive control system,
adding a simpler menu and more direct access to certain functions.

Most noteworthy, though, is the revised engine line-up:
a modified 4.8-litre (367bhp) V8 in the 750i replaces the 745i unit,
an updated 4.0-litre (306bhp) V8 in the 740i replaces the 735i, the V8 745d
the 740d (models not sold in the UK), the all-new ultra-lightweight straight-six (258bhp)
is fitted in the 730i and the 730d's 231bhp unit has been updated.
The 760i V12 (445bhp) continues unchanged.
Minor enhancements have been made to the chassis and suspension,
and there are more options for furthertweaks:
the Adaptive Drive set-up now includescontinuously adjustable
damper control and Dynamic Drive, as in the 5-Series, to reduce body roll.

UK-specification models are available in 730i, 730d, 740i, 750i and 760i forms,
and Li long-wheelbase versions are also offered - including, for the first time,
diesel models. The SE and Sport variants continue, and options include the adaptive ride package,
active cruise control, adaptive headlights, a rear-seat entertainment pack including
TV and a two-seat rear passenger layout aimed at the chauffeur-driven.
Sales start towards the end of April 2005.


RELIABILITY AND QUALITY
There was a recall for a minor ECU problem affecting the fuel pump
inthe early days of the E65, but most customer complaints
were from owners baffled by the iDrive system:
not malfunctioning, just confusing.
Beautifully assembledfrom high-quality materials,
and impeccably engineered, the complex electronics seem to be standing
up to scrutiny in the real world now initial glitches have been ironed out.



IMAGE
Now looking more like the much-loved Mk3,
is this latest touched-up Seven a betrayal of Chris Bangle's
original vision or a much-needed toning-down of excess?
Either way, this Seven is a mightily impressive-looking machine -
especially at speed. It always looked better in action than in the photos,
or on a motor show stand, anyway. Let the buyers decide.



DRIVING
It's a huge, heavy car, but about as athletic as it can be.
The tweaks for 2005 are subtle - not that there was anything wrong
with the way the outgoing car drove - under everyday conditions,
but with the adaptive ride package in sports mode, the 750i
maintains its perfect balance and ability to leave a corner 'flat'
(without body roll) even on the tightest roads at high speeds.
It's awesome. The Active Steering option offered in the 5-Series
isn't an option, however - though with steering so responsive and direct,
that's hardly a must-have item.
On a more practical note, the electronic parking brake and column-mounted
gearshift take some getting used to, as does the iDrive control system,
though the latter is now slightly more intuitive than before -
it's easier to instruct the CD player, for example,
without accidentally re-setting all the preferences for the cabin temperature
and sat-nav guidance. It's still not as easy to use as
Audi's MMI (multi-media interface) though.



PERFORMANCE
We've only tested the 367bhp 750i as yet -
expected to be the best-seller of the range worldwide,
though the 730d will sell best in the UK - but with a 0-60mph
time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph (limited),
it's not exactly disappointing.
The six-speed automatic gearbox with Steptronic sequential-shift facility
is quick-acting, intelligent and flexible,
working well with the large V8 engine.



SAFETY AND SECURITY
Front, side, head and curtain airbags are fitted,
plus active head restraints; the structure should be exceptionally
solid and protective in the event of an impact,
and there's a huge array of electronic traction control and
stability aids to help keep you out of trouble in the first place.
And with the iDrive system less fiddly, drivers are less likely
to get distracted. New features for 2005 include the standard
fitting of xenon headlamps (active cornering lamps are optional)
and two-stage brakelight display, with LEDs that glow brighter
under hard deceleration. The keyless entry system with electronic fobs
make it well-nigh impossible to force the locks,
and security should be excellent -
though if you're still worried,
BMW can provide fully-armoured, bullet-resistant versions.



RUNNING COSTS
The new engines are all more powerful than those they replace,
but fuel economy is improved in most and unchanged in the V8 petrol engines,
thanks to refinements of BMW's Valvetronic petrol engine technology
and third-generation precise piezo-injection in the diesels
(which meet the Euro IV emissions standards, even without
the now-standard particulate filter).
Of course, all this is relative, with the 730i managing 27.9mpg,
the 730d 34.5mpg and the 760i just 21.1mpg,
but not bad for cars this size and weight;
carbon dioxide emissions range correspondingly from 216 g/km
(730d) to 330 g/km (760Li), so company car tax will be hefty.
The biggest cost will be depreciation, especially for models
with the larger petrol engines, but secondhand demand is usually strong -
especially for diesel versions -
so falls in value should be marginally less savage than for many
other cars this size. The SE or Sport packs will be crucial
to maintain resale value, however,
along with options such as the rear-seat entertainment package.



COMFORT AND EQUIPMENT
The 750i engine can get a little loud when pushed hard,
but it's a pleasing V8 sound rather than an intrusive roar.
The sports suspension (lowered by 20mm at the front and 10mm at the rear)
and 19-inch wheels give a rather hard ride, but then
that goes with the territory - and even so,
this Seven is wonderfully comfortable, as well as being
less prone to feeling 'floaty' than its predecessor.
Its multiway-adjustable seats are supportive,
body roll and sway is well-suppressed, especially in cars
with the adaptive ride package
(self-levelling suspension, electronic
damper control and dynamic drive)
and noise levels are generally low.
The rear cabin area is roomy even in the standard model,
and to full limousine standards in the Li long-wheelbase versions,
and the high-quality cabin is minimalist and uncluttered
without being stark and unwelcoming.
Standard equipment on UK cars will include 17-inch alloys,
full electrical adjustment for seats and steering column,
cruise control, tasteful leather upholstery, parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers,
plus a high-quality CD player - a decent tally by any standards.
SE models will add 18-inch alloys, the BMW Professional audio
and sat nav system and a dual-band GSM phone,
and Sport models 19-inch wheels, sports seats,
lowered sports suspension, matt wood trim (also reasonably tasteful)
and a three-spoke steering wheel.
LWB models have self-levelling rear suspension and rear sunblinds,
and further options include the Adaptive Ride Package,
rear seat entertainment package
(TV, six-CD autochanger, headphone connections,
centrally-mounted rear monitor and iDrive controller)
and the two-seat rear layout.


Edited by Dazza (24th Oct 2006 12:20am)