BMW M760Li — large, lavish limo a rare good sport
The fastest production car BMW has ever built turns out to be … a 7 Series limo
Nobody has really noticed it, but BMW has built the fastest, most powerful car in its history, the speed wrapped in an outrageously opulent limo.
Truth be told, the sprinting advantage over the M5 and M4 is because this limo has all-wheel drive and the M cars only have rear-drive. Still, the M760i hustles in corners, is brutal in a straight line and is wonderfully comfortable everywhere else, but it’s still not an M7.
M fought hard to stop this being called an M7. It must have been some fight. With a sprint to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds, it’s more than half a second quicker than the M5. The brave-driver versions have a limiter that stops them accelerating at 305km/h. At 448kW, no BMW production car has even approached this much gristle.
Yet it’s a big car — a limousine first and foremost. M boss Franciscus van Meel insists there is no market for a true M7. He says any attempt to justify an M7 badge by bringing up AMG’s S63 and S65 aren’t valid because they aren’t really AMGs in the way an E63 is. They’re softer because the customers won’t buy anything else.
Then their soft springing encourages the body to roll, which isn’t conducive to mid-corner pace, but at least their long wheelbases make everything progressive and easy to correct.
The M760i xDrive isn’t like that. You can sometimes feel it trying to be like this, but there are bits and pieces underneath that stop this.
The rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars might not turn it into a racing car, but they make what could have been a big, floppy fast bus into a big, unshakeable corner muncher.
You don’t notice that at first. You see the V12 badges tacked all over the place in a way BMW has never done before. They work, with the ones on the C-pillar breaking up the eyeline enough to give the car a different profile and a stronger rear end than the standard car.
The clear, unspoken implication is that the main difference between the V12-powered S65 AMG and his M Performance Automobiles-badged M760i xDrive is that BMW is more honest about pitching its powerhouse midway between the standard family range and the more hardcore M machinery.
So don’t decry this as a waste of time just because it’s a 2,180kg, four-seat cabin carried by a 5.2m body. It’s stupendously fast and, at the same time, unrealistically bloody good at what it does.
The headlines might go to the V12 (which is a relatively ancient thing at heart but gets a smattering of new bits) but they should go to the car’s understuff, which does a brilliant job at cancelling out the mass.
Most big limousines don’t feel like sports limousines (think: sports sedan, but a lot bigger, because that’s the era we are being ushered into). Most big limousines meander their way into corners because their heavy engines contradict any steering inputs by preferring to keep going straight ahead.
There are four exhaust tips and two enormously wide kidneys in the grille — it’s more about walking the line between class and subtle menace than in-your-face posturing.
It uses its all-wheel drive traction to leap to 100km/h in 3.7 seconds and it runs on to a 250km/h top speed. There’s also a driver’s package that will see M lift the top speed to 305km/h, but that’s still limited. Van Meel insists the V12 is strong enough to pull eighth gear at the 305km/h limit.
Over at AMG, the S65 AMG V12 eats it for torque, with 1,000Nm, and just beats it for power, with 463kW.
On the flipside, the BMW motor revs higher (its power peak hits at 5,500, while the three-valve AMG motor gets to its figure at 4,800r/min) and it is six tenths of a second quicker to 100km/h.
It’s not just about speed, though. If it was, it would be an M7 and even fewer people would buy it. Comfort was considered to be as critical as pace.
Most cars in this field have adjustment modes ranging from Comfort, Sport, Sport+/Race/
The M760i xDrive has Comfort, Comfort+ as well as Sport mode. The Race mode can be connected to a smartphone app via Bluetooth to record all your lapping, throttle, acceleration, braking and cornering data.
This is all built around what BMW calls its carbon core for the 7 Series, which is a series of integrated carbon fibre parts built into the core chassis to reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity. At 2,180kg, it makes you shudder to think what it might have weighed had the chassis been made from something else.
It’s a big car, casting a 5,238mm noon shadow, and it is 1,902mm wide and 1,479mm high, with the axle lines sitting 3,210mm apart. And yet it’s a dedicated four-seater, with its rear centre armrest containing a fold-out table, a tablet and the electric seat controls.
The rear seat is huge and comfortable. There are comfy add-on headrests your head falls into like the softest pillow. You can push the front passenger seat forward to boost rear legroom and the seat adjusts electronically for backrest angle and the base’s location.
It’s also quiet in the business seats, with little wind and engine noise, though there’s more road noise from the tyres than you’d find in the S65 AMG. Further back, there is space for 515l of luggage — and that’s it, because the rear seats don’t fold down.
Move up to the front and it’s everything you expect of the
7 Series — thick carpets, leather seats and that hideous multimedia screen that looks tacked on. In an era of slick Audi units and Benz’s ultra-wide two-screen setup, it looks more out of place here than before.
Still, there is a lot going on inside it, with a touchscreen controllable with gestures. You also get a digital instrument cluster and the head-up display is clear and easy to use. There are separate buttons for Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro modes, plus another to turn off the skid-control systems.
It also has the best key in the car industry, capable of doing more than just locking and unlocking the car, and has its own screen with three displays.
And it helps fire up 12 cylinders of fury. It doesn’t take a lot of throttle to get it going at a reasonable clip and the ride comfort is sublime. The engine note sits happily in the background, the steering is beautifully weighted and the shifts are sublimely silken. The audio system is brilliant and it’s just a lovely place to be, sitting still or moving.
The interesting bits happen when you forget it’s a luxury limousine and start hurling it at the scenery. It’s a traffic-light Grand Prix champ and plenty of people will be embarrassed at the lights if they are unaware of what lies beneath the acreage that passes for a bonnet.
The launch control is as simple as traction control off, sport mode on, step on the brake and throttle at the same time, then release the brake. And then it explodes, with 12 full cylinders of symphony trying to be bass and treble at the same time.
It’s raucously loud and incredibly strong at any speed, from any revs and in any gear.
But the strange part is the way it handles. It actually handles well. It’s not exactly a linear expression of increased enthusiasm, but it gets the job done.
The thing is, you feel it start to do all the things that ungainly limousines have always done in corners. And then it just stops itself from doing them.
You can feel the understeer starting on low-speed corners and then the rear-wheel steering chimes in, turning in the opposite direction to the front wheels to stop it.
You can feel the body beginning to roll and then the active roll bars stiffen up to stop it. You can feel the high-speed understeer beginning to set in and then the rear steer (at speed, turning in the same direction as the fronts) and the anti-roll bars stop that, too.
It’s not quite freaky and it’s not quite intuitive, but it’s effective and astonishing. For a car this size, it can bounce between corners with V12 fury, then whip through them with concentrated intent as though it narrows its focus for each effort and relaxes again in a straight line.
It’s a limo than can attack the bends with surprising competence when it needs to rather than a sports sedan tied down to the point of discomfort. And it walks the line superbly.