2009 Shanghai Auto Show, 2010 BMW 7-Series, 2010 Rolls-Royce 200EX, AMG, Auto/Motor Cars, BMW 760i, BMW 760Li, Shanghai Auto Show
Two turbochargers, two more gears: The BMW 760i leads the V-12 game now, which is making world debut at the 2009 Shanghai Auto Show.
Each country makes its specific contribution to automotive greatness: Germany, for example, has the autobahn, where unlimited speed still rules. But with gasoline prices approaching the equivalent of $7.50 a gallon and more, it's no wonder that fuel-sipping technologies such as BMW's "efficient dynamics" are all the rage. This is where other markets, such as the U.S. or Asia, come in. They don't have much to offer in terms of high-speed, long-distance cruising, but thanks to status-conscious customers, ultra-powerful V-12 engines are in sufficient demand to warrant constant updates.
Huffing and Puffing
"We need a V-12 mainly for Asian and American customers," confirms a BMW engineer. And so, the Shanghai auto show will see BMW launch a new V-12 version of the new-for-2009 7-series. The 2010 760i and the long-wheelbase 760Li are powered by an all-aluminum, direct-injected 6.0-liter V-12, which, unlike its 439-hp predecessor, is force-fed by two turbochargers. The two compressors are placed in a conventional manner outside the cylinder banks, each feeding six cylinders. Output for the new engine is 536 hp at 5250 rpm, while 553 lb-ft of torque is available from as low as 1500 rpm.
BMW says the engine is an all-new design, but we can't help noticing that it retains the same displacement of its predecessor, which in turn is related to the 6.7-liter, naturally aspirated V-12 in the Rolls-Royce Phantom. A compression ratio of 10.0:1 is high for a turbocharged engine, but is manageable due to the cooling effect of injecting fuel directly into the combustion chambers. A 6.6-liter version of the new V-12 with up to 600 hp also is expected to make its way under the hood of the Phantom’s upcoming little brother, which will go on sale next year and was previewed by the 200EX concept at the Geneva auto show in March.
Transferring the power to the rear wheels is a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox, which also will be featured in the upcoming 2010 Audi A8, can skip through its ratios while engaging only one clutch mechanism, shortening shift times and allowing for multiple-gear downshifts. Additionally, it is configurable for hybrid-electric operation, which BMW will employ on several upcoming models, including the 7-series.
Movin’ the Metal
Twin-turbocharging catapults the biggest Bimmer into another league. Despite its considerable mass, 62 mph comes up in 4.6 seconds, BMW says, while fuel consumption is 18 mpg in the European cycle, which we believe is a tad unrealistic. The 760i also is ULEV II-rated in the U.S., but we are even more impressed by the flaps in the exhaust system, which BMW promises will let the normally silent V-12 sing when you apply sufficient pressure to the throttle.
We are also impressed by the fact that the model designation accurately reflects the vehicle’s engine displacement—something of a rarity in BMW's lineup, as well as Mercedes-Benz’s. Speaking of which, the new 760i should be a closer match for the Mercedes S600, which makes only 510 hp from its twin-turbocharged, 5.5-liter V-12 and in our hands has sprinted to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The top-level S65 AMG, however, remains in the lineup and is rated at 604 hp. Given BMW’s newfound openness to M-badged SUVs, though, a future M7 doesn’t seem like such a stretch.
The 760i comes with or offers every gadget currently available on lesser 7-series models, including standard electronic dampers, stability control, and front and rear air suspensions with a self-leveling function in the rear. Active steering and anti-roll bars are optional, as are safety nannies such as night vision, lane-departure warning, adaptive headlights, and active cruise control with stop-and-go capability.
While we don't have pricing yet, we expect the 760i will command a hefty premium over V-8 750i models, which start at $82,125. And to inform neighbors of your taste for luxury and power, the 760i’s somewhat obtrusive fender badge—common to all 7-series—bears a V-12 moniker, while chrome strips accent the quad exhaust pipes and the lower front bumper. The front kidney grilles also get larger chrome surrounds, with other unique touches including special 19-inch wheels, a nappa leather-lined instrument panel, and an Alcantara headliner.
It may not make much of an effort to save the world, but we can't wait to get the new 760 on an open stretch of autobahn and celebrate the result of all that multi-cultural input.