But until that point, the ACS7 hangs on like a much smaller car through the bends. That's mostly down to BMW's rear steering, new double wishbone suspension, active anti-roll bars, and multimode dampers, but the thicker boots, stronger springs and hours at the Nordschleife spent perfecting the setup haven't hurt either.

The new F01 7 Series is a welcome return to form as designer Karim Habib softened the looks of outgoing design chief Chris Bangle's most controversial creation, the E65. It might have been the best-selling 7 Series ever, but it certainly wasn't the prettiest, and while even this one is no match for the elegant earlier generations, it's much better. The awkward profile is now gone, replaced by a long, sleek weapon with a shark-like, powerful front end inspired by the CS Concept, low-slung roofline and squat rear. There's room for 17 sets of golf clubs in there, of course, but the new 7 Series had a real sporting purpose before Schnitzer got hold of it.

So they couldn't go too far, as chief designer Michele Viandante says: "The result must be a harmonious ensemble, and not a combination of trainers and tuxedo."

He pulled it off with considerable aplomb, lengthening the front end with a new splitter and dragging the car deeper to the deck with the side skirts that flip at the rear to add to the sense of forward motion. A fatter rear is achieved with a lip and roof spoiler as well as the de rigeur diffuser that is just subtle enough to avoid looking ridiculous on a car like this.

Then there are those trapezoidal exhausts, bigger versions of BMW's own angular efforts, that erupt with a gentle nudge of the starter button and send a burbling, menacing exhaust note into the outside world. You still can't hear it from the inside-that's not the 7 Series way-but they'll hear it as you fly past, that much is certain.

Interior touches are kept to a minimum, with aluminum pedals that look the part and a wheel-motif iDrive cover that really, really doesn't belong here. If it's a good seller then good luck to ACS, but it just looks wrong in the otherwise well-appointed 7 Series cabin.

In truth, they could have enriched iDrive by blanking it off altogether. The new version is much improved and heading toward intuitive, but BMW's system is still an Amstrad next to the iMac on offer at Mercedes.

But although the Seven comes packed with gadgets, including its own night vision system, this is not the battleground BMW has chosen. And it's ignored the obvious warzones of comfort and refinement, too. With the new 7 Series, Munich has created a luxury driver's car, the kind of limo that could get the chauffeur fired. It's a driver's car in the true BMW tradition, and all it took was a little help from AC Schnitzer to release the sports scar within. And as the 740i is this good, we can't wait for the big-power versions.

AC Schnitzer ACS7

Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

3.0-liter I6, dohc, 24-valve, turbocharged and intercooled. ACS sport exhaust, remapped ECU

Six-speed automatic

25mm lowering springs

Wheels and Tires
ACS Type VII, 9.5x22 (f), 10x22 (r)
Continental ContiSportContact 2 265/30 (f), 295/25 (r)

Peak Power: 360 hp @ 5400 rpm
Peak Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.2 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph
*ACS data

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