The BMW 760i – A Car No One Needs

First, let me say I’m sure it’s really a sweet ride. Even the 760 iL and iX variants are sure to be every thing that the buyers want and more. But the more I read about the 760i and all it’s variants, all I can think of is a car no one needs.  What got me thinking about this was a quote from Wolfgag Stadler, the manager of the Dingolfing BMW plant (reported in Automotive Engineering International) that BMW had created a luxury car that is “everything that BMW stands for.” Hmmm…. A 4600+ lb car that goes from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, has more electronics that the first satellites and does this all by burning 18 MPG on the EU combined fuel cycle (and that’s not when used in anger.)

The new ZF 8-speed auto that will be in the 760s. Photo courtesy of BMW.
The new ZF 8-speed auto that will be in the 760s. Photo courtesy of BMW.

The engine is mated to ZFs new eight-speed torque converter based automatic. A selection sure to make smooth power delivery at any speed. And there’s tons of power! 530+ HP peak, with 550+ ft-lbs of torque available from 1500-5000 RPM (isn’t computer based engine control wonderful?) For what it’s worth, the 1.6l Prince engine in the current Mini Cooper gives full torque from 1500 to 5500 RPM, so it looks like BMW knows how to manage turbocharged engines.

The BMW 6.0 V12 Twin Turbo. Photo courtesy of BMW.
The BMW 6.0 V12 Twin Turbo. Photo courtesy of BMW.

Actually, there is some good tech here. Current trends (because of emissions now, and fuel prices in the future) involve both turbos (also known as “displacement on demand”) and down-revving (or spinning a given displacement slower to reduce fuel consumption). All aluminum construction keep weight low, direct injection allows for boost and 10:1 compression ratio. Dual-VANOS keeps throttle response good at pretty much any RPM.  This is good stuff!

This shows the working bits of the new engine. Dual turbos, dual-VANOS, direct injection, on demand oil and water pumps all combine to create a very potent package. Image from BMW.
This shows the working bits of the new engine. Dual turbos, dual-VANOS, direct injection, on demand oil and water pumps all combine to create a very potent package. Image from BMW.

 

But I live where 7 series BMWs are a dime a dozen (well, a lot more than a dime, but they sure are common!) And I see how these cars are (mostly) driven. Silver haired gents going to and from the VC firms on Sand Hill Rd and well coiffed ladies going to Nordstroms are the rule. Serious driving at the hands of a driving glove wearing hot foot are almost never seen (unless beating that AMG Mercedes on a freeway merge onto 280 counts.)

Hence my frustration. This car will almost certainly almost never be driven anywhere close to it’s potential. While I’m sure it will do a respectable quarter mile, I don’t expect to see it at Infineon’s drag strip really stretching it’s legs.

Last spring, I was at an automotive media event. I got to flog the AMG S63. Impressive in the very same way. But full of potential that mostly would never be used. And loaded with tons of crap electronics. For the 2009 model year, Mercedes had introduced some active suspensions on some of it’s high end cars to reduce lean in cars without having to resort massive anti-sway bars (the system works well, turning the SLs into some of the best GT road cruisers around, even the lowly SL550, with only 380+ HP, the baby of the model line).

Well, some drivers complained that this reduced feedback, so Mercedes introduced some active seat bolsters to pressurize the opposite side bolster so you’d feel the seats in turns. Sounds like a not entirely ghastly idea. Anyway, back to the S63. I was beating the snot out of it (what an exhaust note) through a back road with some really sweet tight s-turns. The bolsters couldn’t keep up, so slow that they were totally out of phase, pushing the wrong way. Crap electronics (well, electro-pneumatics to be accurate).

The 760 series seems aimed more at spec’smanship with Mercedes than with a market need that really needs filling. And while I’m sure some will buy it (maybe more than some), I’m pretty sure that the cars will never really be driving to thier full potential. So that’s why I call the 760 a car no one needs.

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1 thought on “The BMW 760i – A Car No One Needs”

  1. So, this post created some hot debate on this thread at Motoring Alliance (a Mini forum I’m a member of). Most said something like halo cars (or most cars for that matter) aren’t about need, but more about want. Well, it seems I’m not alone…

    Paul Horrell, in the latest issue Motor Trend (November, 2009), writes “It’s a little hard to spot the point of the BMW 760iL. Does anyone consider the current top Seven, the twin-turbo V-8 750iL too slow? Too unrefined?”

    Paul also points out that while you can set the car control points (including throttle response, shift points, suspension settings) via rocker switch, only the Normal setting seemed to be really well integrated. Comfort couldn’t control wheel hop, and Sport hinted at a performance driving experience dulled by less than stellar steering system (wooden was the word Paul used). He also points out that the 8-speed auto can seem a bit busy at times, shifting around to find the optimal gear.

    Paul closes that while there is lots of stuff that point to a sports car experience, the car just doesn’t deliver that but is really a great premium cruiser.

    So it seems that I’m not alone in wondering why this car was offered. And I’m sure that others are not alone in thinking that I’m nuts.

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