The last time I tested the BMW 7 series, taking an insanely large 745i for a 140 mph razz on a German autobahn in 2003, I was blown away. What, I thought, could possibly be more impressive than a car the size of a cattery that drives like a Porsche 911 and in which you can watch the Antiques Roadshow in France, while waiting to get into the Channel Tunnel?
But it was the first review I'd done. I was naive and didn't appreciate that German manufacturers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes find ways to improve their super saloons just as cereal manufacturers find ways to improve their recipes. And, sure enough, in the latest incarnation of the 7 Series, BMW has perfected perfection, coming up with a slew of features you never realised you needed.
There are infra-red cameras that give the driver the night vision of a barn owl. There are sensors that read road signs with more accuracy than a rally co-driver. The car has a bigger hard-drive data storage system than the computer I'm writing this on. It has more cameras providing more views around the car from more angles than the BBC offers in its F1 coverage. And, at 10.2 in, the satnav screen feels bigger than the windscreens of some cars I've driven, offering the kind of graphics that make your living room high-definition set seem fuzzy.
The truly impressive thing about the new 7 series, though, is that, where necessary, BMW has actually held back on the technology. So the iDrive system is now simpler, having been stripped of all its irritating submenus and incomprehensible functions. And BMW has tamed its mad obsession with putting ever bigger petrol-guzzling engines into the car, instead focusing on making the three-litre diesel engine as good as possible. And it is very, very good, providing enough power to enable you to throw this massive car around like a Golf GTI and yet keep emissions below 200 g/km and achieve 40.9 mpg on the combined cycle - making it cleaner than all the other non-hybrid cars in its sector.
Indeed, I'm tempted to say that the 7 Series is perfect, but realise there'll be another even better incarnation soon enough, no doubt featuring X-ray vision that lets you see through to the rib-cages of pedestrians a mile away; 'caraoke', an in-car sing-along entertainment system that projects pop lyrics onto the windscreen as the stereo plays the latest John Mayer album; and an actual cattery in the back.
I'LL TAKE ONE ...
Efficient - Drives and parks itself.
Nippy as a Golf GTI.
THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
No 'caraoke' yet.
BMW 730ld SE
Engine: 3-litre diesel
Combined power: 245 hp at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 540 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 40.9 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 180 g/km
0-62 mph: 7.3 secs
Top speed: 152 mph