NEW YORK -- BMW's redesigned 2016 7-series sedan illustrates that even the brand that touts itself as a driver's car has succumbed to the gadget and semi-autonomous driving trend.
In fact, BMW has outdone the Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan with gizmos. The 7 series offers gesture controls, a perfume air ionizer with eight scents and 15,000 lights in the panoramic roof. BMW says the redesigned 7 series has 13 innovations not offered by competitors, including wireless charging and a body core made of carbon.
Hildegard Wortmann, senior vice president of BMW Group product management, said BMW could not ignore the autonomous driving buzz that's grown louder in the past six to 12 months.
BMW owners still want to drive their cars, Wortmann added. But, she said, "What has changed is there are more and more situations where it isn't fun to drive. It is nice to have the hassle taken away."
BMW lists 27 features that are new on its car -- and already used by some competitors. These include the semiautonomous features of active lane-keeping assist and cross-traffic alert, which not only warn about a possible collision, which BMW's previous-generation technology does, but help prevent the crash. The 7 series also breaks with its driver's car tradition by exuding luxury, such as ambient lighting in a choice of hues and massage seats that show blood flow on a 10-inch screen. Such interior pampering is aimed at the Chinese chauffer-driven market, which BMW expects to be the biggest for 7-series sales.
"When you enter the car, you do not touch anything plastic," said Karim Habib, head of BMW design. "This is the first time we have this kind of level of overtly offering comfort and focus on the rear."
"We are a driver's car, but we know some customers do not drive the car."