From £105,5109
New mild-hybrid, V8-powered 7-series is better in every way than its predecessor

The seventh-generation BMW 7 Series has arrived. In a departure from its various predecessors, it comes in long-wheelbase guise only and with a wider choice of drivetrains than ever.

These include an impressive array of plug-in hybrid and pure electric systems, among them the new BMW i7. For selected markets however, including the US where our first drive took place, there are other, more conventional drivetrains on offer that will never require a cable and a charging point, including the new M-developed mild-hybrid petrol unit that powers the 760i xDrive driven here.

Not initially planned for UK sales, this boldly styled replacement for the earlier 750Li xDrive has been re-engineered from the ground up, making it a good deal larger overall and more luxurious inside. It is a highly agreeable car in which to travel, whether behind the steering wheel or lounging in the rear, where you’ll enjoy greater space and more advanced appointments, including small touchscreen displays within the door trims for various functions, than in the sixth-generation model.

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BMW’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 is retained, but such are the changes that it is no longer badged N63 but S68, indicating its development by M division. Power is up by 13bhp over the earlier 750i xDrive, rising to 536bhp, while torque remains the same at 553lb ft between 1800 and 5000rpm.

The key development is the addition of mild-hybrid assistance via a 48V electric motor sited within the eight-speed ZF Steptronic automatic gearbox, providing a further 18bhp and 148lb ft under acceleration. There’s also a cross-bank exhaust manifold, revised turbochargers and external engine cooling as well as a reinforced crankshaft, a new oil pump and a lighter oil sump.

The 760i xDrive is wonderfully responsive in Sport mode, with a strong step-off, loads of mid-range flexibility and urgent top-end qualities. BMW’s fast-acting four-wheel drive system ensures traction is always strong, with power and torque transferred to the road with great effectiveness. The gearbox, with steering wheelmounted shift paddles, plays a pivotal role in the performance potential, with smooth, rapid and decisive upshifts under load. It’s not an M car, but there’s an alluring exhaust note when the big V8 is stirred.

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It is the flood of torque provided by the electric motor that makes the difference, giving terrifically strong accelerative ability despite a kerb weight of 2270kg – a rise of more than 295kg over its predecessor. The electrification measures also help to improve the already impressive refinement at highway cruising speeds, where the 760i xDrive is very quiet indeed.

The underpinnings are every bit as advanced as the engine, with a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension with self-levelling air springs and electronically controlled dampers, electrohydraulic active antiroll bars and the latest incarnation of BMW’s integral active four-wheel steering system. The brakes mate big steel discs with four-piston calipers up front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear.

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Despite its size and weight, the 760i xDrive is strikingly composed, whether calmly collecting miles in Comfort mode on the highway, or climbing a winding mountain pass at speed in Sport mode. It is never clinical, though.

There is real character to the handling, which benefits greatly from the lightly weighted but otherwise precise steering. It’s a big car that shrinks around the driver, and it feels much smaller than it actually is. The agility and outright grip are quite something, elevating it above the Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S500L for pure on-road appeal and dynamic competence. Turn off the dynamic stability control and you can hang the rear end out with confidence in Sport Plus mode.

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Equally impressive is the ride, which is both cosseting but exceptionally well controlled over high-frequency bumps and long-wave undulations. There is a subtleness to the 760i xDrive in Comfort mode that, in combination with excellent suppression of wind noise at speed, makes it truly serene and tranquil over longer distances.

This particular 7-Series, then, is a limousine in the true sense of the word - but also an engaging sports saloon when you want it to be.

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