BMW continues its strong sales momentum in the region as it unveils its new 7 Series line up at a glittering event in Russia
For more than 30 years, the BMW 7 Series has, to many observers, been the quintessential embodiment of luxury, elegance and innovation, and remains the flag bearer for the group. Now with the introduction of the latest generation of the model, the world’s most successful premium automotive manufacturer is gearing up for yet another successful year in the Middle East.
According to the German company, the BMW 7 Series was the highest unit selling model in the Middle East market last year, with more than 4,500 units sold. Recently announced results for the first half of 2012 similarly suggest that the high-end models are driving sales growth.
Overall, with 13 per cent year on year growth, these results are the best ever for the BMW Group, which delivered a total of 10,352 BMW and MINI vehicles to customers across 14 Middle East markets. The UAE was the leading regional market, accounting for 51 per cent of total sales.
As one of BMW’s fastest growing markets, and a place of significant cultural heritage in keeping with BMW’s rich provenance, St Petersburg in Russia was chosen as the location for the global press launch of the new 7 Series line up. Against the backdrop of the magnificent summer palace of Catherine the First, the sight of a line of gleaming BMWs not only looked in harmony with the surroundings, but also made a bold statement.
The updated line up of the new 7 Series, now with standardised eight-speed automatic transmission, is more about technological advancements rather than aesthetic changes, although the most apparent alteration is the front grille and new LED headlamps, with the eyecatching hallmark BMW corona rings which now ensures the new 7 Series also projects a distinctive appearance at night.
There are several new engine options in the range, with variants depending on the destination markets. For the Middle East markets, which traditionally identify with gasoline engines, there is the 760i, with the original and very popular 6.0-litre bi-turbo V12, the 750i with a new and improved 4.4-litre turbo V8, and the 740i that has the all-new 3-litre turbo engine. The entry level 730i should also be available in certain countries, says BMW.
Finally, there is the introduction of the new ActiveHybrid 7, combining some exceptional dynamics and an outstanding balance between performance and fuel economy. A 3-litre, turbocharged engine which works in tandem with a 54hp electric motor., the ActiveHybrid 7 can also run purely on electric power – if the hybrid battery has sufficient charge and the driver goes easy on the accelerator, the car can cover a distance of up to four kilometres almost silently, without producing any tailpipe emissions, and at a top speed of 60 km/h. There is also an auto start stop mode which turns the engine off when idling at lights, reducing fuel consumption.
We drove the Hybrid and the long version 750Li. The long version of the BMW 7 Series is 14 centimetres longer than the short version – and all of this is, says BMW, used to increase space and comfort in the rear. The rear door is noticeably bigger, making it significantly easier to enter the vehicle. The interior is, according to the German company, the most generously sized in the luxury sedan class, and the roofline and C-pillar have been redesigned to provide additional headroom.
Under the bonnet of the 750i is a revised Twin Power Turbo 8-cylinder petrol engine using high precision direct injection. The 4.4-litre eight cylinder powerplant retains the impressively smooth assurance and spirited power delivery of its pre-update days. However, optimised high pressure direct injection and reduced charge cycle losses – thanks in main to the seamlessly variable control of intake valve lift - have enhanced its performance and fuel efficiency.
According to BMW, this can now sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds with reduced fuel consumption on its predecessor, while producing 25 per cent fewer emissions!
Through an impressive spread of chassis wizardry the ride in this 7 Series sedan is given a noticeable boost with modified rubber bearings and dampers and self levelling air suspension.
During an interesting panel discussion on a visit to the trendy Marina Gisich gallery in the vibrant and revitalised new Holland Island area of Russia’s second city, the very topic of luxury was analysed among the gathered BMW representatives and the media.
Identifying a common consensus is sometimes a challenge and in the company of some up and coming young architects, artists and BMW designers we came close to defining luxury as a level of ultimate personal pleasure that we all wish to aspire to. As someone pointed out even just having time for oneself in a busy working life can be a luxury in itself.
The emotional value of pleasure, and not just our valuable possessions in life, has a strong bearing on our ideal luxury experience. Alfred Lord Tennyson stated, having just had hot running water fitted in his house, that: “It is the height of luxury to sit in a hot bath and listen to the birds”.
Adrian Van Hooydonk, BMW Group’s head of design, says: “The BMW 7 Series is a perfect manifestation of modern luxury. It goes with the times, is contemporary and offers state of the art technology. Luxury is depth and maximum attention to detail. And this is what we have done with this new model – luxury is in motion”.
Amid the splendour and history of St Petersburg, it was hard to argue.