Improbably, we're hurtling around the Thermal Club, a private racetrack in the California desert, from behind the wheel of an executive-class sedan that weighs 2,326 kilograms and stretches out to some 5.2 metres.
The heat is not oppressive, but it's close.
The sedan in question is the first high-performance version of the venerable BMW 7 Series, the 2018 BMW M760Li xDrive.
It's slotted somewhere in between a regular 7 Series -- there are three versions for sale in Canada -- and what would be a BMW M7, if such a product existed.
On the track, I am following the pace driver, factory BMW racer Augusto Farfus, doing my utmost to keep pace.
Entering the braking zones, we take a conservative approach, scrubbing speed off the big sedan gradually. Still, the smell of brakes being pushed toward theoretical limits fills the air.
Hurtling across the curbs, there is surprisingly little body roll and the suspension system expertly flattens out the ride.
Powering through the corners, the xDrive system shows prodigious torque transfer characteristics; the M760Li is an all-wheel drive car that acts like a composed rear-wheel drive car.
Then, there are the many long straights, where the overwhelming strength of the BMW, the twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V-12, is realized to its fullest.
Make no mistake: The M760Li is not a track car and many of its owners will never take the car to the track. But they'll know, when pressed into high-speed service, the BMW has the goods to deliver.
"As a petrol head, I want to have power," said Farfus after the track session was complete and the brakes were rendered incapable of melting the polar ice caps, "And this car has more than enough power."
The engine develops an even 600 horsepower and an even more impressive 590 lb-ft of torque from 1550-5000 rpm. Also, believe it or not, the M760Li has a launch control system. When launched, the sedan rockets to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds — faster than a current M4.
Is all of this really necessary?
Yes, to attract driver/owners who like their wheelbases long . Yes, to compete with rivals Audi, Porsche and Mercedes, which also produce high-powered executive-class sedans. And, yes, if you're looking for new and innovative ways to uphold your old reputation as being "the ultimate driving machine."
- Base price: $159,900
- Engine: Twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V-12
- Transmission/Drive: Eight-speed automatic/All-wheel
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km); 14.7 city/ 9.7 highwy
- Alternatives: Audi S8 Plus, Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG 4MATIC, Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive
- Looks: The executive-class sedan offers a sweet blend of conservatism and street cred. The optional matte paint scheme works welL. The strategically placed “V12” badges represent just the right amount of boastfulness.
- Interior: The extra leg room and the optional back-seat package turns the car into a verifiable mobile office. The seats are supremely comfortable. But if you want room for five passengers, you lose the trick back-seat centre console and reclining seats.
- Performance: There’s little room to criticize the engine because it’s a monster. Ditto, the xDrive AWD system which approximates rear-wheel drive and generates unfailing forward momentum under extreme pressure. The brakes are surprisingly robust. The single-clutch eight-speed automatic is not a strength, but engineers decided to temper outright performance for increased comfort.
- Technology: The now-classic iDrive system is kicked up a notch here with gesture control, which allows you to operate the audio system and make calls while waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care. The heads-up display has been enhanced and is 75% larger than before.
- Cargo: There’s much room to play with, courtesy of the long-wheelbase configuration and sizeable trunk.
Close to a perfect strike for those wanting flat-out speed and all-out luxury.
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