Incredibly nimble and fast for a car of this size, but ride is unforgiving
Trim befits a luxury car, with wood, metal, leather and technology and BMW's sleek, contemporary design
Plenty of airbags plus a range of high-tech assistance systems, though you'll need to pay more for these
BMW beats many premium rivals when it comes to built quality
Plenty for all passengers in standard car, and you can have even more long-wheelbase models
What you'd expect for the money, though many features remain optional extras
The 7 Series is offered with a choice of three petrol engines and two diesels. Of these, we've only driven the 750i so far, which has 443bhp and feels astonishingly fast for such a big, heavy car. Whichever engine you choose, the 7 Series feels impressively nimble for its size, but this agility comes with an overly firm ride which means the 7 Series gets nowhere near the level of comfort offered by our benchmark, the Mercedes S-Class.
There's also a petrol-electric hybrid version, and while this is fast enough it doesn't make the most comfortable marriage with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is great with the 750i. The twin-turbocharged V8 in the latter is supremely smooth and quiet on the motorway, but there's no escaping road noise, which intrudes into the cabin at most speeds.
The cabin is solid and smart, with a good choice of posh materials including double-stitched leather. The dash layout will be familiar to any BMW driver, though this model does get a multi-function display which changes the range of dials according to which driving mode you're using. There are flashy 3D graphics, too, and the latest generation of BMW's iDrive system.
There's space for five adults in the regular-wheelbase version, while the longer wheelbase (available on selected models) brings a further 140mm of rear legroom and 10mm more rear headroom. The boot is a little narrow but it's still pretty roomy.
As you might expect, every model is generously equipped, including four-zone climate control and electrically adjustable leather seats.
The previous 7 Series lagged behind the Audi A8, Mercedes S-Class, Jaguar XJ and VW Phaeton in What Car?'s most recent reliability survey, although overall BMW finished ahead of Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar. Safety features including head airbags for both rows of seats as standard, plus a range of optional driver assistance systems including a head-up display that shows speed limits and technology that recognises pedestrians in the dark.
The 7 Series is worth considering if you want a luxury car with a BMW driving experience, but bear in mind this includes the rock-hard ride quality. As for running costs, even the 4.4-litre V8 emits just 199g/km of CO2, which is impressive for a huge car that can reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds. The diesels do even better, with just 148g/km of CO2 from the 730d. Even accounting for the 3% extra tax for diesel cars, the 7 Series makes a sound financial proposition.