Twin-turbo V12, all-wheel drive and extended wheelbase: those are the key ingredients for the 2018 M760Li xDrive, the latest variant of the sixth-generation BMW 7 Series sedan. Our first encounter with this twelve-cylinder missile took place near Palm Springs, California, where we were allowed to put the car through its paces at the private circuit known as The Thermal Club.
Say what? On a track?
Obviously, none of this car’s potential buyers (who are primarily über-rich North American and Chinese drivers) plans on pushing the M760Li to its limits on a race track. The reason why a V12-powered BMW 7 Series has existed for 30 years is because there are people out there who want to be seen driving—or being chauffeured around in—the most powerful and luxurious of all BMWs. It’s all about prestige, right?
However, the fact that BMW invited us to take it for a spin on the track demonstrates the engineers’ enormous confidence in the dynamic capabilities of this full-size luxury sedan worth $159,000.
Even though the M760Li xDrive was produced by Motorsport Division engineers—the same people behind the Munich-based brand’s various M versions—it doesn’t answer to the name M7. According to BMW, that’s because it’s the 7 Series’ “first M Performance car.” Basically, an M7 Light.
What it has, and what it doesn’t
What it lacks becomes immediately obvious. Unlike real M versions, the M760Li doesn’t have a limited-slip differential or torque vectoring since the xDrive all-wheel drive system does the work. There’s no twin-clutch gearbox either. Instead, there’s an eight-speed automatic whose handling is more in tune with the M760Li’s luxury sedan side.
What it does have is a twin-turbo V12 that generates 600 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque. That means it takes just 3.7 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint, with help from the all-wheel drive and launch control systems. Select Sport mode to enjoy the V12’s more authoritative sound courtesy of its exhausts with active flaps. It’s hard to imagine that it offers twice as much output as the first V12-engined 7 Series, which came out in 1987 and delivered just 300 horsepower.
The adaptive roll bars do a superb job of controlling roll when the car is negotiating a curve. The M760Li xDrive weighs a whopping 2326 kg and doesn’t claim to attack corners with as much gusto as a true sports car. Having said that, you can’t help but smile at the idea of driving that fast on a track with a sedan that tips the scales at more than two metric tonnes.
On the road
On public roads, we truly loved the incredible smoothness of the V12, which catapults you forward with remarkable agility, as well as the “adaptive” driving mode. As a preventive measure, this mode sets the chassis systems in accordance with data received from the satellite navigation system and stereo camera. This means the car’s handling is optimized to suit your driving style.
Where fuel economy is concerned, we recorded 13.6 litres per 100 kilometres, which isn’t too shabby for a luxury sedan with an extended wheelbase, a twin-turbo V12 and all-wheel drive.
We’ll be there soon, boss
Comfort is king in the back seats, and a little more so on the right side where the “boss” can advance the front passenger seat to the maximum, increasing legroom to then deploy the footrest. The removable electronic tablet that communicates with the infotainment system is good, as it is in the other versions of the 7 Series family. For connectivity, there’s a USB port in front and two in the central console. Strangely, there’s none in back.
The evolved aerodynamics of the M760Li xDrive supports its performance potential. The front shield is equipped with large air intakes instead of fog lights. There are also several body parts that are cerium grey in colour, such as the slats on the double grilles and active shutters.
A “real” M7 forthcoming
The 2018 BMW M760Li xDrive will sell for $159,900 when it arrives in Canada in the summer of 2017. Last year, BMW sold 626 units of its 7 Series in Canada and the brand’s management expects to sell about 60 units of the M760Li xDrive countrywide.
At the launch of this new 7 Series variant, there was a clear emphasis on power and performance. And the engineers let it slip that this wouldn’t necessarily be the only vehicle in the 7 Series lineup to focus on sportiness in the future. That is their very subtle way of suggesting that a “real” M7 is being developed, without disclosing any details about this upcoming beast—at least not for the time being. Count on us to follow this story with a very, very watchful eye.