The Mercedes S-class was always the default choice in its class. Can BMW's revised 7-series change that?
This is the mandatory mid-life update of BMW's flagship saloon, the 7-series that is locally assembled in Thailand to go head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz S-class.
Exterior changes are subtle in the usual facelift fashion including a more prominent kidney grille up front and restyled bumpers and lights on both the front and rear ends.
Most of the interior enhancements come in the form of upgraded digital features consisting of a variable electronic instrument display that changes under different driving modes and a more sophisticated entertainment system.
Although the petrol and diesel six-cylinder engines remain untouched, they get a new eight-speed automatic transmission in place of the older six-speed unit.
Prices have been set at 7.299 million baht for the 218hp 730Li, 7.599 million baht for the 218hp 730Ld and 9.199 million baht for the 740Li.
Mild the cosmetic changes may be, but they do help freshen the appearance of the 7-series at a time when the S-class archrival is about to reach the end of its lifecycle.
The interior tweaks are equally effective, especially the tiltable, clearly legible monitors for the rear passengers that are now ideally placed below the front head rests. Oh, occupants can now stick in a USB drive to enjoy their preset movies or music.
Despite the arrival of the all-new LS from Lexus recently, the 7-series arguably has the finest cabin in its class when it comes to the materials used and overall perceived quality it yields.
The new automatic doesn't only give better in-gear acceleration but also fuel economy that has improved by around 20%.
While the 740Li yields ample performance at all times, the 730Ld benefits from both easier overtaking power and fuel bills.
We have always had one crucial reservation in the 7-series. Despite having four-way adjustment, massage function and cool air ventilation, the rear seats still don't feel as comfortable to sit in as in both the Merc and Lexie.
And while the 7-series employs the third generation of run-flat tyres, rumbles over general road surface in Thailand can still be felt even though it's not irritating.
The 730Li _ the only non-turbo 7-series _ is quite a slouch on the move, given the brand's recognition of fine-performing cars. Its cheapest price really doesn't compensate.
Buy or bye?
This may sound petty. But if you're in a market for a chauffeur-driven limo, you may have to test the rear seats before considering the 7-series notion. Hey, we're talking about a car that needs to score highly in comfort.
Other than that, the 7-series is quite an accomplished saloon that combines performance, handling and roomy cabin well in one package. Interior gadgets are equally aplenty.
And you don't need to ask which 7-series version is the one to go for. If you have a budget for such a luxury saloon, the diesel one is the way to go since it offers effortless real-world performance for both yourself and your driver.There are many things to like about the 7-series, but it isn't the best around on the overall yet.
If you still have an unexplainable grudge against diesel engines and need decent performance via petrol, then the 740Li should do with its 320hp 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine.
That was in the past. Today, it doesn't necessarily hold true anymore because there is now a hybrid option in the guise of ActiveHybrid 7 for Thai buyers to choose from which BMW Thailand just announced and let the local media sample.
There are some advantages of going for the AH7. With a 3.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid _ as used in the AH5, driven in yesterday's Brunch magazine _ the AH7 is equally powerful but more frugal than the 740Li.
The AH7 produces a combined 320hp (the AH5 has 20hp more), goes from 0-100kph in the same 5.7sec time but is 2kpl more efficient at 14.7kpl than the 740Li.
The AH7 is cheaper, too, with a starting price of 8.299 million baht _ a good 900,000 lower than the 740Li, which sells for 9.199 million.
Spec the AH7 more and price rises by 600,000 and 700,000 baht respectively for the M Sport and Highline versions _ still cheaper than the single-spec 740Li.
Why is the imported AH7 cheaper than the Thai-built 740Li? That's because AH7 can attract the 10% excise tax rate for hybrids; the 740Li faces 50%.
One downside of the AH7 is the added weight of the electrified components which can be felt under demanding driving conditions.
Aside that, it's the natural pick over the 740Li. Plus, the AH7 can drive in EV mode at up to 60kph and coast under no throttle at below 160kph. It's a tech showcase for punters, to put it another way.
In fact, BMW only needs the AH7 and 730Ld in the Thai 7-series model line-up to attract punters with different tastes for fuel.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor