It’s a given that any 7 Series will be luxurious, spacious, and come with enough tech to launch a nuclear strike, but could the M division really turn this two-ton luxo-barge into a sports sedan worthy of the revered M badge?
BMW wanted to prove that it is, so we toured the roads around Palm Springs and had free reign at the Thermal Club race track to push the car to its very limits.
After launching an all-new 7 Series last year with a six-cylinder, an eight-cylinder and even a hybrid, this year it’s time to break out the big guns, starting with this M-tuned twin-turbo 12-cylinder monster.
It makes 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, and despite weighing more than 5,000 pounds (2,326 kg), standard xDrive all-wheel drive helps launch it to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds (zero to 100 km/h in 3.7).
But while anyone can stuff enough power into a big car and make it launch fast, what BMW and M have become famous for is how their cars behave on winding roads and race tracks. Although it’s a hefty vehicle, its Carbon Core construction minimizes weight up top with the use of layered aluminum and carbon fiber in the body structure so that the car’s weight is lower, benefitting handling.
Unfortunately, despite being largely aluminum, the V12 engine up front pushes the weight distribution to 54 front/46 rear, when you would normally want an even 50-50 or slight rear bias.
But Can it Turn?
While there is no escaping the physics of trying to change directions in a car weighing over two tons, all the electronics and mechanicals come together to create a car that handles far better than it has any right to.
To overcome all the weight, BMW employs all the tricks in its playbook. Active roll stabilization uses electronically controlled disconnecting roll bars so that maximum stiffness in a track setting doesn’t result in a jarring ride over bumpy roads. Rear-biased but highly variable xDrive all-wheel drive balances torque between the front and rear axle, rear-wheel steering helps with agility at low speeds and stability at high speeds, lightweight 20-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber provide tremendous grip and massive 19-inch brakes pull all that mass down from high speeds with certainty. Even after a full day of intermittent track work, the brakes were still strong, showing no signs of fade.
Dialed into Sport mode, the steering is crisp and quick to turn in, and firmly consistent through the long sweeping corners at the track. The body gradually leans away from corners the more aggressively you turn in, the tires scrabbling for grip as the all-wheel drive shuttles torque front to back – one notable absence in the M760i’s bag of tricks is torque vectoring, but rear-wheel steering and the rear bias of the AWD help launch the car out of turns with a roaring explosion of combustion.
Even in tight slalom sections, the M760i changes direction smartly and builds impressive speed before body roll and screeching tires signal its limits.
The conventional 8-speed automatic is silky smooth in Comfort mode, but on the track, the available Sport mode fires off shifts before you ever even suspect you might be in the wrong gear.
Meanwhile, In the Real World
It’s an almost surreal car to drive on the track with technology overcoming that much mass, but despite all its capabilities on track, it is a road car first, and that is where the range of its abilities shine. From serene, self-driving highway cruiser to blasting up and down mountain roads, the only limits are your good sense. Autobahn cruising speeds would be child’s play, but even in tight winding roads, the rear-wheel steering and all-wheel drive own the corners and you are unlikely to find the space to reach its limits.
But chances are, the 7 Series, even this M-Performance model, will spend most of its time on highways and city streets. On the highway, it is quiet and stable, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist helping to share the workload of small steering corrections and throttle and braking adjustments, and the long-range sensors work well to ease off speed as you approach slower traffic. It can also adjust speed to local limits based on traffic sign recognition.
The seats are adjustable in many ways, with heating, cooling, and massage in addition to being supportive and comfortable. The back seats can be similarly configured, with a flip down foot rest and acres of legroom, and the trunk can handle sets of golf clubs for a foursome. To pass away the time in the back seat, headrest-mounted screens offer entertainment options and various iDrive functions, controllable by touch or a handheld remote.
The front-row iDrive system is also touchscreen-operated, with a knob for scrolling and selecting with a pad for handwritten input on top. One of the novelties introduced in the 7 Series is gesture control, with camera detecting certain specific gestures: A swirling finger to raise or lower audio volume, swiping hand to accept a phone call, and a two-finger poke that can be set to a variety of different functions like changing radio station or activating route guidance to home.
Even the key fob for the 7 Series is pushing the tech envelope, with a little screen the size of an iWatch to control locking and lights and even warm the car up before you get to it. Although not new or exclusive to the 7 Series, I love BMW’s numbered shortcuts that allow programming of radio station presets or favorite phone numbers or even destinations for route guidance. Navigation is aided by real-time traffic information that will help determine the fastest route based on traffic conditions. Route Guidance prompts aren’t limited to the dashtop screen, though, but rendered in great detail in the expanded full-color head-up display.
The Verdict: 2018 BMW M760i Review
There is no question that the 7 Series is already an impressive accomplishment that reflects BMW’s dedication to both luxurious accommodation, technological advancement and its roots as a driver’s car. But this BMW M760i is a pinnacle of the brand and a special character in this segment.
No, it doesn’t handle like an M4 on the track, feel as responsive or visceral as an E30 M3, or carve up a canyon road like an M2, but it’s not meant to be a full M car. What the BMW M760i does deliver is uncompromised, state-of-the-art luxury with an edge of performance and a spectacular soundtrack from that big, burbling V12, and it reflects the balanced, everyday performance that BMW is offering in its M-Performance brand.