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BMW 760Li

Click to view picture gallery“Twelve cylinders, eight gears and
  two turbochargers. Says it all, really.
  The fact that it wears a blue-and-
  white BMW badge just adds to the
  appeal. Those able to afford BMW
s
  latest flagship don
t need to ask the
  price. For the record, don
t expect
  much change from £100,000
...”


AS YOU'D EXPECT OF BMW'S FINEST (and most expensive production road car), it's packed with power, performance, luxury and majors on state-of-the-art high-tech. With a car as sophisticated as this it's hard to know where to start. So let's do what Alice would have done — begin at the beginning. Outside.

First impressions count and the 760Li makes a very big first impression. For a start, at 5.5 inches longer than a standard 7 Series, it stretches (in good old, non-conformist British units) 16 feet 8 inches from nose to tail.

All of MotorBar's test cars have to take the Sainsbury's car park test. The 760Li passed with flying colours however, while the width wasn't as tight a fit as we'd expected, backed-up to within a millimetre of the wall (the parking sensors, rear camera and on-screen display make extremely accurate parking a breeze), the nose stuck out past the front of the bay by about three feet. Nice to know then that the bumpers can regenerate to their original shape following impacts up to 2.5mph!

Physically and visually the 760Li is a long car and most people's first comments reflect this. Seen nose-on or charging up in your mirror, it certainly is an intimidating sight.

Inevitably the second question onlookers ask is more predictable: "What's under the bonnet?" If they'd been a tad more observant they wouldn't have to ask because there, quite clearly on the side of the car at the leading edge of the front door on the indicator repeater, it says "V12". Another giveaway is the twin quadrilateral exhaust tailpipes.

Twelve cylinders, forty-eight valves and two turbochargers spell speed in anybody's language. While the 760's maximum speed is electronically limited to a politically correct (at least in Germany) 155mph, acceleration is pretty damn quick. Quicker, in fact, than the time it takes the lighter 1,630kg Aston Martin Vantage to hit 62mph (4.8 seconds) off the line to the benchmark 62mph takes the substantially heavier (2,250kg), limo-sized 760Li an invigorating 4.6 seconds.

When you learn that the all-aluminium V12 punches out 544bhp and 553lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm (and on, all the way to 5,000rpm), the figures are understandable. As too is the fact that the 760 shares its V12 engine architecture with the forthcoming Rolls-Royce Ghost. What paper figures never tell you, of course, is just how intoxicating those 544 stampeding horses feel from behind the wheel.

Stamp your right foot
and you feel as though
you’re on the Starship Enterprise and have just gone to Warp Speed
...”
Forget 'punched' thanks to the superb 8-speed tiptronic transmission the 760 serves up an effortless and seamless wave of acceleration that seemingly has no beginning and no end. Stamp your right foot and you feel as though you're on the Starship Enterprise and have just gone to Warp Speed.

The Enterprise may have the edge when it comes to technology but the 760Li has the advantage overwhelmingly when it comes to comfort and luxury. The refinement starts with the V12 that shoves you forward no matter how fast you're already moving with barely more than a murmur. The eight-speed ZF auto 'box's change quality is ultra-smooth and magnificently fluent.

And if you're wondering Why eight ratios?, it's because that makes the 760 more economical as well as near silent when running flat out on the German autobahns. Officially it will manage 21.7mpg on the combined cycle with 14.9 in town and a possible 29.4mpg touring. Our week-long test, conducted in a wide variety of real-world driving conditions over both fast and slow roads, registered an overall average of 17.4mpg.

The cabin is beautifully finished in top quality materials including smooth hide upholstery and high-end fit and finish. Sit inside and pull the door gently to it will close itself automatically. Getting comfortable in the soft-leather seats can take as long or as short a time as you like. The first time you climb aboard you can spend ages fine-tuning the perfect seat position not because there's a problem but because just about every part of the 'Comfort' seat can be 'tailored' to your particular body shape, be it ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph. Once you are perfectly comfortable and supported in all the right places and you will be you can set the memory and then, as we Brits like to say, Bob's your uncle (meaning: "you're all set" or "and there you have it").

Additional driver-pampering touches such as the steering wheel's heated leather rim and the power-adjustment and easy-entry steering column 'lift' (with memory recall) all contribute to the great cabin ambiance.

A host of technical highlights make life easier and safer too many, in fact, to mention here. However, two in particular are worth a special mention. The first, front side view cameras, is one of those things that turns out to be far more useful than you'd think. These work alongside the Park Distance Control and the Reversing Assist Camera. Cameras mounted in the front bumper let the driver see 'around' obstacles crucially, they take all the guesswork out of pulling out from tricky junctions.

BMW’s brilliant Head-Up
road speed and speed
limit display should
be standard on every
single car on the road
...”
Simply press a button on the centre console and a split-screen view of both directions appears on the 10.2-inch widescreen iDrive display. In the past, BMW's iDrive has been criticised for not being user-friendly enough take note that the latest generation of this system is straightforward and easy to use.

Secondly, and even more helpful and so sensible it should be standard on every single car on the road is the optional Head-Up display. The deep orangey-yellow digital figures projected onto the lower pat of the windscreen dead ahead of the driver and clearly visible in all weather conditions (you can adjust the brightness and the position of the displayed figures on the glass) provide the safest and least distracting way of knowing your exact speed at all times.

Added to this is the standard Speed Limit Display. Using a camera incorporated into the rearview mirror, SLD cross-references the SatNav's GPS data with real-world information about speed limits on the roads you're driving and then relays this information via a dash display or, better still if specified, alongside the current Head-Up speed figure on the windscreen. And it works brilliantly. Driving the 760 with this information always visible took a huge amount of pressure off worrying about unintentionally going over the limit.

Drivers can vary the displayed information to include additional items such as diagrammatic SatNav instructions, road names, low fuel and range. It should be noted that this high-tech flagship is not at all intimidating the electronics are user-friendly and one can get in and drive confidently away from your very first acquaintance.

And if you're thinking 'What about temporary limits such the 50mph-stretches on motorways?' the answer is Yes, the 760's has that covered too. While the system is pre-programmed with not just the UK's speed limits but all of Europe's, the on-board camera can also read the figures on temporary road signs. Not once during our week-long test did it fail to alert us to the correct speed limit including temporary limits on motorways.

If the government ever decides to get serious about road safety then it should ask BMW to make this available to every other manufacturer and make it mandatory on every new car.

In Sport+ ride mode
you’ll feel the 760Li come
alive — it’s far more
wieldy than its size
and weight would have
you believe...”
Suffice to say the 760Li comes with a very high specification as standard just about everything you could honestly want is fitted, from plush Nappa leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and self-closing doors and powered bootlid to cutting-edge hi-tech kit such as the superb head-up display. If you really want the full itinerary then check it out on BMW's site but be warned; it's a long list and there's lots of scrolling!

In the gadget-rich back it's even better. Stretch out your legs, ask the driver to set the adaptive suspension to 'Comfort' and you'll be happy to waft all day long whether you're navigating grid-locked London or driving to Munich on business. This is a car in which rear seat passengers are seriously indulged (dedicated dual-zone climate control, 3-stage heated and electrically-adjustable seats, powered rear and side window blinds, footrests, CD/DVD/TV) and can expect to have as good a time as is possible travelling in a four-wheeled vehicle.

If you're doing the driving, you can switch the Dynamic Damping back to 'sport' or 'sport+' ride modes: do so and you'll physically feel the 760Li come alive it's far more wieldy and keener to attack the road than its size and weight would have you believe. While you can now take some pleasure on winding B-roads, the flagship BMW saloon is still most rewarding driven tidily rather than hustled like an M5. The brakes, incidentally, are superb.

As competent as the 760Li is playing BMW's traditional 'driving machine' role, its real forte is ground-covering. And nowhere better than on motorways where its near-silent running shrinks journey times to time-outs from the pressures of modern 21st Century living.

Our test 760 was running on eye-catching 20-inch alloys shod with run-flat tyres but the ride comfort was still good on most road surfaces including our post-winter blacktop although it's not immune to pot-holes. The 760's combination of pace and space really does short of flying provide one of the more luxurious and most pleasant ways to travel.

But like driving a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, the trick is softly-softly: a light throttle will, with an almost eerie near-silence, serve up all the acceleration you're ever likely to need in the real-world. But thanks to that massive 553lb ft of torque, progress is always effortless and unruffled. Given the twin-turbochargers nestling between the two banks of cylinders, the V12's pick-up is both near-instantaneous and totally unflustered, with power being laid down via the rear wheels. And the ZF auto 'box does such a flawlessly smooth job of self-shifting that you rarely notice that gears are being changed.

Use the accelerator in anger, though, and you'll need a long road because once the 760 leaps forward your speed will increase so fast that you'll be forced to back off long before the red needle is even half-way round the rev-counter.

Should you have a mind to drive hard you'll want to operate the transmission in its manual mode. A nudge to the left of the futuristic design but very pleasant to use selector lever puts you in full control of all eight ratios (steering wheel paddle-shifts are not on the menu). In fact, so polished is the auto that it's only in manual mode that you'll ever be aware of all the gears.

On a practical note there's more than ample room for all the luggage you'll need for even the longest cross-Continent dash 500 litres of it. As an ownership proposition it's strictly for big-league players. Everything about it is expensive but for many successful businessmen, well, they just wouldn't leave home without one! In fact, settle in one of the 760Li's superb seats and you'll know exactly what Abba meant when they sang: "…it's a rich man's world". MotorBar

BMW 760Li
| £97,335
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 17.4mpg
Power: 544bhp | Torque: 553lb ft | CO2 303g/km