More often than not, the changes on a vehicle that has gone through a facelift are not that striking - visually, at least.
These changes, which usually revolve around things like the lights, the bumper design, the wheel design, as well as the exterior colour, often require a second look before one can tell if it’s the pre- or post-facelift model.
In fact, a majority of pre- and post-update models look so similar that only those with an eye for detail will be able to tell which is which at a glance.
However, what BMW has done with the new G12 7 Series we’re looking at here, is nothing short of impressive, and is guaranteed to get people talking about it once they see it.
Unveiled earlier this year, the G12 7 Series now comes with new powertrain options, improved driving dynamics, better driver assistance and connectivity features, as well as a few key design updates.
The big news is of course, the face of the car itself. In an effort to make the new 7 stand out from the rest of the models in the stable as well as its rivals, the folks at BMW have decided to go crazy with the kidney grille, making it 40% larger than before.
Besides adding more road presence and accentuating the width of the car, the massive kidney grille also serves a purpose - to let enough air in to cool down the engine.
As if the grille is not striking enough, the headlights are now 35% slimmer than before, the BMW emblem is significantly larger, and the height of the bonnet has also increased, which translates to this monstrosity which makes the S-Class and the Audi A8's front ends look like child’s play.
Yes, sufficient air flow and cooling for the engine is important and all, but according to the experts from BMW, this is exactly what customers wanted – a 7 Series with more road presence, and one that looks nothing like any other car in the market.
Speaking of customers, 41% of the pre-facelift 7 Series owners are from China, which makes it the biggest market for the model. So, since bigger and longer often means better in the country, it is no surprise that BMW has decided to cater to their demands, making it what it is today.
Plus, unlike the Mercedes-Benz S-Class which looks just like the E and the C when seen from a distance, the new 7 doesn’t look like anything else in this world. Even if you see it from outer space, you will know that it’s the new 7 Series.
So, if sheer road presence is what you want from a car, look no further.
That said, other exterior updates include redesigned, more aerodynamic bumpers on both Luxury Line and the more aggressive looking M Performance variants, new wheel designs, slimmer LED taillights, a full-width light strip which runs across the rear above the number plate, as well as a more upright side air breathers.
During our stint with the car in Faro, Portugal, earlier this year, we managed to sample two variants – the 750Li Luxury Line, as well as the 745Le plug-in hybrid (known as the 740Le in Malaysia) variant which came with the M Performance kit.
Out of the two, the 745Le was obviously the more aggressive looking one, with a very sporty looking front bumper with large air ducts, a sporty wheel design, as well as Blue ‘M’ brake calipers.
The 750i Luxury Line trim, or the “Dato Spec” as we would like to call it, is the more elegant looking one with a generous dose of chrome trim, a very sleek front bumper with nicely hidden air ducts, and classy multi-spoke wheels.
Between the two trims, the one that we prefer is of course the sportier M Performance kit since we are still young and aggressive at heart. However, those who want to keep things classy would prefer the Luxury Line.
As for the Malaysian market, the 740Le which was launched here is the only variant offered, clad in the Pure Excellence package, which is similar to the Luxury Line we're looking at here.
Inside the cabin, the new 7 remains largely unchanged from the pre-facelift model, with the key updates being the new 10.25-inch Live Cockpit Pro full digital instrument panel, the 12.3-inch central display which is now a touch-screen, and a more customisable Gesture Control system, all of which are powered by BMW’s latest OS 7.0 operating system.
Previously situated under the centre console armrest, the tray for smartphones that support wireless charging is now positioned immediately in front of the cupholders. LED ambient lighting with a choice of six colours is also available as standard.
Other than that, the steering wheel is new, and the rear-seat entertainment has been upgraded, with the 10-inch displays now supporting touchscreen functionality. The audio system offering has also been upgraded from Harman Kardon to Bowers and Wilkins. However, some markets like Malaysia for instance, still gets Harman Kardon.
The car also includes the latest version of the BMW Touch Command unit. This removable tablet with a 7-inch screen can be used from any seat and even outside the vehicle.
Unlike the exterior, the 7 Series’ cabin still looks and feels the same as before. The only difference is that things are more technologically advanced and a tad more convenient than before.
But overall, it is still an absolutely lovely place to be in, both at the driver’s seat and the rear “Tauke” seat.
If we are to compare the cabin with the S-Class’ which actually looks like a spaceship, the 7 Series looks slightly more conservative and a bit dated, as there is not as much “screen” or ambient light colours as the S.
The rear seats still lose to the S-Class in terms of comfort as they are much firmer, but where the 7 wins is with the driver’s seat. The firmer seats give a very sporty and engaging feel, similar to what you would feel if you’re driving a luxurious sports car.
We managed to sample two variants during our stint with the new 7 Series during the global launch in Portugal earlier this year– the 750Li xDrive and the 745Le xDrive plug-in hybrid.
The first car which we drove was the 750Li, which is powered by the same 4.4-litre TwinPower Turbo V8 engine as the M850i, producing 530 hp and 750 Nm of maximum torque (80 hp and 100 Nm more than before). Paired to the engine is the latest-generation 8-speed automatic Steptronic transmission and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system.
Capable of sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds, the 750Li xDrive, despite its size, is very fast car. Power delivery is not only instant, but also very seamless.
Specifications of the BMW 7 Series 750Li xDrive
After driving it around for about half a day, what we loved most about the new 7 is that it's just as impressive around corners as it is powerful in a straight line.
Thanks to the xDrive all-wheel drive system, the suspension that has been tweaked to be slightly firmer than before, and the updated Active Steering system, the new 7 Series handled corners with so much agility and composure that it didn’t feel like we were in a limousine at all.
The same goes for the 745Le plug-in hybrid as well, which is now powered by a bigger, more powerful 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine producing 286 PS and 450 Nm of torque, as opposed to the outgoing 2.0-litre turbo engine which was producing 258 PS and 400 Nm of torque.
The new 3.0-litre engine is now aided by a synchronous electric motor integrated into the transmission which adds another 113 hp and 265 Nm of torque. The nett maximum output (when in Sport mode) is 394 hp and 600 Nm of torque.
Specifications of the BMW 7 Series 745Le xDrive (known as the 740Le in Malaysia)
Also new is the 12 kWh lithium-ion battery which gives the plug-in hybrid 7 Series a pure-electric driving range of up to 54 km, compared to the outgoing 9.2 kWh battery which had an electric driving range of up to 40-odd km.
While a full charge requires 4.4 hours using a 16 A / 230 V power outlet, the 745Le xDrive can reach speeds of up to 110 km/h (20 km/h faster than the pre-facelift model) in all-electric mode before the engine kicks in, and reach speeds of up to 140 km/h in Electric mode.
There is also a new Battery Control mode in addition to the Electric, Hybrid, Sport, and Adaptive modes, which reserves a certain amount of battery charge which is pre-determined by the driver.
In terms of driving characteristics, the new 3.0-litre engine obviously makes the car feel much quicker and smoother than before, but the big difference is that the transition between full electric mode and normal mode when the engine kicks in is so smooth that it is barely noticeable.
Capable of sprinting from naught to 100 in 5.1 seconds, the 745Le didn’t really feel that slow compared to the 750Li xDrive. It is still a fast car and it handles just as impressively as the other variants.
Throughout our stint with both variants, the level of refinement and comfort was top notch, but the seats were a bit too firm for our liking. Unlike the S-Class’ seats which are arguably the most comfortable in the business, the 7’seats takes some time to get used to.
But the advantage of the firm seats is that they reminded us that we are in a car that is still very driver-oriented, especially when we were seated in front.
When we were driving it hard around twisty bits, the seats held us firmly and made sure that our butts were not sliding from one corner to another, which is rarely the case in most luxury cars. Simply put, what we have here is a limousine that is also ideal for some occasional canyon-carving.
However, the suspension of the new 7 Series, despite being the same in terms of hardware has been tuned to be firmer than before, and it was noticeable when we drove it.
Although some may enjoy the firmness as it translates into better handling, some drivers (including ourselves) may argue that it needs to be slightly softer, so that it would be more comfortable when it is driven in places like our amazing pothole-filled Malaysian roads.
Overall, the 7 Series is a much more capable and relevant product now, thanks to the new powertrain options, improved hybrid system, as well as new driver assistance and convenience features among others.
If we are to compare the two cars we are looking at here – the 750Li xDrive and the 745Le plug-in hybrid - there are a few key differences which may help potential buyers decide which is the most suitable for them.
While the non-hybrid versions are more powerful and come with a bigger boot (since there is no battery pack), the plug-in hybrid variants such as the 745Le xDrive which we drove here do not only consume less fuel, but also feel significantly quieter than the already quiet and refined cabin (in Hybrid and Electric modes).
However, they come with a smaller boot, and less power than their non-hybrid siblings. So, regardless of what floats your boat, there's something for everyone here.
If we are to compare the new 7 with its rivals, there are areas in which it wins, and some where it loses out.
For instance, the cabin may not be as extravagant as an S-Class or as modern as an Audi A8, but if you’re someone who would rather be at the driver’s seat, the 7 feels the best as it is one of the best driving cars in its segment.
The cabin may be a bit more conservative than its rivals, but the exterior of the new 7 Series, especially the front end, oh boy... you can love it or hate it, but one thing is for certain: you will definitely notice it.
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