Bavarians combine urgency with surging power in this very satisfying V12, as Michael Taylor discovers.
2010 BMW 760Li
Surgency isn't a word. I know, because I tried to look it up in four different dictionaries. Surgency should be a word, though, because it's the only thing that adequately describes how BMW's new, hand-built 6.0L V12 propels the new 760Li. It starts quietly but, as soon as you tickle the accelerator pedal, there's this surging wall of acceleration that never stops and its urgency never seems to drop off. Hence, "surgency" (© Wordsbymichaeltaylor).
It's also a word that sounds smooth and fast and subtle, which is what the 760Li is all about. Without the controversial styling of its predecessor, the new 7 Series has already been a big hit for BMW and the company keeps trickling out new engines for it. Recently, there's been the 740D, a crunching, big turbo-diesel, and now there's the V12. But it's not just any V12, either. It shares a lot of parts with the Rolls-Royce engine, but that's not the only reason it's a special engine. Most of its buyers won't care how it does what it does, as long as it makes a non-V8 sound, wears a V12 badge and wafts the biggest BMW to its 250km/h maximum speed in a manner befitting the money they've spent.
But the technology isn't bad at all. For starters, it's not just a V12; it's a twin-turbo V12. That means it doesn't feel a lot of stress when you ask it to pump out its 535hp. That means it doesn't send many signs of exertion through to the cabin and that means you just float along and would be blissfully unaware of running to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, apart from that enormous surgency pushing the softly padded leather chairs into your spine.
Besides having a twin-scroll turbo hanging off each bank of six cylinders, the 6.0L engine also scores direct fuel injection and double VANOS variable valve timing and lift on both the inlet and exhaust cams. But that's not all. Inside the nitty-gritty bits of the V12, the conrods are forged and sintered (broken and reset to fit perfectly around the forged crankshaft), the aluminium pistons are coated in iron and the exhaust valves are filled with sodium to make them easier to cool.
To suggest 535hp is enough power for a limo is to expose yourself to accusations of naivety, but it's a 22 per cent improvement over the old V12. But this engine's not really about horsepower. It has a monstrous 750Nm of torque (25 per cent more than the old car) and most of it is there from idle. From just 1,500 rpm, the V12 hits its peak torque figure, then just keeps squeezing it out until 5,000 rpm, which is probably higher than most people will rev the thing anyway.
Stay on the throttle, and the 60-degree V12 will just keep surging out effortless power until 6,500rpm, when it calls on the transmission to slip into a higher gear. It's also the first BMW to take the Bavarian firm's new eight-speed automatic gearbox. The company put more than 1,000 simulations through their computers to find the most effective way to arrange eight speeds in the same space as the old six-speeder used, and even investigated nine- and 10-speed units.
It's not a small car, by any measure. Even American measures. The long-wheelbase version tested (hence 760Li) weighs in at 2,175kg, or about two rugby players north of two tonnes. While BMW insists its fuel consumption is down five per cent to 13L/100km, we were on track to eke out only about 400 km out of the 82L fuel tank, even though we rarely ever got to full throttle. It just never seemed necessary, but the 760Li's range doesn't seem to match up as befitting a cross-country cruiser. When we did squeeze the accelerator into the soft carpet, though, its combination of unburstable, escalating speed without any hint of violence or tremor mounted a convincing argument. And then, just like that, it's resting on its 250km/h speed limiter. And there's plenty in reserve. It's just an awesome piece of machinery.
Flick it into its sport mode and the gearbox can change down from eighth gear directly into second, then its stiffened damping tightens up the body roll and even the steering, and the 760 points its longer wheelbase at the apex, then calmly, surgently, accelerates out again. There is always a thought about how much weight it's carrying, because it is enough to be significant, but it's a trustworthy and reliable handler that never quite shrinks around you like the best big BMW sedans.
Throughout all of these shenanigans, nothing shakes up the rear seat enough to bother anybody cosseting themselves back there. Nothing much shakes up the front, either, but unusually for a BMW, the rear seat's comfort levels have taken up much of the cabin's development attention. You can get a massage in either chair, you can control all the entertainment systems and it's obvious that the V12 has been conceived so its owners can sit up front or down the back, as the mood or the necessity strikes them.
But the real key is that, in tough economic and environmental times, BMW has confirmed the V12 has a future. A big future. A smooth future. Hopefully, a long future. The BMW 760Li is headed to the Emirates soon, but BMW Middle East do not yet have an estimate of its arrival date or cost. email@example.com