One does not have to look far to prove this point. There’s the all-glass Sky Lounge roof (complete with a trillion LED points that can change color and make the sunroof seem like a starlit sky, another feature borrowed from Rolls-Royce). There’s the Welcome Light Carpet that can even project special patterns of light onto the sidewalk when you open the door (or it is opened for you on the 750iL). There’s the weird silver “hockey stick” down the side of the body, put there to make the doors look less like a boring slab of metal, which looks as much at home as an earring on George Clooney.
Then we get to the pointless, uncomfortable to keep in your pants pocket, gigantic key that makes the car park by itself in your garage, unless you live in the U.S.—a useful feature if you want your car as well as your own children to remind you that you’re getting on a bit and losing the ability to do stuff for yourself. It also keeps running out of battery power and has to be recharged constantly via a special induction port, which incidentally works with a Samsung phone but not an Apple iPhone. (I’m sorry? Are Samsung phones considered a premium product now? Have I missed something?)
The quaint, modest Portuguese surroundings accentuate all of the G11’s styling flaws. And it all becomes very confusing when you get to things that this car does really well. The ride, for instance, is divine. The sat-nav computer-driven adaptive system really works, and on potholed roads in this part of Europe the 730d really does feel like a flying carpet.
The new diesel engine is also excellent. It’s torquey and responsive, putting out 261 hp at 4,000 rpm and 457 lb-ft at 2,000-2,500 rpm, and has minimal lag. The clever, eight-speed gearbox contributes to that. When you finally get used to that weird steering (did I also mention that it is super-light, even at speed?), you can finally settle into a pleasant driving rhythm.
The car’s reduced weight plays to its strengths. No brake fade is present. Sport mode lowers the car on its wheels and electro-mechanical anti-roll bars keep the chassis in check. The setup is more suited to spirited autobahn driving and fast corners than narrow B-roads near the Atlantic Ocean, where weight transfer can be felt painfully.
The diesel six-cylinder has a slight edge over the gasoline V8. It feels less stressed, which matches the character of a car that’s supposed to be the embodiment of luxurious travel. (The cushions on the headrests in the back will make you want to live in them.)
A car that does it all…at the push of a button
To sum up, we must return to forest fires, palm oil and saving the planet.
Plenty of people will trade in their old F01 BMWs for this G11 model regardless of what journalists write. They’ll do it like they trade in a phone. It’s just the way the world works now. And due to better financing options—leasing, long-term rental plans—BMW is likely to see an increase in both profit and sales.
Think about one thing, however: In the good old days, engineering a car like this required a car company to make one type of shock absorber and decide on one steering setup to suit all manner of conditions and situations, and to last for 100,000+ miles. It had to be comfortable enough, sporty enough, sturdy enough. In other words, it had to be properly engineered!
Today…it doesn’t. Building a car that does it all at the push of a button is really a way of cutting costs. Like the electric handbrake that’s really cheaper to install than a mechanical one. Lines of code and LED screens cost less to manufacture than, let’s say, a proper wishbone.
The notion of “new is always better” is one of the lies we tell ourselves—like the one about saving the planet by buying a hybrid even as we’re consuming meat and palm oil. Diesels have been discredited on that front thanks to Volkswagen’s deception, but even though BMW hasn’t yet been caught up in the scandal customers are skeptical nonetheless. Does this 730d really emit just 129 grams of CO2 per 100 km as BMW claims, far lower than the 740i/Li’s 164 grams or the 750i/Li’s 189 grams? Or is that just a ruse to reduce fleet averages thanks to the popularity of lower-priced diesel fuel? Until real-world testing is complete, we have only BMW’s numbers to go on. In any case, “better” in 2015 mainly means more gimmicks on the option list.
P.S. The hand gesture control system is both limited and pointless.