In the upper echelons of German car manufacturers resides the company’s executive saloon. Audi has the A8, BMW the 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz the S-Class and Porsche the Panamera.
All of them offer industry captains a business express laden with the latest technology. In fact, most of the technology debuts at this level and trickles down the market ladder.
BMW’s latest 7 Series has thoroughly upped the game. The Mercedes S-Class has been the leading star in its segment, but I feel that the tide has changed in favour of the Bavarian offering.
The new S-Class arrives in SA in January and will be followed later in the year by the new Audi A8, so we will see whether those two have moved the game on.
For now, the Beemer is ahead of the curve with some industry firsts, chief among these being its Carbon Core construction technology.
This uses carbon fibre materials in strategic areas such as the passenger cell and roof, which not only makes the vehicle extra rigid and safer, but more efficient due to the weight saving of carbon fibre over metal equivalents.
It also has a great effect on the way the vehicle steers through corners.
Styling wise, the M760Li, which is the flagship 7 Series and the first M Performance derivative of the range, has subtle design cues that hint at chief-of-the-totem-pole status. These include anthracite blades on the front valance’s air intakes, side mirrors and quad exhausts.
The V12 badges on the C-pillars hint at what lurks under the long bonnet: a 6.6l, twin-turbo V12, which the model shares with the Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Available solely in long wheelbase guise, the 760Li adds an additional 140mm to the regular model’s wheelbase, offering the two rear-seat occupants tremendous legroom.
There are all manner of gizmos, including two infotainment screens mounted in the rear and electrically adjustable rear seats that can also be adjusted via the removable centre console-mounted tablet. There is a captain seat option for the left rear occupant to enjoy, which allows the front seat to move all the way forward — when it is not occupied — and unfold a footrest for the rear occupant to catch up on sleep while on the move.
A fridge between the rear seats lets you chill your champagne. My only gripe about this feature is that edges a bit into the luggage compartment.
It can accelerate to 100km/h from standstill in just over 3.7 seconds
It is at the helm that both the owner and Jeeves will thoroughly enjoy themselves. Thanks to its self-levelling suspension, the new model rides surprisingly well in Comfort mode, a far cry from the previous 760Li, which felt too harsh for a vehicle of its ilk. The new one wafts along with a serene, limousine disposition.
The V12 engine moves the luxo saloon effortlessly with mounds of torque available from as little as 1,500r/min.
However, flick the drive mode into Sport and the M760Li becomes a sports saloon.
For starters, it can accelerate to 100km/h from standstill in just over 3.7 seconds, thanks to the four-wheel-drive xDrive system that makes it as quick as some purpose-built sports cars. It is quicker than the quickest M4s, the GTS and DTM Champion Edition.
For a more than two-tonne saloon, the M760Li corners in a manner that should not be possible. The engineers must have spent a great deal of time massaging the underpinnings of the car to achieve this feat.
One of the criticisms of the previous model, a lack of exhaust note, has been thoroughly addressed in the latest model. In Sport mode, it howls a slightly muffled V12 cry, which belches between gear changes.
The M760Li is the head honcho among its natural German compatriots as it eloquently straddles the line between waftage and dynamic handling, which is no mean feat.
Where it was previously the nonexecutive director of the super saloon board, it is now unequivocally the chairman.