BMW has given the F01/F02 BMW 7-Series its mid-life facelift, which introduce updates to the luxo-barge both on the inside and outside – you’ve got new engines, a new gearbox, and some changes on the interior as well, including a new instrument panel and an upgraded iDrive system.

Look after the jump for the full story and a mega gallery of the updated car.

The front end has been updated with a new bumper design – a sportier design that’s split into 3 sections with the air intake area curving upwards towards the edges of the bumper. There’s also grey chrome bars on the left and right air intake sections, which brings the 7-Series closer to the look of the current 5-Series and 3-Series bumper design.

These left and right intakes are included as part of the “air curtain” technology, which lowers fuel consumption at higher speeds by forcing the air to flow more aerodynamically around the front wheels.

All in all, the front end changes make the 7-er look a little slimmer from the front.

There are new headlamps which are completely powered by LED technology, and feature some really relatively thick corona rings around the low and main beam LED light sources.

Even the foglamps are now powered by LED technology. And as introduced on the F30 3-er, the side mirrors now have turn signal indicators in them.

The facelifted 7-er gets a new kidney grille design that’s standardised at 9 vertical slats, as opposed to the pre-facelift which had 12. The car has also been lowered by an average of 8mm in terms of ride height, which increase the sportiness of the car’s stance.

The horizontal lines of the car’s rear end design and subdivision of the rear into several perceived levels visually lowers the height of the car. The two L-shaped tail lamps are linked by a chrome strip, and while the tail lamps look unchanged, they have different shades of red to give better contrast.

There’s a second chrome strips between the two slim rear reflectors (this one’s new on the facelift’s rear end), and on the V12 model there’s a third slim chrome bar between the tail pipes.

On the interior, BMW has reduced the noise levels for a more serene cabin. There are newly redesigned more slender front leather seats that are supposed to offer better support. Buyers also get two new interior colour scheme to pick from called Ivory White/Black and Veneto Beige/Veneto Beige.

The iDrive screens have been redesigned – the 9.2 inch iDrive displays for the rear seats in the Rear Seat Entertainment package no longer appear integrated into the front seats – they’re now designed to be “floating” on the seat back, which appear more modern and more in style of the sleek TV screens that we’re used to seeing in our living rooms.

The main 10.25 inch iDrive screen has been updated as well – it now has a black surround which lends the screen some additional visual depth, which help it look larger. Vertical electroplated bars border the screen to the sides. The colour scheme also looks different from what’s on the current iDrive menus.

But the biggest change to iDrive is the hardware that it runs on – there’s now a quick 1.3GHz processor and a dedicated 3D graphics card powering the system, and as a result iDrive is supposed to operate a lot faster with extra fancy 3D visual animations and effects now.

Check out the video above to watch the new iDrive in action

As far as features go – we’ll have to play with the new iDrive system in person to get the full picture, but from what we can gather from the 7-er LCI press kit, there’s a new PIE menu for better interactivity with the navigation maps, speech to text recognition for voice memo, SMS message and email composition (yes – the car can convert your voice to text), the ability to email your recorded audio memos to email addresses of your choice or save them onto a USB drive, and simultaneous pairing of 2 active mobile phones (previously 1 active and 1 standby). I know I’d appreciate the voice memo feature – I get alot of crazy ideas while driving alone in the car that I usually forget when I get home.

Driver assist systems are lumped under the BMW ConnectedDrive badge now – BMW Night Vision now has Dynamic Light Spot, which we actually previewed last year – read our story and watch a demo video of Dynamic Light Spot in action as well.

Other driver assist systems include a Anti-dazzle LED High-Beam Assistant that works to detect objects up to 1,000 metres forward of the car. There’s also a Driving Assistant Plus which allows the driver to let the car’s radar and video systems control the vehicle’s progress in stop and go traffic – as a result – Active Cruise Control with automatic distance control has now been increased by 30 km/h, meaning it is available at speeds between 30 km/h and 210 km/h.

Attentiveness Assistant analyses driving behaviour on the basis of various signals such as steering angle, road speed and other engine parameters. If the system increasingly detects telltale signs of fatigue starting to build up, the central Control Display encourages the driver to take a break by displaying a coffee cup symbol.

At the start of every journey when the driver and front passenger fasten their seat belts, the Active Protection motorised belt retractors reduce any belt slack. If the car enters a critical pre-crash scenario, the driver and front passenger belts are pulled tight, and the side windows and sunroof are closed. Active Protection deduces that a collision is likely based on data from the front-mounted camera or radar, an emergency braking manoeuvre initiated by the driver, or the onset of heavy understeer or oversteer.

If a crash is unavoidable, the system will automatically brake the car afterwards without any intervention required from the driver. Following the initial impact, the car is slowed to a standstill with a maximum deceleration rate of 5 m/s2 and its brakes then locked for a further 1.5 seconds. This reduces the likelihood of – or even prevents – a secondary collision.

BMW Parking Assistant uses ultrasonic sensors integrated into the sides of the vehicle to help search for suitable parking spots. The system then helps the driver to manoeuvre safely and comfortably into parking spaces positioned parallel to the direction of travel. With the Parking Assistant activated and the car travelling at a slow speed of no more than 35 km/h (22 mph), a notification appears in the Control Display to alert the driver to suitable spaces that are at least 1.20 metres (around 4 ft.) longer than the BMW 7 Series as he passes them.

During the parking process, all the driver has to do is change gear, operate the accelerator and brake pedal, and keep an eye on the area around the car. The Parking Assistant then proceeds to take care of all the steering movements required to execute a precise reverse parking manoeuvre. A new bird’s-eye view of the vehicle in the Control Display works in unison with the Park Distance Control to clearly visualise the distance to other objects and make it easier for the driver to monitor the parking process.

The new Enhanced Black Panel system which was first announced as an option for the F10 5-Series from 07/12 model production onwards is also available on the 7-Series, and like on the 5-er it’s an optional item. You can watch the video above as BMW takes you through the different screens on the 10.25 inch near-seamless screen that’s in place of where you would expect analog instrument gauges to be.

While COMFORT mode brings a classic layout with four solid circular instruments, in ECO PRO and SPORT modes the rings open to offer additional space for extra information between the two instruments. In ECO PRO mode the display turns blue in colour and the rev counter morphs into an Efficient Dynamics display to show how efficiently the car is being driven.

Here drivers can monitor how hard they have their foot on the accelerator, how much fuel the car is currently using and whether any energy is being recovered through recuperation. If they are pressing too forcefully on the accelerator, the full display turns grey and alerts them to the amount of fuel they are burning unnecessarily.

A speedometer zoom function can also be activated in ECO PRO and COMFORT modes. This enlarges the position of the speedo needle as if a magnifying glass were being passed over it, making it even easier to see.

In SPORT mode the display takes on a signature BMW orange hue. This display mode purposefully retains a very puristic look and only shows the driver the most essential information, so that he can maintain maximum concentration on the road ahead. The speedometer shows the car’s speed in digital form only with a large, centrally positioned figure, while the gear currently engaged is boldly displayed in the middle of the rev counter if the driver is shifting manually using the steering wheel paddles.

As well as the changes in colour, the displays in the instrument cluster also deliver additional information tailored to the situation at hand – such as status and function updates, Check/Control messages and navigation instructions – which drivers can call up as and when they wish.

Under the skin where all the hardware is at – the biggest change would be the update to BMW’s 8 speed automatic transmission at long last – the 7-Series has been stuck with the 6-speed auto for quite some time now while the rest of the BMW line-up including the 1-Series has moved on to 8 cogs.

Another hardware change is the switch to an Electric Power Steering system for the rear wheel drive models – the xDrive models continue with the hydraulic system, just like in the F10 5-er. Rear self leveling air suspension is also now standard on all models, an upgrade from the pre-facelift car which only gave you rear air suspension on the long wheelbase models, not that it matters in Malaysia anyway since we’re only offered the long wheelbase.

Above: The new 7-Series with the optional M Sport kit

There are a few engine options available with the new 7-Series – the car can be had as a 760i, a 750i, a 740i, a 730i, a 740d, a 730d, an ActiveHybrid 7, and a new engine option – the 750d.

No major changes for the 760i, 740i, and 730i, although fuel efficiency and drive feel should be improved over the entire range due to the update to the 8-speed as well as minor tweaks here and there. xDrive is optional on the the 750i, 740d and the 730d.

For the 750i, power has been increased by 10% to 450 horsepower, and torque is up by 8.5% to 650Nm between 2,000rpm to 4,500rpm. According to BMW, this is due to optimised high-pressure direct injection and reduced charge cycle losses – thanks in the main to the seamlessly variable control of intake valve lift.

For the 740d, peak power has been upped to 313 horsepower, and peak torque now stands at 630Nm, up by 30Nm over the pre-facelift car. In addition, BMW says thermodynamic optimisations have sharpen the diesel model’s responses. The 730d also gets power hikes – maximum horsepower is now 258 horsepower and peak torque is up by 20Nm resulting in 560Nm.

The new 750d engine option comes only with xDrive and uses the new tri-turbo engine from the M550xd, producing a peak horsepower of 381hp and a jaw-dropping peak torque of 740Nm from as low as 2,000rpm. 0 to 100km/h takes just 4.9 seconds, which is just 0.1 seconds slower than the 750i. The first of the three turbocharger starts work at just over idle so the combustion chambers can be supplied at an early stage.

At 1,500 rpm a larger high-pressure turbo kicks in to help the engine reach its maximum torque. Finally, the third turbocharger joins the fray at 2,700 rpm and ensures particularly impressive power delivery until maximum revs are reached. Piezo injectors spray the fuel into the combustion chambers at up to 2,200 bar, with three pre-injections, one main injection and four post-injections of fuel during each power stroke ensuring efficient and clean combustion.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 has received a total revamp in the engine bay – the 750i-based 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8 (we have test driven the V8-powered version) has been dumped for a smaller and more efficient 3.0 litre twin-turbo 6-cylinder derived from the 740i. The 320hp six cylinder turbo is coupled with a 55 horsepower synchronous electric motor, a hybrid-spec eight-speed automatic transmission, and a lithium-ion high-performance battery.

This results in a total system output of 354 hp and peak torque of 500 Newton metres, which allow it to accelerate to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds while posting an average fuel economy of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions of 158 g/km, which is about 14 per cent less fuel than a BMW 740i with a conventional drive system.

A smaller engine for the ActiveHybrid 7 like a six cylinder instead of a majestic V8 is a good move, and this might also mean if right hand drive models are made, BMW Malaysia could eventually introduce it in Malaysia at a price premium over the 740i. This would follow the footsteps of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, which will be launched soon at a price point above the 535i.

But it’s still no Audi A8 Hybrid, which makes do with just a 2.0 litre TFSI engine. Looking at this change, I wonder if the other V8-powered ActiveHybrid cars like the X6 ActiveHybrid will be revised to reduce their cylinder and displacement count as well.

Given the fact that the range of 7-Series long wheelbase is sold as CBU units in Malaysia, I don’t think it will be long before BMW Malaysia launches the updated cars in Malaysia. I hope the 730d continues to be offered, and let’s hope the new Enhanced Black Panel display becomes standard spec from the 740i onwards!