Engine: 4.8-litre petrol
Performance: 0-62 mph in 5.9 seconds, 24.8 mpg
Worth considering: Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes S-class
Those whose mother tongue is English will sometimes say that a person who is very happy is on cloud nine. The German language has a similar expression, with the difference that somebody in a similar state of bliss is said to be "auf Wolke sieben" - on cloud seven.
I don't know why the very happiest speakers of English and German inhabit separate clouds but this arrangement must have its advantages. Presumably, at the very least it does away with all that unpleasantness involving beach towels and sun loungers.
Maybe Germans associate a state of rapture with the number seven because of successive generations of the car our readers sample this week, BMW's top of the range luxury 7 series. Since the first Seven was introduced - back in '77, appropriately enough - BMW's big saloon has won a lot of satisfied owners and this version, introduced recently as a mid-life update for the current model, which dates back to 2001, should continue the trend.
One purpose of the revamp was to smooth out the rather awkward boot-line. In this, BMW has partly succeeded - while the 750i also gets the same 4.8-litre V8 engine fitted to the 650i convertible we tested a few weeks ago. In this closed car it feels even smoother and quieter - which really is saying something.
I had hoped to give the 750i its head on the long journey down to Cornwall to meet our reader-testers, but instead of doing this I spent hours in traffic jams. That gave me ample time to survey the Seven's sumptuously trimmed interior and explore every button on the dash. In almost any other car I would have run out of toys to play with during these delays - but not in the Seven.
Once I was able to find some open country in which to put the 750i through its paces, it didn't disappoint. Considering its width and bulk, it is actually rather nimble, so its flanks didn't pick up any scratches on a day's testing on narrow roads lined with so-called Cornish hedges. As our readers explained to me, these may be Cornish but, being solid, unyielding structures, they certainly aren't hedges as the rest of us understand them.
There's just one cloud casting a shadow over this sunny picture and it's not just some small inconsequential wisp of cirrus, either. Rather it's a dark, thunderous affair of Wagnerian proportions in the form of the imperious new S-Class which we tested recently. That has a rather oddly shaped boot section too, but does quite a lot of stuff just that tiny little bit better than the lovely Seven.
Trust Mercedes to rain on BMW's parade.
Andrew Chantrill, 51, and Jane Burgess, 38, Sales consultant and software manager from St Mawes, Cornwall, and Bath
USUAL CARS: BMW 530dSE, BMW 320ci AND SEAT AROSA
We took this car on a mixed route of dual carriageway, B-roads, small lanes, and town driving. On dual carriageways, this car is in its element. It is a fabulously relaxed cruiser with no change in sensation between 60mph and, well, rather more. This is undeniably a large car, but down Cornwall's lanes, it was easy to gauge the width; park distance sensors take care of the length. Around town it was easy to drive, and it rode over speed-calming cushions so smoothly that a passenger with their eyes shut wouldn't know they were there.
Ian Hobbs, 39, Housing officer from Liskeard
USUAL CAR: ROVER 800 VITESSE
A well-built, well-designed car, laden with gizmology, from a keyless ignition to an electronic handbrake. This hugely powerful car launched on to the highway with little effort and seemed to drive itself. However, in Cornwall the traffic travels at the speed of the slowest tractor or caravan, depending on the season, and the power and technology doesn't shorten the journey. Piloting this rather wide car down Cornwall's narrow lanes was an interesting experience, and confirmed my suspicions that it is best suited to wide open plains and big roads. It's a big person's car. It's also very expensive. How many very nice bicycles would £68,000 buy?
Matt Sutherland, 31, Sales manager from Malpas, Truro
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL ASTRA DESIGN ESTATE 1.9CDTI 150PS
Not being the biggest fan of luxobarges, I approached this BMW with limited expectations. The rear-end restyling has worked very well, making the car look more compact, and the interior looks stunning. Rear space is slightly limited for those who get driven, and there's the usual techno overload - I didn't even attempt the iDrive. The handling was very good - this car can confidently be chucked about and the engine is a free-revving gem backed by powerful brakes. If I was in the market for such a car, I would give it serious consideration. It looks good, and blends comfort and performance just about perfectly.Reuse content