Many complaints have been made over the last half dozen or so years about the lack of user friendly technology in BMWs. Many auto critics and would be purchasers have shouted that the cars are too complex and require a lot to learn how to use them. With the new 7 series, specifically the US market ‘s 750i and 750Li that is about to change. After having the opportunity to have a guided tour while spending some time in the car, the layout and user friendliness is quite apparent.
There are many choices of technology available on the soon to market 7 series. The variety of technology encompasses a great many areas including: entertainment, comfort, safety, and performance. The sky is the limit with technologically advanced options, as long as your wallet can handle it.
The car I was able to spend some time with for this technology post was a 750Li nearly stuffed to the gills with options. The one package that was notably missing was the sports package. On a the new 7 that is not such a big deal considering the wheels can be had as an option and the new Driving Dynamics Control will allow you to adjust the car based on your mood (more on that later).
The new long wheel base (Li) version is not like the previous generation in being just a stretched short wheelbase car, it was engineered as a separate model and carries its own roof line which is nicely accented by the aluminum/chrome trim.
Most reviews you will or have read will initially focus on the new iDrive and how much better it is than the outgoing generation; while I agree it is a huge leap forward, it deserves an entire review in and of itself.This story will more so focus on the 7 series specifics this go around, including some of the 7 Series exclusive iDrive features.
Seating, Interior Fit and Finish
The first thing you first notice upon entry to the car is the solid feel of the door, and in closing it there is no thud most are accustomed to. That is due to this car being equipped with the optional soft-close (part of the Convenience Package) doors. Soft-close engages small motors that pull the doors to their closed positions.
The 20 way seats, covered in Nappa leather, feature controls (back) on the side of the seat where they belong. Memoryfunctions are located on the door. That is where one of many surprises is found; a button with a seat and the number 2 on it.Once pressed it allows the driver to operate the passengers seat controls. This is a nice little feature to have when you carry a variety of passengers and would like them to enter in comfort. Heating and ventilation round out your option choices in these first class seats which offer both comfort and support.
While not directly related to technology it is worth noting that the build quality and opulence of this interior is by far the best BMW has ever offered. From the wood trim hiding the door handles to the stitching on the leather arm rest, it is all part of the greater package taken from the pages of a Rolls Royce catalog. It presents luxury in terms of refinement accenting todays technologies.
The optional Ceramic Package adds a dark gleaming scratch resistant material to the iDrive knob and other interior knobs. It is much like materials used in high-end Swiss watches and adds an added level of style and function to the already posh interior.
Gauges and Controls, Everything Placed with a Purpose
Once seated and glancing at the gauge cluster you begin to wonder why the bottom portion of the circle guages are not adorned with a metallic finish. This is your first look at one of the several new Black Panel LCD screens. Upon turning the car on the screen comes to life, completing the gauges and offering up a variety of entertainment options such as radio presets. The high resolution screen is easy on the eyes and automatically changes from day to night mode based on the available light in the cabin, white for day and BMW amber for night. This screen allows you to make selections for common entertainment (and more) without glancing at the larger iDrive screen.
Looking down at the wheel there is something immediately different; all the knobs and buttons have been moved to new locations. Great, something else to learn; just what people want. There is a simple reason for all this, I was explained. BMW designers have come up with a new concept for locating the controls. All controls that are driver oriented (cruise control, night vision, lane departure warning, etc.) are on the left side of the wheel on the dash, the right is dedicated for passenger oriented (radio volume, creature comforts) functions. Once the method to this madness is understood things are easily located and learned.
The controls for the cruise (or active cruise) now have a home on the left side of the steering wheel, easily operated through a series of buttons and a toggle wheel. To some this placement will be a welcomed sight, though the separate stalk controls offered in the past and on many current models are in my opinion very intuitive.
Keyless go allows the dash to have no key hole, just the start/stop button. With the 7 the lack of a slot is standard and requires no optional Comfort Access, so unlike all current BMW models there is no pointless slot even if you did check the option box for Comfort Access. CA is available and allows for keyless opening for all four doors and the trunk. The key never needs to leave your pocket or purse, essentially ever.
Another nice option is the automatic trunk opening and closing , which allows you to open/close the trunk with a simple touch of a button.
Technology for Driving
Driving Dynamics Control which is located on the right of the driver seems to violate the rule that everything for driving is on the left. One could argue that it not only concerns the driver as passengers are also subject to the ride characteristics of the selected mode and that is why it is on the right; all I know it isin the middle console next to the e-Shifter and it felt right. By pressing the arrows fore or aft the driver can choose between four settings: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. These are presets for shock-absorber firmness, transmission shift characteristics, engine-throttle response, and power-steering boost. The Sport mode can be fully cusomized by the driver for suspension, throttle and shift characteristics. When Sport Plus is activated the Dynamic Stability Control automatically switches toDynamic Traction Control, which allows for a more spirited experience by permitting wheel spin.
The new 7 Series also debuts a new to BMW Active Steering system. The optional system not only varies steering geometry for the front wheels but also has the ability to turn the rear wheels. This allows for greater maneuverability in parking as well as better performance on the twisties we all love.
The Active Cruise Control system utilizes a radar mounted in the front bumper to maintain a safe (driver selected) distance from the car in front. The system also now has a stop and go feature than can apply braking force to stop the car completely, this is nice when in a slow traffic situation. Active Cruise is one of those options that you either love or hate. Personally it makes me feel more like a passenger than a driver and while it makes perfect sense to me, I just can ‘t seem to trust it.
Active Blind Spot Detection, another option, does just what its name says: detects vehicles in your blind spots. Using radar in the rear of the car it monitors cars passing on either side and alerts the driver by lighting up a signal in the mirror. If you do not see the symbol or choose to make the turn (with signal activated) the system will flash a light in the mirror and vibrate the steering wheel to help prevent a collision.
The optional Heads Up Display can display driver selected information in an image that appears to be floating above the hood of the car. From speed, navigation, active cruise and towarnings they are all easily in view and right where they should be; in your line of sight.
As with all BMW models, the 7 is equipped with Dynamic Stability Control to keep you safe and under control.
Features Using the iDrive screen
With this car being so large in size there are a few tasks that are a bit more difficult to do than in a smaller car; parking being the main one. BMW has offered some technology options to aid in such situations. In the Camera Package there is the traditional rear view camera. This camera works in conjunction with the Park Distance Control to help the driver choose trajectory angles. In this package the are two additional cameras, one located in each of the front wheel arches. These cameras provide side views to aid the driver in exiting a parking space flanked by two large SUVs or a parking structure with limited visibility. All of these images are presented within the iDrivehigh resolution monitor.
The monitoris also utilized for the optional Night Vision. The BMW system features an infrared camera located in the front kidney grill. This system detects changes in ambient temperature and can help the driver see up to almost 1000 feet ahead, while also providing a warning signal of a pedestrian or biker at at distance of 300 feet but only if it will cross the cars path of travel. The system has a wider angle and range than the even the Xenon high beams the car is equipped with (24 degrees). Adverse weather such as snow, rain or ice can impact the system but there is an additional high pressure washer jet to keep the grill mounted lens clean. A great feature to have if you are prone to deer attacks. The grill on cars with the night vision system have been modified to provide extra support and to make sure the camera does not shake at high speeds; BMW made sure they addressed every possible variable when they designed the system- performance was paramount.
One of the features exclusive to the 7 in the iDrive is the owner ‘s manual.I remember way back in the early Spring of ’08 when I first heard this news, I thought it was going to be one of the biggest break throughs in user friendliness. The manual in each car is specific to each car based on the vehicle identification number. What this means is only the options you have are covered. It also allows you to search within the manual and everything is clearly there. Another benefit is that it frees up some room in the glove box!
Everyone that is a passenger in the new 7 will not only ride in style and comfort but have a wealth of technology at their finger tips. In a car of this size, climate control is of utmost importance; front and rear passengers can of course adjust to their own liking. The rear seats in the Li include a massage feature for all of those long trips and rough days at the office, just press a button and programmed massage will ease your pain. The optional rear comfort seats also allow each to adjust each seat to personal preferences and provides heating and ventilation.
The rear entertainment system in the US does not include an additional iDrive controller or large 10+ inch screens like the European model. In place of these are two 8.8 ” high resolution seat back monitors controlled by a wireless remote that is stored in the center rear armrest. There are a variety of inputs which will allow you to connect many different sources if the onboard DVD player and Multimedia Server (part of the new iDrive 80 GB hard disk) do not meet your needs.
More Options for Entertainment
From Premium Sound which includes audiophile grade speakers, to HD Radio, Sirius satellite radio, a Multimedia (USB/Ipod) Adapter, and a Smart Phone Adapter BMW has essentially provided owners with any entertainment source imaginable. The options you choose will make the car even more entertaining for passengers, let alone yourself.
If you have read this far you are probably thinking: Wow, this car has a lot of optional technology “stuff “. It really does. The new iDrive which I did not go into here (it would have been an even longer read!) makes things easy for the most part.
There are more buttons and dials in the new 7 than there were in the past but there are not too many and they are placed in a manner that makes them easy to reach and easy to remember. For the amount of “stuff ” that is in this car it is amazing how much of it requires just a simple ON/OFF push of a button, minimal configuring and everything is fairly self explanatory. There are a lot of little features that are nice in this car, that most will not fully appreciate until experiencing or discovering. That is why (even though the car is simple) it still pays to at least glance through the manual!
Sometime in the future I hope to expand upon the new iDrive system and experience the driving characteristics of this great car as I hear it drives even better than it looks!
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