MONTICELLO, NY – Packed with high-tech content, bulging with luxury touches – and a pretty good driver to boot, BMW’s sixth-generation 7-Series strikes a competitive blow at the top of the luxury-sedan segment.

The new model might not be a Rolls-Royce exactly, but it comes pretty close for much less. And when it comes to the user experience, the technology-laden ’16 7-Series offers a lot the BMW ultra-luxury sibling brand does not.

Let’s start with the less-than-stellars on this car, because there’s only really one, and it is subjective at that: exterior styling.

It’s not that the new 7-Series doesn’t have road presence; it does. The car’s aggressive, upsized new kidney grille (equipped with active shutters), combined with its adaptive LED headlamps, presents a strong face.

The sweeping hockey-stick-shaped slash along the side provides a sense of motion even when the car is standing still, and the stacked, fender-to-fender horizontal lines at the rear present the illusion of a wider stance, even though width is relatively unchanged from the outgoing model.

Overall it’s a clean-but-conservative update that probably will appeal to its customer base, but leaves the high-end luxury-sedan sector still running low on pizzazz.

Inside, however, the new 7-Series is all cutting-edge and high quality.

Here’s the short list of groundbreakers in the ’16 model: gesture controls to operate certain functions, the ability to autonomously steer away from a potential collision at speeds up to 130 mph (209 km/h), innovative interior lighting, the industry’s largest head-up display and, drumbeat here, it can park itself in the garage while the driver heads into the house (a Europe-only feature for now that awaits U.S. regulatory approval).

Test drives here at and around the private Monticello Motor Club prove that despite the emphasis on backseat amenities, the new 7-Series doesn’t forget the driver. In the U.S., only the long-wheelbase version of the car will be offered for ’16, measuring in at 206.6 ins. (5,248 mm) overall. Still, the sedan is anything but clumsy through the turns on the track or public roads.

Steering is precise and direct, acceleration responsive, the ride quiet and stopping power impressive, plus the car feels much smaller and lighter than it really is. Much of the credit for that goes to the new body-in-white, an amalgam of ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber that has helped cut overall weight 290 lbs. (132 kg), though BMW admits about 100 lbs. (45 kg) of that savings is put back into the car by way of additional content.

Driving Dynamics Control settings also have an impact on the sedan’s handling, and new for ’16 is an automatic setting that reads the road ahead and inputs from the driver to switch from comfort to sport settings as needed.

Four-wheel steering is available, even with the all-wheel-drive model, a first for ’16. It’s another factor in the car’s high-speed handling prowess, but also cuts nearly 3 ft. (0.9 m) off the sedan’s turning circle during low-speed maneuvers.