LOS ANGELES, California — Ten seconds and a quick stab of the throttle reveal that the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive is no ordinary M Performance car with a small handful of performance add-ons and some carbon fiber appliques. It’s a rip-snorting, tire-squealing land yacht for the affluent, the dictatorial, and those who’ve always wanted BMW to build an M7. The more you think of it as BMW’s M7, and not a regular 7 Series with a silly long name, the more you’ll start contemplating a bank heist to pay for one.
Don’t believe the M7 hype? Just look at its specs. BMW swapped the 445-hp twin-turbocharged V-8 of the 750i for the absurdity of a Rolls-Royce-derived 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-12. Unlike the Rollers, which have to make do with just 563 hp in the Dawn and Ghost, BMW’s version offers a far more prodigious 601 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque—enough to exit low-earth-orbit.
Hitting 60 mph takes a hair’s breadth over three seconds thanks in part to the M760i’s xDrive all-wheel drive system and gummy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which glue the bruiser to the road. BMW states the M760i’s top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, but the physical speedometer affixed to the car’s dash reads a take-off speed of over 200 and we’re inclined to believe the veracity of its claim after our short time in the driver’s seat.
These are proper M numbers—numbers that belong in the same breath as the M2, M3, M4, M5, and M6. But if the numbers don’t make you a believer, getting behind the wheel will.
Aboard the BMW on tight California back-roads, the Michelin tires and adjustable sport-tuned suspension permit the big sedan to stick to the pavement with little drama. Here, where corners are strung together with the severity of a shark wound, the titanic sedan feels more similar to its much smaller kin. Its heft is undeniably felt, but there’s an unshakeable agility to the M760i that’s very M3-like and thoroughly enjoyable.
That personality gives you the confidence to dive deeper into braking zones, turn harder, and throttle out with lightning-like speed and authority. I’d seriously hesitate to challenge the M760i on a racetrack as here, along the snake-like Californian highways, it feels like it would be difficult for a host of modern, more purpose-built sports cars to out-run or out-maneuver the supposedly luxury-oriented sedan.
One small quibble I can almost overlook—almost—is the steering wheel’s girth. For the last few years, BMW steering wheels have gone from perfectly pencil-thin to Gatorade-bottle-thick. The M760i is no different. As such, I never developed confidence in my hand placement while tackling the tight switchbacks.
Nevertheless, while the M760i’s handling makes it feel smaller than it is, once the twelve-cylinder engine and its twin-turbos spool up, you’re glad it has that longer wheelbase.
Put down through a sublimely quick eight-speed automatic transmission, the M760i’s acceleration isn’t like a supercar’s, angrily shouting as the world goes plaid. Rather, the twin-turbocharged V-12 propels the M760i with a force that feels like tectonic plates smashing into one another, pushing aside pieces of each other’s landmass in its wake.
There’s a sense of urgency, but not a sense of harshness. Think of it as the anti-911 Turbo S, where launching from a standstill feels as if you’re damaging your internal organs. That’s not the way of the M760i. Power builds and builds and builds until you’re doing extra-legal speeds stupendously far from where you started. It’s addictive and you’ll find yourself cruising on the highway well above the fastest legal limits in any state of the Union, just as you’d find yourself in any of its real M siblings.
But the M760i needs to be so much more than just a locomotive M car to be a success; it also needs to maintain the quintessential luxury formula of the 7 Series. That formula means transporting the 7 Series’ various owners and/or clients speedily in spacious comfort, devoid of sound, vibrations, and all other senses. A 7 Series should be a perfectly sealed safe, protecting and cosseting its occupants from the outside through thick doors, acoustic glass, and indulgent leather. And BMW’s M760i almost checks each of these boxes.
Inside, the bank-vault-like doors close with a commanding thud, sealing occupants away. Outer noise, whether it is from wind or the throngs of the unclean masses, is practically nonexistent. There’s just a hint of wind noise that comes through near the B-pillar at around 90-95 mph, but fret not, as the M760i comes complete with one of the finest audio systems on sale today and will drown out every ounce of road and wind noise that’s able to seep into the cabin.
Equipped with the standard Hi-Fi Harman/Kardon audio system (a1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins system is available for $3,400 extra), the 16-speaker, 600-watt system is truly wonderful. High notes are crisp and bass notes suitably rumbly. I played concertos by Phillip Glass, Run the Jewels’ bombastic lyrics, operatic solos by Peter Hollens, and the party-starting lyrics of “Do Something Crazy” by Outasight. Nothing became distorted. Even reaching the upper echelons of the speaker’s volume capacity, myself singing along (definitely not in harmony), the music came through crystal clear. You just settle into the indulgent leather seats and let the music wash over you.
What isn’t tailored for anyone without a fetish for masochism, however, is the car’s iDrive system. When BMW first launched the iDrive system years ago, I worked at one of the company’s dealerships. It took five people two hours to figure out how to change the radio station. Somehow, in the interim, BMW has made the system even more impervious to consumer use; for instance, the simple task of pairing my iPhone.
It’s a routine I do on a nearly daily basis. Most systems take a minute. The BMW took nearly twenty—for comparison, I timed Ford’s new Raptor at just 30 seconds the day after I got out of the BMW. I thought I had paired my iPhone on the first try, but nothing worked. Not my phone, not my music, nothing. I unpaired it, re-paired it, unpaired it again, almost gave up, attempted to re-pair the phone, swearing it would be the last time and finally succeeded after finding the right command.
Feeling triumphant, I then made the mistake of looking for the M760i’s massage function—a mistake of biblical proportions, excuse the hyperbole. But buried under layer after layer of menus, and another twenty minutes of damning the iDrive to hell, I finally found the massage seats controls. I may come from the generation where tech literacy is second nature, but this system is maddening to learn even for a millennial such as me.
Where the car falls slightly, however, isn’t in the impregnable interface—that can be learned—but rather after you’ve turned off the serpentine canyons, switched back to Comfort mode, and began cruising along on your daily commute.
In the M760i, BMW made a M7, unfortunately building something slightly antithetical to the 7 Series’ image of luxurious comfort in the process. On uneven pavement, like the kind you get in nearly every state in the U.S. of A., it transmits far too much noise and harshness back into the cabin for the thin royal bloodlines BMW targets with the 7 Series lineup. Our roads aren’t the pristinely smooth ribbons of tarmac that Germany and the rest of Europe enjoy, and that’s a big problem in a car optioned with 20-inch rims and nearly painted-on Michelin summer performance run-flat tires.
Tooling around town, it never delivers the ride quality the 7 Series is known for, let alone that of its main competitor, the S-Class, which, even in S63 and S65 AMG trims, is buttery smooth. While it could never deliver racecar levels of jitteriness, no matter how well the suspension’s “Comfort” mode is able to keep up with the ruts, pitted, and uneven pavement, there’s too little meat on the tires for the suspension to work with and impart a ride that befits its occupant’s stature. A tire with more sidewall would go a long way to helping smooth out the M760i’s ride. The available 19-inch wheels and associated all-season performance run-flat tires could aid in decreasing the relatively harsh ride.
When I was first wrestling with the M760i, I thought the car had too much of a split personality. On paper, the big Bimmer should be everything any monarch, head of state or dictator would ever want. It has a quiet yet powerful twin-turbocharged V-12 that feels as if it relishes in wafting you 3,000 miles to your summer castle and a presence that projects power and control. When I found that it lacked the basic luxuries of ride, comfort, and quietness that a 7 Series should offer, I thought it needed to choose from among its multiple personalities. Now I realize it just needs to have the right name.
If it were up to me, I would keep the upgraded V-12 engine, but add the smaller wheels and tires with more sidewall, and a softer-tuned suspension—a proper M760i. BMW could then label the car we tested a proper M7. But until BMW finds a focus for its top-spec 7 Series, I’ll pretend the “-60i xDrive” fell off the badge and it just says M7.
2017 BMW M760i xDrive Specifications
|PRICE||$157,695/$171,895 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||6.6L twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12/601 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 590 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/20 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||206.2 x 74.9 x 58.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|