Resisting Reality In The BMW M760Li
Photography by Alex Sobran
I’m not really used to this caliber of transport, but like a lot of people who’ve been into cars for a while, I’ve ended up sitting shotgun in a lot of stuff, including high-end luxoliners like this one, the BMW M760Li. So when Alex Seremet of BMW Romania picked me up from the airport in the matte (“frozen” if we’re being official) black Bimmer, I was excited to shed practicality for a few days and actually spend some time driving one of these leather-wrapped imperators.
Getting in for the first time was like being at the helm of something very complex that you’re not trained to use, but after spending a few minutes getting acquainted with the mass of buttons and knobs it was easy to set the GPS and concentrate on driving this stat-junkies dream car, one with 610hp coming from a twin-turbo V12 and an assault on 62 mph that takes 3.7 seconds. From a stretched full-size sedan. Like a lot of modern BMWs though, this car’s weight is actually tilting the trajectory back downwards, with the newer cars coming in with lower numbers on the scale than previous generations thanks to liberal use of aluminum, carbon fiber, and the kinds of poly-plastics that people go to grad school to create. What was it like to live with this car for a few days then? The picture below does a perfect job of not summing up the experience.
The big V12 is not some sonorous Italian soprano, but in sport mode with the exhaust opened up it certainly turned heads of the typically uninterested livestock roaming nearby up in the mountains. And in dense traffic in the city, most faces are already looking your way long before the engine announces itself. Being someone who’s predominantly owned and driven cars from the ‘90s that the average pedestrian assumes is a hand-me-down that I never grew out of, it was a bit jarring to draw so much attention, but I suppose it just illustrates the car’s achievement in presence; though wearing the #1 mobster-approved paint job, the rest of the car is subtle yet stately, its styling offering a lot to look at, but not packaged in a way that forces you to. There are details and a lot of creases worked into the shape, but it never looks busy or overdone.
And being at the wheel of this BMW, it’s hard not to indulge in the comforts offered (at one point I had the steering wheel heater on at the same time as the air-conditioned seat, which, of course, was in full-body massage mode). On that subject, the seat mimics the car it’s in, as the big chair is equally adept at holding you when you tell the bolsters to snuggle up as it is at coddling you in traffic.
In cars like these you expect the rear doors to open up to the focal point of the interior, and while the old school yet not in a stilted way foldaway tray table and air-conditioned fridge and massive screens and footrests and pliable leather make for a truly comfortable place to be, most of the time this capacity to impress CEOs was used as a place to store things like the backpack I used to hide beers in in my freshman dorm. It swallowed camera gear, travel luggage, and, appropriately, suits with room to spare. I’m sure it would be a great little nest to spend a few hours in whooshing along some highway on a rainy day, but it’d be hard to ever leave the driver’s seat once you’ve tried it.
Pressing the sport button uncloaks the car’s potential, trading the sensor-obedient suspension mode and the economical throttle settings for a general tautness that makes an already very fast car even more fun to drive around as if it were half as big as it is. The four wheel steering helps this feeling of belied size continue when you leave open space for city congestion too; while I had a considerably difficult time finding the size of parking space required to fit the longest production BMW ever built, making increasingly frustrated laps around the block in the hunt for one was surprisingly easy.
For instance, in one four-lane roundabout packed with little hatchbacks paying no mind to any of them, I was certain insurance companies would be called soon after my exit, but even playing “can you drive like a Mongolian taxicab” along with everyone else was no issue. It wasn’t my first time driving a big car in small spaces, but it was a uniquely simple one. Also, I’d always thought lane assist warnings and other safety aids were only going to make people pay even less attention to doing a not-bad job of driving their cars, but there are times when it’s nice to know about the child moped driver seemingly holding on to your quarter panel before you try switching lanes amid horns and low light and attempts to cross check the GPS with street signs almost wholly unpronounceable to you.
After handing back the key, the overall impression left with me was a mixture of yearning and bemusement; a longing to be able to daily drive a car like this, and a lingering feeling that it operates under different physical laws than the rest of the world’s objects. Is that overly praiseworthy? I don’t care if so, there is something special about any car that performs and pampers like this one can. It will never compete with the sensations of driving something vintage and analog, but as far as contemporary cars go, what more do you want? It’s half cruise ship, half cruise missile.