It's hard not to be excited when you get to drive one of the most expensive cars BMW offers for sale. If you exclude the Rolls Royce division of BMW Group, the 2018 BMW M760Li really is the top of their product cart currently, and for good reason. There is no longer a regular version of BMW's V12 Ultimate Driving Machine, all of them get the M Performance treatment. So how does this $183,700.00 full-size luxury sedan compare with it's 2001 E38 brother? That's what we were put on this planet to find out.
We've been part of the 7 Series family for almost 3 years now, and anyone who tells you that driving a 17+ year old BMW doesn't count as owning a real BMW has a pretty poor outlook on life. The 7 Series has always been BMW's flagship automobile, and one that continues to turn heads decades after it was originally released, it's one of the main reasons we bought ours, and why we're doing this special write-up on these two generations of BMW's full-size long wheelbase luxury sedan.
We need to start in the 90s before we jump into this new car. BMW launched the E38 7 Series to compete with the newly launched W140 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but also to show where their technology and focus was going, considering the E39 and E46 5 and 3 series' share a lot of the interior and exterior design traits from the 7 Series. We feel the E38 is really BMW's first modern classic, with a mix of current design and technology that still feels current, which being considered a classic vehicle amongst many enthusiasts and government licensing agencies.
The E38's driver-focused centre console wasn't a first for this generation, but one we haven't seen since either, at least until the G11/G12 launched in 2015. Other interior design elements carry over to the new model, such as the chrome/wood grab handles, leather wrapped everything, always-on ambient lighting, and a long list of mechanical standards like servotronic electric steering, self levelling and air ride suspension, and Vanos.
While our 2001 BMW 740iL is not the V12 model, it does have most of the mechanics from it's bigger-engine brother. The M Sport suspension, sport differential, and Steptronic transmission are the closest M Sport enhancements found on the E38, but are peanuts in comparison to the true upgrades performed by M Performance for the M760Li.
It's hard to describe in words, which is why we went overboard with our episode of TestDrive Spotlight on this car. The interior is exactly what we'd expect from a V12 BMW, full leather and wood throughout, including BMW Individual seats. All 4 seats have heat and ventilation, and all but the front passenger have massaging functions. The passenger loses out on the extra features due to the $10,000 Executive Lounge Tier 2 package which adds a fold-out foot rest for the rear right-side passenger.
You certainly feel like you're in a $183,000 car when being driven in this car. From the fold-out rear table, android tablet to control all the ambient lighting, audio, and navigation, or the soft closing doors, everything is designed to make life easier for the passengers. Even the centre console is once again driver-facing with the addition of a high-detail multi-information gauge cluster and colour head up display.
But let's get to the performance. I know that's what most people are interested in, even though I love driving this car in comfort pro mode all the time. 601 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque makes this M760Li the fastest accelerating vehicle BMW has ever made. While it isn't as nimble as an M4 on the track, the integral active steering and xDrive all-wheel drive allows this car to launch in an instant and make insanely sharp turns, especially in parking lots where this car will spend a lot of time.
You really have no issues getting up to highway speed with this car, in sport mode or not. Fuel will eat up your wallet quite quickly, we averaged 15.0L/100km with relatively economical driving and mostly highway speeds. We could almost get 600L to a tank, so you're looking at over $110 for a fill-up, easily more in Montreal.
The performance is certainly fantastic on this car, and it really helps when putting the car in sport mode to open up the exhaust and pump out more V12 M Performance grunt. Despite the power the car still rides phenomenally smoothly, S-Class territory. We admit our little E38 isn't in the best mechanical condition, but it rides relatively firm even in comfort mode. The other two E38s we've driven both feel similar, but the G12 is buttery smooth. Aside from the crater-sized potholes out here, the car drives over the road in a way we haven't experienced before from BMW.
You'd definitely be happy driving, or being driven in this car with it's comfort, handling, and performance. We go into a lot more depth with this 2018 BMW M760Li and how it compares with our 2001 BMW 740iL on our episode of TestDrive Spotlight which you can watch below: