2019 BMW M760i xDrive Review: Is This $180,000 Super Sedan Fancy Enough to Justify the Price?
V-12s are rare, and all-wheel-drive sedans with them even rarer. But is that engine enough to warrant spending entry-level supercar money?
Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2018 BMW M760i xDrive.
The 2018 BMW M760i xDrive, By the Numbers:
Base Price (Price as Tested): $158,495 ($181,075)
Powertrain: 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12, 601 horsepower, 590 pound-feet; eight-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy: 13 city / 20 highway
0-60 MPH: 3.6 seconds (manufacturer data)
Top Speed: 155 mph
Quick Take: Melding V12 majesty with all-wheel-drive grip in a plus-sized four-door body produces a supreme sport sedan—but in an era when speed is cheaper than ever, is the whole package sweet enough to justify such a lofty price?
2018 BMW M760i xDrive: The Pros
- In an era of powertrain downsizing and electrification, the mighty V12 is a rare commodity these days, found primarily amongst the ranks of exotica and super-luxury. (Indeed, I'm sure the Internet will tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly certain its $159K base price makes the BMW M760i the cheapest new 12-cylinder car on sale in America today.) The 6.6-liter mill beneath this 7er's prodigious hood It doesn't quite feel as elemental and all-powerful as the engine in the Mercedes-AMG S65—it is, admittedly, 20 horses and 148 pound-feet wimpier—but it’s similar in more ways than it differs. And the Bimmer's standard all-wheel-drive system means that power is more accessible than in the big Benz AMG. Like all the current raft of twin-turbo twelves, the giant engine gives up its bounty willingly, always delivering a thick belt of power at the touch of a foot. It's utterly delightful.
- The M760i is delightfully well-balanced—for a car of its size. There's no changing the fact that this is a 17-foot-three-inch-long car with a 126-inch wheelbase, but the so-called "Carbon Core" chassis—which isn't purely carbon fiber-based as you might expect, but does make extensive use of the lightweight material—delivers a rigidity you can feel from behind the wheel while keeping the weight down. (Somewhat. All those fancy bits and giant powertrain components come at a cost; the maximum 7er still weighs in at 5,250 pounds.) And while the various drive modes don't seem to vary the ride up much, the car delivers a pleasant blend of smoothness and sportiness no matter how it's set up.
- As a result, the M760i fulfills the role of road-going Gulfstream quite nicely, whether you're in the pilot's seat or one of the VIP thrones in back. In a world without speed limits, this would be the perfect car to cross a continent, kicking back and listening to the stellar stereo while letting the exemplary seat massagers do their business—they work both back and butt—and booking it down the highway at 100-plus miles per hour.
- Indeed, the hole interior of the 7 Series is simply delightful—especially if it's fully loaded with all the fun-and-fancy features available on the option sheet. The luxury rear seating package officially makes the back seats better than the front, bringing with it back seats with heating, ventilation, and massage and a seven-inch Samsung-sourced tablet to control it all. Add in the $2,700 rear seat entertainment package, and you could practically live back there.
- Not to downplay how nice it is in the front row; that, after all, is the only place to play with Gesture Control. I'll die on this hill: The system, which lets you control the volume or answer a call with a wave of your hand above the shifter, is a delightful piece of consumer tech. Not only does it make for one hell of a party trick whenever somebody new climbs into the car, but it becomes second nature very quickly. I only had the Bimmer for a week, yet the muscle memory that formed was strong enough that I found myself wanting to turn up the volume in my next car with a gesticulation.
- The remote-control parking feature enabled by the Display Key is goofy, but I can see the appeal. With the tap of a couple buttons, the big 7 starts itself up and ever-so-slowly moves forwards and backwards, enabling it to slither in and out of parking spaces too small to people to extricate themselves. (Though, to be fair...how many owners are going to park their $180,000 car in a spot so tight they can't open the doors?)
2018 BMW M760i xDrive: The Cons
- The fuel economy is terrible—which is somewhat to be expected, considering this car has 12 angry cylinders pounding away. (I saw 13.1 miles per gallon during my week of mixed city, highway, and back road driving.) The terrible range, however, is more of a surprise. The 20.6-gallon fuel tank seems better-suited to the fuel-sipping 740e than the mighty M Performance 7; my real-world experience pointed to an effective range of around 250 miles or less, though you might be able to squeeze 300 out if you kept things to the interstates.
- BMW's awkward relationship with steering is still an issue. It's better than in some recent Bimmers, but there's still too much artificial weight in Sport mode, as though the car really, really wants you to think that it doesn't have all those electric motors and servos and lines of code dedicated to preventing you from developing Popeye forearms. And Sport mode's added "weight" only exacerbates the car's tendency to make it harder than expected to place the car on tight, curvy roads. Some of that may well be due to the rear-wheel-steering system; some of it may be a result of the variable-ratio rack-and-pinion setup up front. Regardless of why, it's frustrating in a car that aims to bring driving fun to the full-size sedan realm.
- The previously-mentioned Display Key may look cool, but it it quickly proves more trouble than it's worth. Its flat, broad shape certainly feels good in the hand—I may well have pretended it was a Star Trek phaser at least once—but its size means it occupies an inconvenient chunk of your pocket. And the nifty LCD touchscreen sucks enough power that you have to recharge the key at least once a week—not by sliding it into a slot on the dash, the way old Bimmer key fobs worked, but by plugging it into a micro USB cord.
- My test car's Fiona Red interior—clearly named by a fan of a certain female singer-songwriter who was big in the Nineties—is oddly beguiling, blending cowhides the color of freshly-oxygenated blood with secondary black leather trim. It's also, sadly, no longer available on the M760i as of 2019. Neither is the stylish Frozen Brilliant White Metallic paint, according to the BMW car configurator. (Then again, considering those two options add $9,200 to the already-steep price, maybe that's for the best.)
- Speaking of style: While the long-wheelbase 7 Series looks rather imposing, the $159K-and-up M Performance version doesn't possess much more gravitas than the far cheaper 750i. Aside from the pronounced lower fasciae front and rear—which is still far less imposing than the ones seen on cheaper M Lites—the differences are largely limited to darkened trim bits. The Alpina B7, on the other hand, scores a bespoke look and is dropped a little closer to the ground.
2018 BMW M760i xDrive: Value
There's a concept in economics called a "Veblen good," that, in essence, says some consumer goods grow more desirable the more expensive they become, simply because they're expensive. A Rolls-Royce is a typical example, but one could say the same about AMG's V12 models, or any number of similar cars with a dozen cylinders providing power. The M760i, however, falls into something of an Veblen uncanny valley—not quite expensive enough to be considered exotic, yet not fancy enough to warrant a higher price tag. The AMG S65, somehow, feels more worthy of its loftier price, in spite of all that power being rendered less usable by its RWD delivery; I don't know whether it's all the extra torque or just that piece of human nature Thorstein Veblen wrote about kicking in, but somehow, Merc's range-topping sedan feels more worthy of its place.
And then there's the Alpina B7, the M760i's own in-house competition. While it may make do with four fewer cylinders, it makes the same amount of power—600 horses and 590 pound-feet—and starts at $20,000 less. The Alpina mission brief—effortless, high-speed touring, compared with BMW M's corner-carving, sports car-worthy performance—generally seems a better fit for the likes of the 7er than the M division's modus operandi. Not to mention that the B7 is a rarity—a little-known, exclusive vehicle from a brand congnoscenti will appreciate. The M760i, on the other hand...well, it's not even a full-blown M car.
2018 BMW M760i xDrive: The Bottom Line
Of course, a good chunk of the people around the world buying 7 Series sedans are doing so to sit in the back—and at that point, any arguments in favor of the M760i fly out the window. After all, the "base" 740i xDrive packs a purring twin-turbo inline-six that's nearly as smooth as this car's engine and still propels it from 0 to 60 in about five seconds—as Brett Berk put it, that's '90s-Ferrari speed—yet, even outfitted with all the fancy features of my test car and an M Sport design package that brings most of the V12 version's visual flair, still comes in at $60,000 less than the M Performance version. Or, on the flip side, if you are planning on doing the driving yourself, why not go for the latest M5 for similar money, which is even faster, even sharper when pushed, and still roomy enough for adults to sit in back without complaint?
Look, the M760i is an exceptionally lovely piece of work, an intricate mesh of power, technology, and luxury sure to please whomever purchases it. If you have enough money that the price of such a car is utterly irrelevant to you, the way most of us don't give a damn whether a candy bar costs $1.50 or $2, and your personal predilections favor this BMW's blend of traits over anything from Bentley, Audi, Mercedes, or Porsche, then you'll be pleased as punch with it. But for those of us who consider the value of such a sweet machine, even as an academic exercise, the M760i is either too expensive...or just not expensive enough.