BMW 7 Series vs Z4 : Track Test

By Dhruv Behl | on September 1, 2016

Photography: Kapil Vashist

Can a two-tonne luxury car actually outperform a two-seat sports car at a racetrack? “Nah,” you say. Well, you may be in for a surprise!

Now you may say that these two make strange bedfellows, but the new 7 Series is a flagship unlike any other. Not only does it allow you to luxuriate like never before, but it also enables you to keep up with a Z4 on a racetrack – or does it? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

You see, I first drove this car (the new 7 that is) at the Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York last year. Monticello is like any other private country club – except that this one has a 4.1-kilometre circuit ensconced within the finely manicured hedges that define its members-only perimeter. But what really surprised me at the time was the way in which the brand new 7 Series performed on a racetrack. I mean the old car was no slouch – it shrunk around you when you really got a move on and felt every bit the BMW, which is to say that it felt like a proper driver’s car. But it came with some compromises. Because of its performance-oriented nature, the ride could be jarring on anything other than smooth tarmac – which doesn’t bode well on our roads really. Plus, like any other large flagship luxury sedan, it also tended to feel big and heavy when really pushed – especially on the brakes, which is when a “big” and “heavy” car tends to reveal its girth.

BMW 7 Series vs Z4

Tissot T-Race

But this new one does none of that. On the road – even on broken tarmac – the ride is sublime. You feel as though the road surface consists of nothing but a baby’s bottom (which sounds a bit strange when you think about it, but you get the idea!). And when you really push this car on a racetrack it really does feel like a luxury car and sports car all rolled into one. It brakes and steers like a car that’s half its size – no, better, like a real sports car. And, so, to really test that theory we brought along just that – a real sports car, BMW’s very own Z4.

Now you may say that the Z4 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s still every bit a sports car. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine has won numerous accolades at the prestigious International Engine of the Year awards over the years. The car is proportioned like a proper roadster, with a long sexy bonnet that stretches out in front of you, while you sit quite far back in the car – what feels like literally on top of the rear wheels, which are, of course, the driven wheels in keeping with the spirit of this machine. And while it makes for a perfectly comfortable daily driver, albeit one with a very sharp and pointy nose, it’s equally comfortable at the Buddh International Circuit as well – as we found out in the past when we raced it against a couple of Ninjas (no, not the two-legged variety who are handy with nunchucks, but the two-wheeled ones that carry the name ‘Kawasaki’ on the sides of the tank).

BMW 7 Series vs Z4

But did we really believe that the new 7 could actually outpace the more lithe and athletic Z4 around the BIC – not for a minute. We did think it would come close though. And to give it the best odds, we chose the 750Li M Sport, which has a 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 that produces 450 horses and 650Nm of torque – all of which enables it to perform the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.7 seconds. The Z4, meanwhile, produces 306 horses and 400Nm, which powers it to 100 in 5.1 seconds – so it’s actually slower in a straight line than the 7 Series. Sure, both cars wear a blue and white propeller on the bonnet but there’s a lot of pride at stake and everything to play for. The first car out, then, was the Z4 – to throw down the gauntlet.

Two clean laps in the Z4, and the best time we could muster was a 2:31.99 – which is six tenths of a second faster than we went the last time we had the Z4 out on track. And that’s mainly because we had near perfect conditions for this test. It was overcast, the air was cool and the track was clean. The only thing you have to be a little wary of in the Z4 is being a little too aggressive on turn-in, because the Z4 enjoys entering a corner completely sideways. Show a little restraint at corner entry though, and you can get the tail rotated just enough for you enter the corner at the perfect angle – such that you clip the apex and power out with just a hint of opposite lock. Now, this is what sports cars are made for! The Z4’s dual-clutch transmission, which can be a little temperamental at slow speeds around town, comes into its own on the track, while the turbocharged motor surges towards the redline with such linearity and smoothness that I bet you won’t be able to tell that it’s turbocharged without first reading the spec sheet. No wonder this motor has won so much praise over the years.

bmw 7 series dashboard

Well, the benchmark was set. Now it was time for the ‘rather large’ challenger to take centre stage. As you step out of the tight cabin in the Z4 and into the lounge like interior of the 7 Series, the differences couldn’t be more stark. The leather, of course, is more supple and allows you to sink into the seat (not to mention the wonderfully fluffy headrests), but what really grabs your attention is the sheer vastness of the cabin in comparison. If this were real estate, it would be like comparing a studio apartment with an entire apartment block. Of course, as you set out in a big luxury barge like this one, you do have to perform a quick “Control, Alt, Delete” in your mind – especially when you’ve just stepped out a driver-focussed machine such as the Z4. As it turns out I didn’t quite reboot my brain as effectively as I needed to have done, and ran completely wide at the first corner on the first lap – this is a much heavier car after all! And so I went around once again, feeling for the levels of grip at each corner. The next time around I was a little more conservative, and the 7 turned into C1 like a car that was half its size. I’ve said this from the very first time I drove this car, and I still have no idea how the BMW engineers have been able to get this car to stop and dive into a corner quite like it does. Plus, it feels delicate while doing it. It’s uncanny really!

bmw z4 vs bmw 7 series track test

As we come up to the back straight, it’s clear that the 7 has the top-speed advantage – as it touches 222km/h down the back straight, as compared with 211km/h for the Z4. But, again, it’s solid on the brakes, feels adjustable during turn in, and powers out of the corner completely seamlessly – and very quickly indeed thanks to the masses of grunt generated by the petrol-powered V8. And there are two more surprises too – one is that it’s more than happy to hang its tail out at the exit of a corner, and the second is that there’s no drama or noise whatsoever. It just gets on with the job. You could have a captain of industry sitting in the back while you drive like a hooligan, and with the exception of a touch of nausea he wouldn’t feel a thing. And that’s the beauty of this machine. You can lounge in the back seat, give yourself a massage, and toy around with the Samsung tab that’s been given to you to play with the myriad of options available, and when the chauffeur has the day off you can jump into the drivers seat and realise that he’s had the best seat in the house all along.

bmw z4 vs bmw 7 series track test 2

That’s all very well however, but what of the lap time? Can this two-tonne behemoth actually unseat the two-seat sport car? In a word, yes! The 7 manages a 2:30.80 to the Z4’s 2:31.99 – that’s over 1.1 seconds faster around the 5.1 kilometres of the Buddh International Circuit. So there you have it folks, the sports car is no longer safe. It appears that you can get a back rub and pound around a racetrack at the same time.

But numbers aren’t everything. The Z4 is, of course, wildly more entertaining at the track – and so it still holds a very special place in our hearts. But, on paper, the 7 conquers all!

  • BMW Z4 sDrive35i
  • BMW 750Li

Engine: 2,979cc / In-Line 6-Cylinders / 24 Valves / Twin Turbocharged

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Automatic / Rear Wheel Drive

Power: 306bhp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 400Nm @ 1,300-5,000rpm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 5.1 seconds

Price: Rs.78.5 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: The Z4 may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s as entertaining as ever. And so it’ll always have a special place in our hearts…

Engine: 4,395cc / V8 / 32 Valves / TwinPower Turbocharged

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / Rear Wheel Drive

Power: 450bhp @ 5,500-6,000rpm

Torque: 650Nm @ 1,800-4,500rpm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 4.7 seconds

Price: Rs. 1.55 crores (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-FACTOR: The new 7 Series simply redefines what a luxury car should be capable of. Not only does it fit the bill in terms of prestige, comfort and tech, but it completely shifts the goal posts in terms of performance.

bmw z4 vs bmw 7 series lap times

CURRENT TESTS Lap Time Top Speed
BMW 750Li 2:30.8 222 (Km/H)
BMW Z4 sDrive35i 2:31.9 211 (Km/H)

* Slightly different circuit layout W = Wet,

Also read: 9 Modified Cars in India: Track Test

Tags: BMW Tissot Tissot T-Race

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