BMW has pulled the covers off its 2016 7 Series sedan, the sixth generation of the German luxury car maker's flagship vehicle.
The company promises to deliver "the future of luxury" in its 740i and 750i xDrive models, and to deliver those vehicles to U.S. showrooms in late 2015. They will be priced at about $82,000 and $98,000, respectively. A hybrid version will be available in 2016, BMW said.
Both four-door vehicles offer cutting-edge performance, comfort, safety and technology. New features in the 7 Series include wireless phone charging, the ability to control certain operations with simple hand gestures, and autonomous parking.
BMW boasts that its "Gesture Control" and patented heads-up display are "world first" technologies.
The 750i xDrive is powered by a 4.4-liter, turbocharged V-8 engine, teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive that produces 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet or torque. The 740i boasts a 3-liter, turbocharged inline 6-cylinder motor that makes 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.
The increased use of aluminum and carbon fiber parts, the company said, has cut weight by 190 pounds -- despite the fact that the 2016 versions are roomier that any previous 7-series vehicles.
Like many of its luxury competitors, the 7 Series will come standard with a suite of safety and semi-autonomous driving features. The car will keep to its own lane and maintain a safe distance from vehicles around it, up to 130 miles per hour. It can also automatically drive at posted speed limits, and watch out for pedestrians, cross traffic and obstacles near the vehicle. Using a "traffic jam" feature, the car will do all the stop-and-go braking and accelerating functions in heavy traffic all by itself.
An additional James Bond-like feature -- is this the 7 Series, or the 007 Series? -- allows a front grill to open automatically when high temperatures or hot driving require extra engine and braking cooling.
On the inside, the 7 Series will offer all the modern comforts available to luxury car buyers -- surround-sound stereo, heated and cooled seats, and four-zone climate control.
But the rear seats also include unusual luxury -- perhaps a sign that BMW is thinking of China in its back-seat-driver design, because luxury car owners in that fast-growing car market often do not drive their own vehicles.
Featuring first-class airliner components, the rear seats are also heated and cooled, as are the arm rests. The rear passenger compartment includes swing-out tables, storage areas and cup holders, and can recline to an almost-horizontal position. The rear seats also offer electronically adjustable entertainment screens and foot rests.
While the front seats offer eight different massage programs to relax and stimulate the muscles, the rear seats offer a "vitality program," exclusive to the 7 Series, that will allow passengers to "engage in active training to revitalize the body on longer journeys."
The 7 Series vehicles available to European buyers will be even more sophisticated. They will be able to park themselves in parallel or perpendicular spaces -- while the drivers aren't even in the vehicles. The American version may one day feature this technology, the company said, pending approval by U.S. regulators.
The vehicles are also -- does one need to say it? -- beautiful to look at. The body is low and lean, spare and sleek, and classically BMW.