LIKE THE Mercedes S-class, the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ are luxury cars designed to showcase the engineering and technological prowess of their makers. Mercedes stole a march on its rivals in 2013 with its latest S-class — but the engineers at BMW and Jaguar haven’t been twiddling their thumbs.
BMW is taking a giant leap forward with its new 7-series, a car brimming with innovations that surpasses the S-class — in tech terms, at least — and leaves Jaguar scrabbling to keep up.
Driving tested a disguised 740iL prototype in April, but this is the first time the car has been seen in all its glory, and it’s worth recapping the key features of the new BMW. It has been made substantially lighter than its predecessor – 130kg, BMW says – through the use of a chassis that is partly carbon fibre and has features in common with the BMW i8 and i3 eco models.
The days of luxury cars being gas-guzzlers are long gone: the bestselling diesel-powered version of the new 7-series, the 730d, can return as much as 60mpg (according to the official figures) and emits only 124g/km of CO2.
What other innovations does BMW’s flagship model bring? There’s a new generation of BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, displayed on a free-standing 12.3in screen in the middle of the upper dashboard, which will be touch-sensitive for the first time. It means that drivers familiar with touchscreen tablets will be able to swipe a finger across the screen rather than use iDrive’s traditional rotary controller.
As an option, gesture recognition will be available. It uses 3D sensors to interpret hand and finger movements as instructions to adjust the audio volume, say, or make a phone call.
BMW plans to increase the 7-series’s standards of comfort and convenience still further with an “Executive Lounge Seating” package. It allows the rear seat behind the passenger seat to be reclined to 42.5 degrees, and an electrically operated footrest will fold out to create an environment not dissimilar to that of a first-class flight.
An optional “BMW Touch Command” removable tablet can then be used to watch films, surf the internet and control the some of the car’s functions, including the seats, interior lighting and air-conditioning.
BMW claims the 7-series is the world’s first car to park itself without the driver needing to be inside
A host of electronic driving aids include a “Driving Assistant” safety package, and BMW claims the 7-series is the world’s first car to park itself without the driver needing to be inside the vehicle. After stepping out of the car and closing the door, the driver uses a smart key – which, with its mini screen, looks a little like a scaled-down smartphone – to send their BMW off to find a space.
British drivers will at first be offered a choice of two engines when the new 7-series goes on sale in October. The more affordable is the 261bhp 730d, which costs £64,530 in standard-wheelbase form, or £68,480 as a long-wheelbase model. A four-wheel-drive 730d will cost £67,260, and a petrol-powered 321bhp 740i long-wheelbase version will also be in showrooms, priced £72,060.
Next year a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid 740e will join the range. It is said to return up to 134mpg and emit just 49g/km of CO2, which should make it attractive to company car users.
Jaguar has carried out a round of changes to its XJ saloon, although they amount to little more than engine tweaks and a subtle facelift
Also vying for drivers’ attention is Jaguar. It has carried out a round of changes to its XJ saloon, a rival to the BMW 7-series, although the changes amount to little more than engine tweaks and a subtle facelift and don’t affect the aluminium chassis.
Improvements to the 3-litre V6 diesel engine raise its output to an impressive 295bhp. However, it can’t match the fuel economy or emissions of the BMW 730; the entry-level XJ 3.0 V6 returns just 49mpg.
However, Jaguar counters with a highly competitive price. The entry-level XJ 3.0 V6 Luxury costs £58,600.
The Jag has a new electrical power steering system, and the engineers have been able to update the XJ’s driving aids; they have also fitted the XJ with “All Surface Progress Control”, which improves traction at low speeds on slippery surfaces and is an alternative to the four-wheel-drive systems offered by Audi and BMW.