August means a big event on the calendar and that is, Car of the Year 23. Organised by Professional Driver Magazine, it represents an opportunity to test-drive multiple new cars back-to-back. It is the only place you can make a direct comparison between vehicle manufacturers. It also creates an opportunity to meet people in the chauffeur industry. Located at Epsom Racecourse, the venue is perfect for this event and if you read my chauffeur blog, you will know I attended Car of the Year 22 as well.
The star of the show for last year (2022) was the Mercedes S Class. As a new release, it showcased the very best of Mercedes. There was one personal observation, however. The evolution over the previous generation seemed a small step. From the outside, it looks similar to the old model: On the inside, the updates are more significant but, for me, they lack exclusivity. The augmented reality in the heads-up display is impressive and the voice control from each seat is nice but, it lacks the wow factor of previous S Class updates. The ‘S’ used to be where the latest technology was introduced in a passenger car.
The BMW 7 Series
Car of the Year 23 revealed a new S Class contender. Admittedly, it was present at Car of the Year 22 but, it wasn’t something you could drive at the time – it was just a demo. This year however, you could take it on the road, and I was lucky to be one of the first people to do so. The car is the new BMW 7 Series and the model I had the pleasure of driving is the M760e hybrid. BMW staff helped with questions and they were happy to go over the vast array of features on offer. This was a bonus as I spent 45 minutes in and around the car separate to the driving experience.
As well as the expected soft-close doors, electric sun shields, heated/vented seats and massage facilities, the car has an impressive sound system and high level of personalization. Before reaching the car, you discover a key fob button which electrically opens the rear passenger door. There are other nice touches too like ambient lighting in the glass sunroof, a 32-inch TV (which is touchscreen), rear-wheel steering and the option to open any door electronically. The voice assistant is responsive and can be customised. For example, you could say ‘Hey Barry, turn up the heating’ or ‘Hey Prunella, give me a massage’.
The car may take weeks (if not months) to personalize completely but, it would be exactly as you like it. I am sure passengers will be in awe at how impressive it is. The whole experience is next level in VIP travel. In a way, it simply leaves the S Class looking like the secondary choice rather than the primary. Having said this, I do wonder how the BMW will age when compared to the S Class. The looks are a brave decision but there again, the BMW 5 Series revolutionised the executive sector a few years back and it still looks relatively fresh today.
Five Times the Car
As well as the BMW and Mercedes, I drove a few other vehicles. These included a Toyota Corolla (estate), Genesis GV70, Audi A8L, Kia Ioniq6, Vauxhall Vivaro and a VW ID5. In retrospect, we should have left the BMW until last because, nothing else compared. In retrospect, the BMW cost five times as much as some other vehicles. You must stop and think about this and ask the question, is it really five times the car? Well, personally, yes. I think it is – and more! This new model really is superb and just maybe, it will take the crown from Mercedes as the best luxury car in the world.