BMW 7 Series
Believe it or not, this is the latest sixth generation BMW 7 Series full size luxury car. While evolution may be the name of the game on the outside, there's revolution afoot beneath the skin.
Longer, taller and better equipped yet up to 130kg lighter than before, the MK6 model BMW 7 Series full size luxury car has had to get clever to keep up with the demands of the marketplace. With a frugal diesel and a plug-in hybrid available, it proves even luxury barges need a conscience these days.
The BMW 7 Series has always sold itself as the driver's choice in the full size luxury car segment and that doesn't look to be changing any time soon. Even the most sensible (and slowest) six cylinder 730d pumps out 265bhp, enough for 0-62mph in a scant 6.1 seconds. BMW's xDrive 4WD system is now an option on this model - and you have to have it if you opt for the pokier 320bhp 740d, which makes the 62mph benchmark in 5.2s. The petrol range starts with the 326bhp 740i model and progresses to the 449bhp V8-powered 750i which makes 62mph in just 4.7s. At the top of the range is the 6.6-litre V12 610bhp M760Li xDrive variant, ideal in the best full size luxury car, ideal if you really want to sack the chauffeur.
Should you want to be as green as possible - or just escape the London congestion charge - there's a 326bhp 740e plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 25 miles on electric power alone. All BMW 7 Series full size luxury car models receive an eight-speed automatic gearbox and air suspension for both front and rear axles that allows you to switch from soft to sporty and the touch of a button. As the ultimate party trick, you can even get out of the car and set it to park itself from your smart phone. Very James Bond.
BMW have learned a lot regarding the use of carbon fibre from their electric i3 and i8 models; the BMW 7 Series is the first mainstream car for this manufacturer to benefit from this. Although steel is still at the core of the car's structure, carbon fibre reinforced plastic is used to help add strength and reduce weight. To further assist, a greater amount of aluminium is used for suspension componentry to cut 200kg from the rolling chassis. The addition of an extra 70kg of equipment brings this weight loss down to a maximum 130kg however.
Outside the changes are far less dramatic. The latest and largest version of BMW's kidney grille sits up front with the headlights (LEDS as standard, with laser lights as an option) flowing from this. Although the shoulder line has been sharpened up, changes to the rear screen and boot area make the car seem sleeker overall. Inside is plusher than ever with a fifth generation iDrive system and even greater connectivity for your mobile devices. For the first time, there's also a gesture control system that uses a 3D sensor in the headlining to interpret your swipes, pinches and rotational movements to control a variety of functions, all good development in contending for being the best full size luxury car.
The BMW 7 Series has always offered a slightly different take on the full size luxury car. Although other vehicles may arguably offer greater passenger comfort, the big BMW has always made sure its drivers could enjoy themselves should the fancy take them. With this MK7 model, BMW look to have improved on this dual personality with the latest in switchable suspension tech and cutting edge carbon-enhanced construction.
You could argue that the seventh-generation BMW 7 Series full size luxury car doesn't look different enough to the old version but then this is quite a cautious section of the market. It's also undoubtedly better looking than the old car, managing to seem both more stately and athletic at the same time. Whether it's enough to edge out the BMWs arch nemesis the Mercedes S-Class as the best full size luxury car is another question though. You'll enjoy deciding.Click here to find out more about our BMW 7 Series range
Volvo takes its most credible stab yet at the full size luxury car segment with this S90 model. It looks a far more promising contender. Based on the platform architecture of the brand's second generation XC90 full size luxury car, it aims to tempt company customers looking for the best full size luxury car with what Volvo describes as 'elegant and functional' appeal.
Because the Volvo S90 uses the same 'Scalable Product Architecture' as its XC90 SUV stablemate, it also uses many of the same engines too. One change though is the availability of a smaller diesel than you can get in the XC90 - the 190PS D4 unit borrowed from Volvo's smaller S60 and V60 models. Next up is a 235PS D5 twin turbodiesel, also with 2.0-litres and four cylinders, another member of the company's efficient 'Drive-E' engine family. D5 models come with AWD. All S90s come only with smooth 8-speed auto transmission, a good touch in the best full size luxury car marketplace. At the top of the range lies a T8 Twin Engine petrol/electric plug-in hybrid model. This delivers a combined 412PS output, with a thumping 640Nm of torque. 62mph from rest is dispatched in under 6s.
This is certainly a more credible full size luxury car than anything Volvo has brought us to date. The S90 has a proud yet non-aggressive face, characterised by a concave grille - apparently, a homage to the Volvo P1800 - that's home to the brand's distinctive 'Iron Mark' logo. The T-shaped 'Thor's Hammer' lights are recognisable from the XC90 and deliver a powerful sense of direction that makes this car unmistakable on the road.
Step inside a Volvo S90 and if you've previously tried the brand's second generation XC90 model, it'll all be pretty familiar, though a difference lies with smart air blades that stand vertically on each side of the Sensus user interface. This massive tablet-like touch screen control plays a key role in creating an interior that is modern, spacious and uncluttered. Volvo's clearly put a lot of budget into driving up materials quality and this XC90 gets soft leather and wood with handcrafted details, including diamond-cut controls for the start/stop button and volume control. The boot's huge for a full size luxury car, but if that's not enough, there's the spacious Volvo V90 estate version of this design.
Don't expect Volvo to go threatening Audi, BMW and Mercedes sales volumes in the best full size luxury car segment overnight: it won't be imported in those kinds of numbers anyway. A more realistic objective though for this Volvo S90 will be to slot in behind Jaguar's XF as a 'best of the rest' contender in this segment. That's no bad place to be.
A growing number of thoughtful executives are looking for something more interesting as their next management level full size luxury car, and the Volvo S90 is well worth a test drive for those of that mindset. It certainly gives this Swedish brand a much stronger offering than it's ever had before in getting into the best full size luxury car league.Click here to find out more about our Volvo S90 range
Tesla Model X
Tesla says that their all-electric Model X is a full size luxury car that comes with almost none of the usual SUV compromises. Can we say that it's one of the best full size luxury car models on offer? It's an intriguing thought.
Tesla reckons that its all-electric Model X is the safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history. With all-wheel drive and battery options that can give you well over 300 miles of range, the Model X has ample seating for seven adults and all of their gear. And it can be almost ludicrously fast too. As one of the best full size luxury car versions, it's a pretty unique proposition.
Whatever Tesla Model X variant you choose, you'll get four-wheel drive, courtesy of a pair of electric motors, one powering the rear wheels and one for the front pair. In the 75D variant which offers a 259-mile driving range, this combination works with a 75kWh battery and generates 328bhp. In the 90D derivative, a 90kWh battery is used, there's a 303mile driving range and you get a combined output of 376bhp. Finally, in the top P100D flagship model, there's a 100kWh battery, a 336-mile driving range and a huge 691bhp output thanks to what Tesla calls a 'Ludicrous Speed Upgrade' that makes this variant capable of rest to 60mph in just 2.9s on the way to 155mph flat out.
On the move, you'll be impressed by the easy seamless way this Tesla Model X gains its speed, though the acceleration does tail off noticeably at higher speeds. The regenerative brakes take some getting used to: come off the throttle and it's as if you've pressed the brake. What this means is that most of the time, you won't need to use the brakes at all. 'Smart Air Suspension' is standard but many still seem to find the ride quality quite firm.
The Model X may not immediately strike you as a classically-styled full size luxury car but it's certainly obvious from the start that this is a much more practical proposition than Tesla's original offering, the Model S. The Model X's design party piece lies with the gull-wing 'Falcon Wing' rear doors that make entering the vehicle something of a theatrical event. Tesla says they can open in a confined space too, thanks to a double-hinged design (there's a hinge on the roof and another above the window line) that allows the doors to raise up with as little as 11 inches of clearance outwards. There are also ultrasonic sensors that lie beneath the bodywork so you can't open the door into an immovable object.
The front doors open conventionally but are electrically powered, with the driver's door opening automatically when you unlock the car with the key fob. Step inside and a press of the brake pedal will see the doors close behind you. With both doors open, there's brilliant access into and out of the car, so, for example, strapping a child seat into the rear is far easier than it would be in a conventional full size luxury car SUV. The Model X comes as standard with two rows of seats. If you specify the optional third seating row, the middle row seats move forward at the push of a button to aid access into the third row. Adults will fit into the very back but will probably need the middle row slid forward a bit if they're to travel in any real comfort.
Owning a Tesla Model X is of course very different from owning a conventionally powered full size luxury car. But, the Tesla Model X full size luxury car is a very desirable thing. It's also a very expensive thing. Still, if you were already going to spend upwards of £80,000 on a luxury SUV, it's certainly a more rational choice than something more conventional in the full size luxury car segment.
Caveats are few. Yes, battery charging does require a little more thought than just topping up a tank and if a car is shared between a married couple for instance, you'll both need to be on the ball with it. Other than that, there's very little not to like in this full size luxury car. The interior is adventurous, the packaging is efficient and if you're able to go for the 90D or P100D models, the acceleration is quite simply astonishing. Quite simply, the Tesla Model X sets a fresh standard for what cars in the best full size luxury car segment can do.Click here to find out more about our Tesla Model X range