There has been a change of heart in Bavaria. After decades of keeping its 7-series full-size sedan far away from the M division (except for mostly visual M Sport packages), BMW finally has affixed an M badge to its largest sedan. Several M badges, actually—we counted 12 but may have missed a few.
Even festooned with badges, the M760i is not a full M creation along the lines of the M3 or the M5. Instead, it slots into the same M-adjacent lineup (BMW calls it M Performance) populated by the M240i, the X4 M40i, and the M550i. Even so, it sits atop the 7-series price ladder and is powered by a V-12. But this is a significant departure from the previous V-12–powered 760i, a stretched, hedonistic sedan with little interest in sporting delights.
Perhaps BMW was starting to feel threatened by longtime tuner Alpina. The tuning outfit’s latest take on the 7-series, the B7, is a beast of a sedan with a twin-turbo V-8 making an even 600 horsepower. As such, BMW’s decision to tune the M760i’s twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V-12 to exactly 601 horsepower seems a transparent strategy to keep the factory offering atop the pecking order. We’re not complaining, though—not when this glorious 12-cylinder serves up just about the smoothest 590 lb-ft of torque imaginable at a deliciously low 1550 rpm (that’s 1450 rpm sooner than the Alpina’s 590 lb-ft come on board).
The added mass of four more cylinders and additional luxury equipment also hampered the big BMW’s handling performance compared with the Alpina. Still, its 0.94-g orbit around the skidpad can be considered a veritable middle finger to physics. Both were tested with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, but the Alpina, with slightly wider tires versus the M760i’s rubber, pulled an even more absurd 0.97 g. Massive brakes bring both sedans to a halt from 70 mph in a short 151 feet, with no hint of fade.
Switching into Sport mode wakes up the throttle response and the transmission; suddenly, the V-12 feels eager to rev to its 7000-rpm redline. The suspension also tightens up and does an effective job of masking the M760i’s prodigious weight, with body roll becoming nearly nonexistent. Although the steering can be overly heavy in this mode and remains devoid of feel, the car handles deftly, and one can get into a rhythm through corners.
As with Mercedes-AMG’s V-12–powered 65 models, the case for the 12-cylinder engine is more about exclusivity than about outright performance. Accordingly, the M760i xDrive’s base price of $156,495 (which includes a $1700 gas-guzzler tax) sits at the apex of the lineup. Not only is it nearly $17,000 more expensive than the Alpina B7, it’s the most expensive BMW available in the United States, topping even the i8 hybrid sports car.
Yet, even at $179,595 as tested, this 7-series almost looks like a bargain next to its closest competitor, the Mercedes-AMG S65, which carries a base price of nearly $230,000. Of course, a higher entry fee might actually be a selling point in these upper echelons. An M760i might be just the machine if you simply must show your neighbor’s Alpina B7 who’s boss. To maintain the order of things as BMW sees it, all you’ll have to do is avoid any stoplight drag races.