More often than not, my glances down at the speedometer of the 2017 BMW M760i xDrive proved startling. On straight roads outside of Palm Springs, California, I found myself doubling the posted speed limits without even realizing it.
I partially blame the luxury cocoon that is the M760i's Nappa leather-lined cabin, which stays well isolated from unwanted road and wind noises. Then throw in an adaptive suspension system delivering road compliance fitting of a flagship luxury sedan when set to Comfort mode, but is also forgiving in the Sport setting.
What's most at fault? That would be the 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 monster sitting under the hood, the centerpiece of the new range-topping 7 Series model. Sharing a block with Rolls-Royce powerplants, the M760i's 12-pot engine is subtle and smooth, while yielding 601 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Peak torque is available from just 1,550 rpm and remains until 5,000 rpm helping to explain how the big sedan effortlessly builds speeds even without a heavy right foot.
Bolting to the V12, a slick ZF eight-speed automatic transmission responsible cracks off quick, imperceptible shifts, and offers a responsive manual shift function for drivers looking for a bit more involvement.
The other downside to the fire breathing drivetrain is it's thirst for petrol, resulting in a 13 mpg city rating from the EPA. However, on the highway it returns 20 mpg, which isn't bad, all things considered.
A typical consumer in the market for a V12 luxury cruiser likely won't care about fuel figures, but simply want the bragging rights and capabilities that come with it. Dropping the hammer will get the all-wheel-drive M760i to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds with launch control. Triple digit speeds are a cinch to achieve with the M sports exhaust system providing a fantastic growling soundtrack, and zero complaints about turbo lag.
To go along with its meaner performance, the M760i gets more visual attitude with larger front bumper air intakes for better cooling, 20-inch split-spoke M alloy wheels and special M and V12 badging. BMW jazzes up the interior with an M leather steering wheel, pedals, driver's footrest and speedometer to go along with the soft leathers and piano black trim.
The M760i accompanies its big power with a big helping of luxury and technology, which is to be expected from any 7 Series. From the supremely comfortable front seats, the optional 14,000-watt Bowers and Wilkins audio system sounds concert hall good, and controlling infotainment functions like navigation and BMW Connected Apps is easily done through the intuitive iDrive 5.0 controller.
Loading up Apple CarPlay to handle infotainment duties is also an option, but Android Auto is currently not supported. BMW says they are evaluating Android Auto integration into its cars, but didn't confirm if or when it was coming.
For safety, a rearview and 360-degree camera comes in handy when parking the brute, while features such as lane departure warning, front collision warning and city collision mitigation come standard. Additional parlor tricks, including night vision, active cruise control with stop and go, and remote control parking that automatically pulls the car in and out of spaces at a push of the key fob, come as options.
Possibly the best seats in the M760i are the available rear reclining and massage executive seats for when you get tired of goosing the V12 down long patches of road. Acres of legroom to stretch out and a rear entertainment system aren't bad things to kick back and relax with. Folks in back also have an integrated Samsung Galaxy tablet to control in-car lighting, open and close the panorama roof and adjust their seats.
While the road drive proves that the M760i is fast and stable in straights, surefooted around gradual bends and delivers first class comfort, BMW wanted us to experience how the 5,128-pound sedan behaved around a small handling course and full race track at The Thermal Club in Thermal, California.
On the handling course with the Driving Dynamics Control system set in Sport Plus, the M760i offers shockingly quick turn in. Nudge the wheel a little and the front end bites to begin changing directions, while the back end rotates around with the help of rear wheel steering. Steering feel is weighty, but like many electric power steering system, feedback delivery isn't high. There's some noticeable body roll, but it's kept in check with an active anti-roll system.
It takes really tight turns to get the front of the M760i to push, which is a testament to the work BMW has done with the suspension and the meaty 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires at all four corners.
When it came time to hit the full Thermal Club track, the skies above opened up and began dumping heavy rain to end California's four year drought and turn our track session into a slip-and-slide affair. Trying to keep up with a rain-loving pro driver in the lead car was a challenge, but the M760i's all-wheel drive system and tires did an almost magical job sticking around corners and getting the power down as well as they did.
I can't imagine anyone taking an M760i to a track day, let alone a wet track day, but after buzzing down the straights at 115 mph and not throwing it off at any of Thermal Club's tricky corners in a torrential downpour, there's little doubt that the car would do alright. The brakes likely will only hold up for a couple of short sessions, but that's something for us to test on a later, dry day.
As far as competitors for the M760i, there's the $226,900 Mercedes-AMG S65, which packs a twin-turbocharged V12. There's also a $248,755 Bentley Flying Spur W12 S with a 12-cylinder of its own under the hood. Compared to Benz and Bentley, the 2017 M760i xDrive with its $153,800 base price will look like a bargain when it hits showrooms in the next month or so.
One thing is for sure: Driving any of the above mentioned flagship luxury bad boys on the street will require vigilant checking of speedos early and often.