What Car? says...
Like oversized sunglasses, luxury limos have fallen out of fashion in recent years, but the BMW 7 Series is a shining example of why they can still make sense today.
For starters, they tend to be more comfortable to ride in and better to drive than taller SUV alternatives, such as the Bentley Bentayga and the Range Rover. And because saloons are lower and sleeker they’re also more streamlined, which is good for efficiency.
That’s particularly important when you’re relying on electricity to provide forward momentum, as all versions of the 7 Series do to some extent. Here we’re focusing on the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants – there’s also an electric car model called the BMW i7 (which we’ve reviewed separately).
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
You can’t buy a pure petrol or diesel version of the latest BMW 7 Series in the UK, so assuming you’ve ruled out the all-electric i7, you’ll need to pick between two PHEVs: the 750e xDrive and the M760e xDrive.
We haven’t tried the 750e yet, but it combines a 308bhp 3.0-litre petrol engine with a 194bhp electric motor (for a combined output of 483bhp) and has four-wheel drive. It's the least quick version of the 7 Series, but with an official 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds, it’s still capable of out-sprinting most hot hatches.
The M760e xDrive uses the same petrol engine but it’s been boosted to 375bhp to make it even faster, producing a combined 563bhp with the electric motor.
When you floor the accelerator pedal, the electric motor responds instantly, causing the car to surge forwards. And while there’s a brief delay before the petrol engine chimes in to help deliver maximum acceleration, you’re positively hurled down the road once it really gets into its stride.
The M760e can officially sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds, making it quicker than PHEV versions of the Audi A8 and Mercedes S-Class (the i7 M70 is even faster).
More pertinent, perhaps, is how smooth and easy the M760e is to drive when you're not in a hurry. If there’s charge in the battery, it behaves just like an electric car, building speed effortlessly and in near silence. As a bonus, the brakes are less grabby and unpredictable than they are in some PHEVs, including the Mercedes S580e.
Ride comfort is another strength, even though it’s not quite as brilliant as in the i7. The standard 21in alloys are no doubt part of the reason for this (the i7 and the less powerful 750e are available with smaller wheels) transmitting some very minor lumps through to occupants. Still, overall, the M760e is more forgiving than PHEV versions of the A8 and S-Class, particularly around town.
It’s also a quieter cruiser than those rivals, isolating you and your passengers remarkably well from wind and road noise. Plus, the six-cylinder petrol engine is silky smooth when it cuts in, humming away in the distant background – either when you’ve asked for brisk acceleration or because the drive battery is out of charge.
Thanks to a relatively low centre of gravity, the 7 Series is, unsurprisingly, far more agile than any luxury SUV alternative, but it impresses compared with its saloon rivals too. There’s less lean through tight bends, and the steering gives you a good enough sense of connection with the front wheels to make you feel confident about pushing on.
Officially, the M760e can cover 48 miles without burning a drop of petrol, while the less powerful 750e can manage up to 49 miles (it varies slightly depending on wheel size). You won’t actually get that far, but 30 to 40 miles should be achievable in real-world driving.
That’s a perfectly usable range, although the rival S580e can go even further on pure electric power, and that brings big tax advantages.
Strengths Excellent ride comfort; hushed cruising manners; rapid acceleration
Weaknesses Some rival PHEVs can go further on electric power
The interior layout, fit and finish
Although rear passengers are generally the priority in a luxury limo, someone is always going to be sitting behind the wheel driving – and whether that’s you or your chauffeur, we reckon there will be few complaints in the BMW 7 Series. The driving position is superb, plus there’s loads of electric seat and steering wheel adjustment.
You sit much closer to the road than in a luxury SUV, such as the BMW X7, the Bentayga or the Range Rover. However, visibility in the 7 Series is excellent (unless you have the optional Theatre Screen blocking the rear view out), and all versions come with parking sensors at the front and rear, plus a 360-degree camera.
The 7 Series is a level above its direct rivals for quality. There are lots of gloss-black and crystal-effect finishes to lend the inside an upmarket and expensive feel, along with a semi-transparent touch-sensitive panel that stretches right across the dashboard.
That might sound like an example of style over function, but it responds consistently to presses – a good thing when you consider that it houses some important controls, including the glovebox release and hazard warning lights.
As standard, the seats are trimmed in a faux-leather material called Veganza. Alternatively, you can have genuine leather or there's a part merino wool, part cashmere option, which pushes up the price quite a bit but feels surprisingly upmarket.
All versions of the 7 Series come with the latest BMW iDrive infotainment system, with what appears to be one giant display that stretches across more than half of the dashboard.
It is, in fact, a 14.9in touchscreen butted up against a 12.3in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel. The whole arrangement is curved slightly towards the driver to make it easier to see and help you reach the outer edges.
The graphics are super-sharp and the touchscreen responds quickly to presses, plus there’s the added convenience of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so you can run selected phone apps through the screen. The operating system isn’t quite as intuitive as earlier versions of iDrive (mainly because of how many features there now are), it’s still better than the systems in the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class.
That's partly because BMW has decided to shun the trend for removing physical controls (in its more expensive models at least). Yes, you can operate the screen by touch when you’re parked up, but there's also a rotary controller between the front seats, which is far less distracting when you're driving. It’s complemented by a natural speech voice control function, which works well most of the time.
Your rear passengers will hope you’ve specced the optional Theatre Screen – a 31in display that folds out of the ceiling to give a cinema-like experience. Thanks to a built-in Amazon Fire TV and a 5G aerial on the roof, you can stream on-demand TV or watch YouTube on the move. The display is partially touch-sensitive, although it takes a bit of getting used to.
If you’ve added the Theatre Screen, you’ll probably also want the 40-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system (this comes as part of either the Technology Plus Pack or the eye-wateringly expensive Ultimate Pack). Sound quality is fantastic and you get shakers in the seatbacks so you can feel as well as hear every scene as if you were part of the action.
Strengths Exceptional interior quality; good visibility; great driving position
Weaknesses Theatre Screen tech costs extra; infotainment system is fairly complex due to sheer number of features
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
At almost 5.4 metres long, the BMW 7 Series is one of the biggest cars on the road. It’s longer than its main rivals, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class, as well as less well-known luxury saloons, such as the Lexus LS.
That length helps give BMW’s flagship an enormous amount of rear leg room. Even if you’re sitting behind a really tall chauffeur, you’ll have several inches between your knees and the back of the seat in front.
Head room is good too, despite the fact the 7 Series comes with a panoramic glass roof as standard. However, if no one is sitting in the front passenger seat, you’ll want to be on that side of the car, because then you can slide the front seat all the way forwards out of the way, and even use it as a footrest.
The optional Executive Pack replaces the standard rear seats with two ‘lounge’ alternatives that have extra adjustment options and a massaging function, and can even be turned into business class-style beds.
Boot space in the 7 Series is a very respectable 525 litres, so trips to the airport or local golf club won’t be a problem. That’s roughly the same amount of luggage space as you’ll find in the Mercedes S580e, and much more than is offered by the plug-in hybrid A8.
However, the saloon opening is relatively small, and many luxury SUVs, including the BMW X7 and the Range Rover, can carry far more baggage.
Strengths Superb rear leg room; surprisingly good head room
Weaknesses Luxury SUVs give you more room for luggage
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you’re looking to save money on benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, there are cheaper company car options than the BMW 7 Series in the luxury car ranks. The cheapest of all run solely on electricity, and include the electric version of the 7 Series (the i7) and the Mercedes EQS.
However, if a fully electric car doesn’t work for you, the rival Mercedes S580e PHEV also offers lower tax bills courtesy of its longer all-electric range. The 7 Series is a cheaper option than the PHEV Audi A8, though.
Big saloon cars have a tendency to suffer heavy depreciation and there’s little doubt that the 7 Series will lose its value faster than a Range Rover or even an equivalent S-Class. Mind you, the A8 will be worth even less after three years.
The 7 Series comes with loads of standard luxuries, of course, including soft-close doors. However, some of the most alluring features – including the lounge rear seats, the Theatre Screen and the Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system – cost extra.
Remember, we can help you find a competitive price if you check our BMW 7 Series deals.
Reliability is something of an unknown quantity because the 7 Series was too new to feature in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. That said, BMW came a respectable 12th out of 32 brands in the overall manufacturer league table, well above Audi and Mercedes, but below Lexus (which finished top).
The 7 Series hasn’t been appraised for safety by Euro NCAP but it comes with lots of active and passive safety equipment. Plus, there’s an optional Driving Assistant Professional Pack, which includes a self-steering system that’s generally very smooth – although it can struggle if the road doesn’t have clear lane markings or you encounter a tight corner. In short, it’s best left for motorway driving.
A full (0-100%) charge of the 7 Series’ 18.7kWh PHEV battery takes around three hours at the maximum charging rate of 7.4kW. That’s comparable with most rivals, although the Range Rover PHEV can charge up much quicker (at speeds of up to 50kW).
Strengths BMW’s respectable reliability record; lots of standard safety kit
Weaknesses Heavier depreciation than an S-Class; you’ll want to add options
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|RRP price range||£105,510 - £144,185|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||256.8 - 282.5|
|Available doors options||4|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,476 / £2,018|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,953 / £4,036|