The 2017 BMW M7 is an amazing car with an Achilles heel. Its decklid badge doesn’t say M7. What else would you call a $154,795, 2.5 ton, 6.6-liter, twin-turbocharged, 601 horsepower, 12-cylinder ultra-luxury sedan from Munich that will do 0-60 in 3.6 seconds and 193 mph? I call it an M7. My French dad? M sept. A child living in Bavaria? M sieben.
But what does BMW call it?
A 2017 BMW M760i xDrive with M Performance.
That’s a big cactus to swallow, and an even bigger clusterf**k of decklid badging. Literally everyone who buys, leases, finances or rents this state-of-the-German-art sedan — and I promise you anyone who understands depreciation and long-term V12 reliability will lease it — would prefer it to say M7 on the trunk. No one dreams of a BMW M760i xDrive M Performance. If you’re a BMW person, you dream of M. “M” stands for something, like AMG, S, RS, GT and Turbo.
BMW has long insisted there would never be an M7
And that’s presumably because they’re trying to maintain the purity of the 7 as a luxury car rather than a sports sedan. I’ve long admired their proclaimed desire to protect the M brand, but once you’re selling M versions of the X5/X6 SUV, you’re not fooling anyone, least of all the badge whores who buy cars solely because of them.
Mercedes-Benz sold out long ago, plastering AMG on models that don’t deserve it. I’m looking at you, AMG CLA45, and who can forget the AMG GLE63 S? I wish I could. Is that where the S goes? That’s not where AMG should go. It’s a houseboat with an outboard. Why is Mercedes forgiven these crimes?
Because they still put AMG badging on cars that do deserve it.
So why is the brand based on “The Ultimate Driving Machine” so shy about putting their halo badge on the fastest sedan ever to come out of Munich? It’s not like the not-M7 doesn’t deserve it. Could BMW build an actual M7 that accelerates 0-60 much faster than 3.6 seconds? Not unless it’s electric. The not-M7 is already 4/10th of a second faster than the discontinued F10 M5 Competition, 3/10ths faster than a Mercedes S63 AMG, and 6/10th faster than an S65 AMG, whose base price is $70,000 more than the not-M7.
Who says BMW doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Germans may not be funny, but they can be very silly. The not-M7 comes with what BMW calls an “M Performance” package, which apparently doesn’t qualify it as an M, even though the decklid says M760i and “M Performance” is emblazoned on the engine. Here are some fun pictures of the gorgeous not-M7 in a very cool but menacing grey from an era most would prefer to forget:
What’s that below the A pillar? An M badge.
What’s that on the engine cover? An M badge. Hmmm. (And that “Performance” lettering looks a lot like the Blade Runner font, mildly altered to prevent accusations of copying. Come on, BMW.)
For all the brand dilution coming out of Mercedes, you’d think someone at BMW would have the wisdom to go the other way and cut out this “M Performance” nonsense, at least on the not-M7. The press release mentions “M Performance” sixteen times. What’s the difference between “M Performance” and M? The not-M7 comes with:
- M Performance dynamics
- M Sport Brakes
- M Performance TwinPower Turbo 12-cylinder
- M Performance specific shift tuning
- M Sport Exhaust with adjustable flaps
- M Custom 760M light alloy wheels
- M Aerodynamic Package
I’m still failing to understand how the not-M7 could be much more M. The M Performance package isn’t merely cosmetic. Set the M Performance optimized suspension to Sport and you won’t want it much stiffer, lest you get overconfident in what one of the world’s best sedans can actually do when pushed. Physics is a harsh mistress, and 5150 pounds is a lot of not-M7 to be hauling around.
BMW was kind enough to let me test the not-M7 at the Thermal racetrack outside Palm Springs, CA, a place no 7 would (or should) ever go except on a press day. It rained. BMW Performance Center instructors were present for lead/follow. The all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and high-speed wet grip were all impressive. The not-M7 handles incredibly well for a 2.5 ton car. Probably as well as a 2.5 ton car can, unless it’s electric and its batteries are laid out flat to further lower the center of gravity.
Wait. Tesla does make that car, but its interior sure isn’t up to BMW’s, and EVs aren’t up to track work.
Actually, neither are the world’s best large sedans, from anyone. That the not-M7 is good around the track is a feat of engineering but not of pleasure. Anything is possible, but not everything is necessary. No matter how much power and suspension you put into a car, weight is the enemy of fun. Defeating it is an intellectual exercise, not an emotional one. What does BMW keep at the M Performance Center for classes? M3’s and M4’s. Maybe even an M2.
Only a criminal would drive the BMW M760i on a track
There is only one reason to demonstrate what the not-M7 can do on a track. You’re a criminal, or transporting one. Or a hero, and transporting one. The guys in the movie Heat could have used a not-M7. Jason Staham used an earlier 7 in The Transporter. The Ronin chase scenes would have been a lot shorter if they’d used one instead of the always slower Audi S8. An S-Class AMG? Too obvious, and the handling isn’t there for high-stress getaways.
BMW has never sold many of their biggest sedan — especially the V12 version — as Mercedes-Benz has S-classes, probably because Mercedes doubled down on luxury decades before BMW became The Ultimate Driving Machine. When you’re playing in this league, the perception of luxury is more important than reality. Even though the 7’s interior is absolutely gorgeous, so is the Audi A8’s, whose sales are even further behind. Like the Mercedes-Benz S63/65 AMG and Audi S8 plus, Munich’s top-of-the-line large sedan is somewhat faster and vastly more expensive than its base variant, but no better at transporting four/five people in comfort.
How does BMW expect to sell the excellent not-M7?
Even at the high-end, comfort and internal combustion performance are becoming increasingly commoditized. In the electric future, all hardware will be. That leaves brand and packaging as the last bastion. Perception is more important than even an excellent reality. The Ultimate Driving Machine’s ultimate driving machine is defined by M. No one buys sedans like this for the performance. They buy them to own the performance.
BMW should double down on the M brand. Call the M760i XDrive what it is.
If you want to show off your good taste in a 7, the right 7 is the softer-edged Alpina B7, which trades the V12 for a V8, accelerates just as quickly, wears those gorgeous Alpina wheels, and starts at $26,000 less.
If you want the ultimate statement of what a 7 can be, the M760i xDrive is the car for you. If you live in Europe and can afford one, you’re probably removing the badges anyway. Or go get someone to make you an M7 badge for $50.
No one will say you didn’t earn it.
Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes in a BMW M5. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.