5-3-7-1-5 is not some strange and bizarre mathematical sequence – it’s the series of BMWs that I’ve owned. After a brief flirt with some Swedes, other Germans and even an English model, I’ve always returned to BMW as my first love.
When I picked up the car from Craig at Douglas Park, my introduction to the vehicle was unusual because it was via the key. The key itself looks like one of the latest smartphones and remotely controls functions such as locking, lights, security, miles-to-empty and – most usefully – allows you to switch the heating controls on and off.
This was very welcome on a bitterly cold February morning in Glasgow where prior to breakfast I was able to crank up the heating to defrost the car, so that when I drove off the car was nice and toasty and the windows demisted.
The car was stunning in alpine white with contrasting 20-inch anthracite alloy wheels. It has the typical BMW sporting style and, in M Sport guise, gave the impression that you were looking at an M7.
The new 7 Series has some cracking standard equipment. In previous models, comfort seats were an additional option – for the thick end of cost £3,000 – but these now come as standard. This allows the driver to set the seating position with engineering precision.
I am already familiar with the three-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine with 261 break horse power; again it felt like home and was more than ample to cope with the weight of a luxury car. A few winters ago, there was a lot of negative press about rear wheel drive cars and BMW in particular, however, this has been largely overcome by the X drive four-wheel-drive system now being rolled out across the range.
Behind the wheel it felt luxurious with an instrument layout familiar to any BMW driver. The instrument panel is wholly-digital. As we live in the digital era, BMW has always kept up with the times with its flagship model having a dazzling array of new technology.
The ‘I drive’ system, which is now standard in most BMWs, has been upgraded to include a touchscreen, which is particularly useful with the satnav model. There is an embarrassment of choice in entertainment from DAB radio to ‘screen casting’ from another Bluetooth device, enabling the screen to act like a smart TV. The ‘I drive’ also includes several standard apps and I was particularly taken by the weather app, which intuitively displays the weather for your location over the coming hours and days.
The drive in comfort mode is smooth, although not as smooth as some of its rivals, but there in belies the sporting heritage of BMW, as there has to be a slight compromise between handling and ride comfort. Changing the engine into sport and sport individual modes turns all the instruments crimson red. You are also able to display the power dials and torque curve on the screen, which is particularly fun when you put your foot down. Like many cars these days, it has a sophisticated economy mode and will easily return north of 40 miles per gallon on a straight run. Around town, I was achieving 30 miles per gallon, which is impressive given the size and weight of the car.
It is in the back seat where you really experience the BMW 7 Series. You couldn’t want for any more in terms of space and BMW replicates the air of quality that you would find in a Bentley or Rolls Royce. Passengers are able to adjust their own climate control and seat heating, as well as having a touch screen to control phone and media functions, while also displaying satellite navigation.
As a cost option in the 7 Series, you can even use the smart key to prompt the car to park itself. It uses an array of cameras and sensors to steer around obstacles and stop short of walls and kerbs. Perhaps viewed as a gimmick in the same way as voice control on your phone when it first came onto the market? However in truth it works.
The biggest test for me is the luggage and boot space, as being a golfer with a family that also golfs, I regularly have to carry three sets of clubs, as well as two sets of skis, and the 7’s boot was able to cope satisfactorily.
At £64,500 for the entry level 7 Series, it is more than a match for its rivals, although many buyers will look at it in terms of monthly payments, as my experience with motor trade clients highlights that more than 80% of cars are now bought through a monthly payment purchase, rather than worrying about the back pages of Autocar magazine. Being an accountant, company cars are always a topic of conversation with my clients and the 7 Series comes in at a respectable 137g CO2km, although I don’t think I’d be advising many of my clients to purchase this as a company car given the large benefit-in-kind hit of around 24 per cent, which equates to £15,000 or, in hard cash, an extra cost of around £500 per month for a higher rate tax payer. Definitely a car to buy personally.
This is common to many prestige cars as it is not the CO2 emissions that count, but rather the list price. On returning the car to Craig at Douglas Park, a brochure caught my eye for the 330e plug-in hybrid, which is delivering 5% benefit-in-kind, which would be in the region of £50 per month for a higher rate taxpayer. It was a sad day to return the 7 Series as it now feels significantly different from the 5 Series I have owned, so I may be tempted if the lease deals are right…
Donald Boyd is a partner and a specialist in the automotive sector at accountancy firm Campbell Dallas. The car Donald drove was a BMW 7 Series, starting from £70,920, with optional extras at £3,565. Supplied by Douglas Park, Kyle Street, Glasgow, G4 0HP, 0141 333 0088.