Thursday 14 December 2017

Driver and passenger - how the other half lives

BMW 7-Series scores high on drive

BMW 7-Series 730Ld
BMW 7-Series 730Ld
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Of course cars such as this BMW 7-series offer tantalising insights into how the 'other half' lives. That is only to be expected. There is the leather and inlays, multifarious technological advances, extra rear room, massage seats and television and...the list goes on.

But don't for a minute forget that most people who can afford such luxury are as careful about how they spend their thousands as we are about our tenners - that's why, I suspect, they are able to buy these cars in the first place.

So I expect anyone buying one of these - and the likely customers range from chief executives to dignitaries and diplomats - will look in great detail at what is on offer and take serious stock of the competitors: rivals such as the Mercedes S-Class or Audi A8, or Jaguar XJ or Range Rover. That's how they operate.

I'd hazard a guess, however, that the one thing they will notice (and it may influence them) is that this is a car to drive as much as to be driven in (I am happy to report that I was both driver and chauffeur in my long-wheelbase version for a week).

For the driver, such matters are important. For those who are driven, they are less so, but maybe they take their driver's opinion into account, too? You'd never know.

In fairness, the 7-series always had a bit of a driving edge. But I think BMW had ground to make up with it on the S-Class, for example, on its cabin/technology, on the A8 for its technology, too, and the Jaguar for the sense of luxury in a lovely interior - and radical looks. The latter accusation can never be levelled at the BMW because it is more a series of relatively minor visual advances than a major new look - that is the conservative way for most at this level.

It doesn't outstrip all and sundry - because the margins of differentiation are so tight at this level - but it has significantly improved in several areas and is a much more rounded package now.

Above all, it is an admirable piece of machinery to drive, with handling crisp and taut for such a large car.

It was hugely comfortable - though the driver's seat felt a bit narrow for me - and everything I wanted was at the tip of my fingers.

But the fun part was letting the new (excellent) 3-litre diesel kick on through the revs and the (height-adjustable) suspension yield up some good old driving feel. That's one half of the story. The other lies with my 'driven' rear passengers for whom extended space (my long-wheelbase version adds 140mm) provided several occasions to luxuriate in extra room, watch Coronation Street on the move, recline in adjustable leather seats and generally live the life for all-too-brief drives that the 'other half' take for granted.

It was a strange old week; in which, for one reason or another, I found myself sitting in, as opposed to driving, the car for long periods (don't worry, I still swept through 700kms). Helping me pass the time was my TV (only pictures on my screen when static).

There were some 'did you ever think?' moments - for example watching a bit of rugby after driving in the narrow Cush road down home while waiting to meet up with my cousin who was cutting timber.

But it wasn't all sweetness and light. I mentioned my driver's seat feeling a bit narrow. I also found, despite electric adjustment, that I never quite got the reach and height of the steering wheel the way I wanted it.

And I turned off the traction control sometimes because I wanted to get a much truer feel of the car. Sometimes there are too many gadgets, especially the helpful but intrusive lane-departure-warning systems. Without traction control I enjoyed it more. I don't advocate turning it off but it was a good experiment.

On another level, I have to say I was mightily impressed with the sheer size of the boot - God knows how many golf bags it would take.

All in all, the 7-series has stepped up to the mark. Don't judge it by its unadventurous looks.

This is a car capable of drive and driving few can match.

Facts & figures

BMW 7-series 730Ld luxury saloon, diesel (2,993cc, 265bhp, 0-100kmh, 6.2 secs, claimed 5l/100km (56.5mpg), 132g/km; €280/year road tax.

Price of this version starts at €103,117. Options include executive package, 19in alloys, sunblinds for side/rear windows, heat comfort package, rear-seat comfort, massage, rear TV/entertainment, harman/kardon surround sound, executive drive programme, panoramic glass sunroof, adaptive LED headlights, Driving Assistant Plus, surround-view (brilliant), Park Assist, concierge service, gesture control. Total price: €133,896.

My side of the road

I've seen wing mirrors used for lots of things but never by a passer-by. She dumped her handbag on the bonnet of a parked car and proceeded to apply make-up and eye shadow. At least the car was parked. Which is more than can be said for those who see a traffic-light halt as an opportunity to spruce up. Men are especially vain, I find, going to lots of trouble with their hair.

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