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BMW's flagship 7 Series has been given a subtle makeover, but do the changes go far enough?

Big saloon cars may be thin on the ground in terms of registrations in Ireland but in Russia, where Motors went to test drive the new 7 Series, ‘bling’ is still king with over 700 pre-facelift sales already in 2012!

Saint Petersburg was chosen by BMW as its European launch centre due to the fact the market for Bavaria’s best is so significant. Last year 1500 7s found new homes. BMW even opened a ‘Park M’ in St. Petersburg (one of just two in the World) where only ultra high performance BMW ‘M’ cars are sold. A salesman told me that it is not uncommon for customers to come in and pay for a new car with cash out of a plastic bag! In Russia your car more than your house or even job defines your status in society. It only takes a very short drive to get a sense of this with countless pimped-up luxury cars cruising the streets of the famous Baltic city.

Exterior changes to the 7 include a new grille, front apron and new full-LED headlights plus a few other slight changes. Under the skin the rear ‘air’ suspension is revised and now becomes a standard feature - as does a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. The suspension changes ensure that rear seat passengers get an ultra comfortable and quieter ride. Engine Stop/Start is now a standard feature so there are big fuel savings of up to 25% to be made and of course lower CO2 emissions. The dash gets a new multi functional display and a speedometer that now displays virtual 3D graphics. A host of electronic toys are available too that will help the 7 keep pace with arch rivals like the Audi A8 and Mercedes S Class to name just two. BMW Night Vision with Dynamic Light Spot, Driver Assistant Plus, Active Protection, High-Beam Assistant and Parking Assistant to name a few.

On the road we drove two machines during the test; the 750Li (L = long wheelbase) that is powered by a silky smooth V8 petrol engine and the greener second generation Active-Hybrid 7 that uses a powerful straight-six petrol engine and an electric motor to deliver a relatively economical yet entertaining drive. The 750’s twin-power turbocharged engine is effortless in the way it powers along. With 450bhp and a massive 650nm of torque the car wafts along and when provoked can make the kilometers pass very rapidly. The Active-Hybrid 7 is however more fun to drive as it was in the standard wheelbase form (so less legroom in the rear) and feels more nimble. With 320bhp and 450nm of torque it is down quite a bit on power next to the 750 but somehow it is more eager to please and fun to drive enthusiastically.

The new 7 goes on sale in Ireland in late September with a range of engines and specification levels available. Prices start at €88,200 for the 730d and rise up to a range topping 760Li M Sport for a cool €192,260.

The mid-life cycle changes to the 7 Series certainly do enough to keep the 7 high on any CEOs wish list.

Michael Sheridan