BMW’s storied M division — that’s M for Motorsport — had a tall task when it was founded in 1972 with only eight employees: Modify engines, suspensions and aerodynamics for peak performance and build a successful racing program.
Mission accomplished. You may recall winning models like the E30, M1 and M3. Or the 3.0 CSL which dominated European touring races for years.
But what a hoot to find the “M” badge on the side of the 760xi, BMW’s top-of-the-line luxury sedan. Well, hold onto your hoots. It may not be track-qualified like the M4 but the 760xi, with its V-12 and 601 horses, has the right stuff to wear the badge.
It was the first 7-Series to don the M label when it was introduced last year and returns for 2018 with some tweaks and the same growl and get-up.
Hit the accelerator and watch the front end lift up like a thoroughbred lurching forward. The 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12, sporting 590 pound-feet of torque, darts to 60 mph in an electrifying 3.6 seconds. That’s amazing for a 5,000-pound luxury car. Regulating the speed is an ultra-smooth 8-speed transmission that whips through the gears so swiftly it becomes an afterthought.
But what about handling and agility? Surely this long-wheelbase beast can’t get out of its own way on corners? Well, the 760xi is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system BMW calls xDrive and, surprisingly, it helps keep it decently poised on twisty roads and corners.
BMW kept the weight to a minimum using layered aluminum and carbon fiber in the body structure but, with a V-12 engine, it’s still front-heavy with a weight distribution of 54-36.
Driving modes include Comfort, Sport, Eco-Pro and, best of all, Adaptive, which adjusts air suspension, power steering, transmission to your personal driving style and road conditions. Add the Autobahn package for even more precision: Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview uses cameras to previewthe road ahead and make necessary adjustments.
Around town, the big fella can park itself. And, a remote parking feature lets you step out of the car, touch the key fob miniscreen and watch the car squeeze itself into a tight space.
Plenty of gizmos inside, too. BMW introduced the world’s first “gesture control” (five gestures can be programmed) for its infotainment system: Swirl or swipe a finger at the screen to answer a phone call or adjust radio volume.
In the rear, passengers can control the entertainment (including headrest-mounted screens), climate, navigation and seats via a removable 7-inch tablet on the center console. Roomy seats recline, massage and even have a flip-down footrest.
Not surprisingly for a high-end car, the 760xi comes with tons of standard stuff, like ventilated Nappa leather seats with 20-way adjustment, navigation with 10.2-inch high-res touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, soft-close doors and power trunk lid that can be opened with the swipe of a foot. A Harman Kardon system delivers 1,400 watts of surround-sound through 16 speakers.
Advanced technology extends to safety packages, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, frontal collision and pedestrian warnings, lane departure warning and intervention, night vision aids, traffic-jam assist, and 3D surround-view cameras.
If you expect to pay a fortune for all this technology and luxury, you’re not wrong. But the edgy performance that the M brings to the table certainly will make the deal more palatable.
Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald.
As tested: $171,895 - includes flat brown metallic paint ($5,200), Merino leather ($4,000), driver assist package ($1,700), Luxury rear seating package ($1,800), gas guzzler tax ($1,700)
What's all the excitement about? Adding M division features and performance raises the bar for BMW's top-line luxury vehicle
Powertrain: 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged engine gets 601 hp and 590 pound-feet of torque; mated to 8-speed transmission
How's the performance? How does 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds sound? Nice poise on twisty roads, too
What about fuel economy? That's why there's a gas guzzler tax. EPA-rated at 13 mpg city, 20 highway, for a combined 16 mpg