BMW started from a clean slate when it undertook the redesign of the 7 series for the 2009 model year. With that said, the engineers and designers have created a vastly superior product this go around. Gone is the controversial styling, the overwhelming electronics and the handling which made many reviewers praise the Audi A8. We have reviewed the 750i here at BimmerFile as well as explaining some of the new technology earlier in the year but have not covered the Night Vision, Sports Package and Active Cruise Control as we will now do.
Reportedly, BMW had spent more time testing this vehicle to be sure there were no electrical gremlins or any other issues than they ever had before and it definitely shows. Internally known as F02, the long wheel base 750Li makes a statement wherever it goes and our experience with this version of the 7 was exceptionally positive though we did find a few little things to quibble about and affectionately call it the “land yacht”. (If you think about it that is exactly what it is, a posh mode of transport that can carve well if chosen to!)
The base MSRP of the 750Li is $85,025, our as tested price of $110,995 included a good deal of safety, luxury and performance extras. We will delve into many of those add-ons and the car in general but the Sports Package and Night Vision system really stand out in the land of executive sedans.
It may seem a bit of a stretch to evaluate an executive sedan subjectively in terms of performance, but this is a BMW and it is meant to be driven like one. As enthusiasts we feel every vehicle that wears the Roundel should have something other brands can’t match and that is the sense of the road and overall sporting intentions, the 7 is no different.
Like the X6 released nearly a year before, the 7 Series in “50” guise is powered by a smooth 400 hp, 450 ft/lb twin turbo 4.4l V8 mated to a 6 speed shiftable automatic transmission (The soon to launch 760Li V12 will have an 8 speed). What makes the motor different when compared to basically everything else under the sun is that BMW has used reverse flow plumbing- meaning that the exhaust exits on top of the cylinder heads and the intake enters from below. Reversing the locations of the intake and exhaust plumbing has allowed the engineers to make the engine more compact and allow the placement of the two turbos within the “V”. This also increases throttle response and makes lag basically non-existent.
There is one huge caveat to this German engineered machine: Dynamic Driving Control. This standard feature allows the driver to select a driving style by a rocker switch located on the center console beside the shifter. There are four settings, ranging from Comfort to Sport +. Each choice has its own pre-programmed settings for the chassis, shift points, stability control, steering assist and throttle response. Sport allows some driver selected input as to what areas to adjust. The use and execution of this system essentially creates multiple vehicles all within one; going from Comfort to Sport + takes you from a smooth highway cruising machine to a corner carving sedan all at the press of a simple button.
With such a large sedan you would not expect it to accelerate overly well or even be that engaging to drive, surprisingly it is. The acceleration as you roll your right foot into the pedal is not neck snapping, it is more of a controlled whoosh of power. It quickly and gently brings you up to your desired speed when the car is drive in its “Normal” setting. There is a bit more circumstance when driven in either of the “Sport” settings but nothing that will cause your passengers to spill their mocha-lattes. Braking is superb as well and seems to stop much like a run-of-the mill 3 Series, no fade and no praying that it will stop.
We admit that when BMW announced that this car was going to be offered with four-wheel steering (Integral Active Steering) as part of the $4900 Sports Package we were huge skeptics. We argued then that it would add more weight and complexity to an already heavy and complex car. After spending a good amount of seat time in a car with and a car without the ZSP, there is no question that it makes such an improvement on so many levels that it is an option that no one should even debate- it is a must have.
In previous BMW models, Active Steering only varied the ratio for the front wheels; with the new 7 the rear wheels can be turned three degrees via an electronic servo motor. The rear wheels are turned opposite the front wheels at low speeds and in the same direction at highway speeds. The additional turning wheels allow the 7er to turn in a smaller radius and improves highway stability when changing lanes. This system virtually shrinks the 7, making the car feel more like a 5 Series than a long wheelbase 7. This was very evident on the twisty roads in the mountains of Vermont and parking along the quaint village streets. The transition between the direction of the rear wheels is seamless and the car remains predictable. You will initially not think you are going to make some sharp turns because in your mind the car is too long but like magic it does, this takes some getting used to. Like other BMW models the Sports Package comes with a sportier steering wheel, larger wheels, shadow line trim and a few other cosmetic upgrades, all well worth the price of admission.
Interior and Luxury
Upon opening the doors via the keyless Comfort Access system you are welcomed to the cabin by illuminated doorsills and a new generation of ambient lighting providing a warm orange glow. Gently close the door and the soft-close system sucks it in the remainder of way (Convenience Package $1700).
The seats are plush to say the least, they provide excellent support and are highly adjustable. Our test car was equipped with the luxury seating package, which includes ventilated (cooled) and an active massaging driver’s seat ($2500 with rear shades, heated seats, etc.). The Nappa leather is supple and smooth to the touch, some of the highest quality available in a mass produced vehicle. Adding the same leather to the dash ($1200) is an optional extra that brings the level of luxury up a notch as does the Ceramic Controls option ($650). Editor- This is the only variation currently for the new iDrive controller. It adds a darker scratch resistant ceramic to the center control and stack knobs and I love it.
The use of high quality wood, metals and leather surfacing makes it instantly observable that the 7 Series is the epitome of German luxury with an exceptional build quality. Black panel LCDs are placed throughout the cabin and once brought to life emit information that is clear and pleasing to the eyes.
The 750Li comes standard with the latest and greatest edition of BMW’s iDrive system (We have covered this extensively). This system is intuitive and powerful, being so complete that it even offers a searchable car specific owners manual.
The optional camera package provides both front side view cameras and a rear parking camera, for $750 it is a deal considering the cost of bumper repairs!
A feature specifically designed for the lazy amongst us and known as High Beam Assist, part of the Driver Assistance Package ($1350), is something that works so well you’ll miss it in every other car you drive. It senses when to turn the high beams on/off and takes one less thing off your plate when driving at night helping you focus on the road just a bit more. This feature is rumored to trickle down to the other models in the BMW lineup. Active Blind Spot Detection (helpful on a car this size) and Lane Departure Warning (rarely used it) are also included in the aforementioned Driver Assistance Package.
The Rear Entertainment package ($2200) when combined with the Premium Sound package ($2000) gives you LCD screens in the rear of front seats, iPod integration, a five disc DVD changer, upgraded speakers and amplification. Part of the upgraded speaker system is the function for surround sound- it works extremely well as was quickly learned viewing the many action packed scenes of Transformers 2, bullets seemingly bounced around the cars interior with natural depth and outstanding clarity.
Due to all the content and technology of this car this review became exceedingly lengthy. In the interest of our readers we have chosen to split the review into two parts. The continuation will cover the Night Vision and Active Cruise systems as well as additional features and of course our final impressions. The full photo gallery and videos will also be available in part 2. Stay tuned!