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LEAD: Motoring: SUPERCRUISER REVEALED

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BMW 740I

Some say that it is the most advanced car in the world, others say it’s the new benchmark in the luxury car segment. So what has changed to make the new 7 Series a hotly debated car? So much so that many non-BMW drivers have actually taken notice of it?

At first sight, the all-new BMW 7 Series looks a lot smaller than its predecessor; however, this is just clever design technique. It’s done through the redesigned LED headlights that are larger and look flatter. They also fit snugly into the grill, leaving no gap. This creates the illusion of the vehicle being smaller than it actually is. The bonnet is sloped towards the front, in keeping with BMW’s new look as launched on the 3 Series a few years ago. This also makes the car look lower in the front and gives it a sporty, elegant stance. From the side view, the biggest change has been the removal of the large indicator light on the front fenders. This gives the side a smoother, cleaner look. At the rear, the new tail lights make all the difference. Like the front lights, they have been widened and fit seamlessly into the body of the vehicle. The now almost trademarked chrome beading that runs above the number plate all the way through the rear lights is still in place, just in case you doubt it’s a 7 Series.

On opening the vehicle, especially at night, you are welcomed not only with the activation of the headlights, but also a sort of pathway light that is emitted from the bottom section of the car. This lights up the pathway around the car making it easy to access even in the darkest of areas. To open the car you can either use the fob key or simply place your hand on the handle as the keyless entry works its charm.

The new fob key has been much talked about. Most manufacturers have moved to smaller electronic keys that stay in your pocket most of the time, but BMW have brought back the prestige key. The reason I say this is that the new 7 Series key is at least twice the size of a standard BMW key. The reason is that the new key actually has a touchscreen that can be used to check  your vehicle status as well as move the car into tight parking bays with you being in the car (although the test vehicle did not have that option). The key almost looks like a new-generation miniature cellphone and thanks to its size you will undoubtedly leave the key on the table instead of in your pocket.

As you open the rather large but surprisingly light doors, you immediately notice the carbon fibre sign on the B pillar, affirming that the car has a carbon core. This new core is both for safety reasons and to reduce weight in the new 7. The new seats look as comfortable as first-class plane seats and with the optional massage function all round, are possibly even better. There is an array of massage options from full body to specific zone targeting. As well as massage, there is the option of activation – the latter is just to enhance blood flow. The seats can be adjusted to suit your body, making you feel like you are in a cocoon of sorts. A nice new feature is the touch sensitivity of the electric seat controllers. This allows you to see on the screen which button you are touching and what it can do, making it easy to make your adjustments.

The new dashboard looks cleaner and more open than its predecessor and I have even become accustomed to the screen that still looks like it’s been added on as an after- thought. The new large screen has been upgraded to a touchscreen. This means that if you do not know, or find the i-drive system a nightmare, you can now simply press the screen for what you want. What’s more impressive is that it is also fitted with gesture control. This means that you can do a few functions without touching anything. The best was the volume control that just required a simple circle of your finger in the direction of increase or decreasing the volume and it was done. This is definitely one the competition will look at adopting.

Another truly impressive feature was the all new park distance and a self-parking system. To start, the park distance now features an array of sensors and cameras, making it possible for you to view your car from almost any angle. This includes a top view, front view, rear view and side views. This was especially nice when parking in tighter bays. Thanks to the 3D visuals you can actually see the obstacles surrounding your car.

The new cockpit section of the dashboard is like something from a space movie. It’s a full LCD screen that changes based on the driving mode you select, from a calm blue and displays that look like they’re from an electric car to furious red with digital speed read-outs that mimic a racing car.

Then there is the tablet that fits into the rear seat centre fold-down armrest. This gadget is an Android tablet that is connected to the vehicle. That means that the rear passengers can control the entertainment system, rear and side blinds and the movement of the rear seats and front passenger seats. That is if you are being chauffeured around town. if you are the driver, a simple pressing of a button will lock out the rear passenger control.

So enough of the gadgets and gizmos: let’s get to the nitty gritty – how does this car drive?  To be honest, this depends on the driving mode you select. It is soft and comfortable in Comfort while a bit stiffer in Sport. However, BMW now have adaptive setting, which allows the car to predict the best driving mode based on how you drive, the road conditions (thanks to windscreen monitors) and the route you are on. This makes the car feel perfect all the time. To me, the most impressive part of driving the large vehicle was how agile it actually is. It can take a U-turn almost on a dime and can be manoeuvred at the touch of a button into the tightest of parking bays. Finally, it’s the type of vehicle where you welcome the twisty roads as no matter which mode the car is in, you will enjoy the ride.

BMW 740i

Engine:                3,0 ℓ  6-cylinder Twin-Turbo

Power:                 240 kW

Torque:               450 Nm

0–100 km/h:      5.5 Seconds

Fuel:                     Average 6,6  l /100 km

CO2:                      154 g/km

Price:                    From R1 379 000

AUTHOR | Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ