There is a special aero kit but the looks are understated.   Picture: BMW SA
There is a special aero kit but the looks are understated. Picture: BMW SA

Now that BMW has announced it will create a M8 version of the new 8 Series coupe, you would think it might finally build a 7 Series-based M7.

Historically BMW has toyed with the idea and in the 1980s it shoehorned a V12 into the second-generation 7, but a real M? "Nein," says the company.

Instead, it has built the M760Li. It has arrived in the year the 7 celebrates its 40th birthday and while it has a twin-turbo, 6,592cc V12 under the bonnet, all-wheel drive in the form of xDrive and some serious performance credentials, it is not an M7, at least not in name anyway.

What it is though is the fastest M car yet the company has built, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of just 3.7 seconds. In SA it has a top speed limited to 250km/h but in some international markets it can be specced with a Driver’s Package that removes the limiter and frees the model up to hit 305km/h.

Packing 448kW and 800Nm, it has a lightweight all-aluminium engine and a specially adapted eight-speed transmission. It features executive drive pro suspension, a special M aerodynamics package and M performance sound. And it has a rear-wheel drive bias for those who truly enjoy some driving fun. But it is not an M7.

It might be able to hit 100km/h in 3.7 seconds, but it’s a 7 so it is all about luxury.    Picture: BMW SA
It might be able to hit 100km/h in 3.7 seconds, but it’s a 7 so it is all about luxury. Picture: BMW SA

As it is not an M7, you would think it is most at home cruising the streets of Johannesburg or Cape Town. We have no doubt it is extremely good at that, after all it is a 7 Series, a long-wheelbase one at that so you get all the 7Series toys. That means loads of rear legroom for those who like to be driven, a removable touchscreen tablet in the rear to operate almost everything but the driving controls and leather that you sink into. It is packed with every conceivable luxury combined with a whole host of M styling accessories. But it is not an M7.

We didn’t test any of the luxury stuff to any great extent or cruise city streets. No sir, this might not be an M7, but we treated it as though it were and hit the Aldo Scribante Race Circuit near Port Elizabeth.

The "no it’s not an M7" M760Li is fast, bonkers fast in fact. But it puts all that power down off the line in a way that ticks both the sports car box and the executive refinement box. Leave all the nanny controls on (we were told not to touch the traction control button) and there is no sign of drama. The wheels don’t spin, there is no scrabbling for grip like there is in an S-Class AMG. Instead all 800Nm is pushed to the wheels in a controlled manner and this huge exec machine launches.

The thing is though, it all feels a bit unnatural. It feels fine to thrash an M3 to within an inch of its life, but not a 7 Series, that is just wrong. We pushed it (after all with V12 at your command, who wouldn’t), but not so we scared it, or ourselves. The track has tight, technical corners and the M760 is a heavy car. Yes it has a long list of clever technology to keep things in check, but stomp hard on the brakes and you feel the weight. Push it too hard into a corner and the nose understeers slightly.

Pushing a 7 Series, even an M Performance one, around a racetrack seems unnatural. Picture: BMW SA
Pushing a 7 Series, even an M Performance one, around a racetrack seems unnatural. Picture: BMW SA

If you really want to play on the track you opt for something such as the M4 DTM Champion Edition. That is if you can find one because they are all sold out. It is basically the same as the M4 GTS but without the Boksburg rear wing and featuring a few cool special-edition decals and other bits. Now that car was damned good fun on the track and it does everything it is designed to do, which is to be thrashed within an inch of its life and love every minute of it. But the Champion Edition carries a real M badge.

The M760Li is a status machine. It is incredibly fast, particularly in a straight line and you can thrash it. You can drift it — we have seen videos.

But it is an executive limo and we suspect that most of those who shell out the basic R2,719,746 will never have the faintest idea of what it is capable of. The M760Li will probably be pleased about that.

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