Since we are still waiting our turn to drive the new BMW 7 Series, our friend Collin from BMW of Pleasant Grove
offered to shared with us his impressions about the new 7 Series and his driving experience.
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Test Drive 7 Series
BMW is the best at making its fans and clients giddy with anticipation for its new models. They market their new vehicles and new body styles months ahead of actual release dates, and create a sense of mystery to a degree that makes the real thing all that more enjoyable.
The 2009 BMW 7-series is no exception to this rule. BMW of North America presented some great materials to the advertising world to get all of us excited to experience the all-new body style 7-series when it debuts in March 2009.
I had the privilege to travel to San Diego two weeks ago to drive and explore the 7. As usual, I was as excited to see this vehicle up close as one would usually be excited when purchasing their very first new car.
We watch a short, well organized video creating a build-up to the “unveiling”, as each of three 7-series in the room are covered with a translucent silk sheet, only Corona rings and “eyebrows” illuminating through the sheets. There was a brief, quiet mystery in the air as the film came to a climax and each BMW 7 had its silk sheet whipped back. There it was, the new 750Li. As typical with BMW, the photographs and videos never do the new vehicles justice. The car impressed me simply by looking at it.
More good news arrives, we are departing in 12 new 7s parked outside. I learned that all-in-all, the crew has almost 60 new 7s for this event. We drove throughout Carlsbad, CA, for the first hour-long drive, switching drivers periodically. I was privileged to ride in the rear of a 750Li with the Rear Comfort Seat option. I had the seat reclined, massage feature running full speed…life was good! Upon my turn to drive, I was ALMOST reluctant to forfeit the back seat….a first-time for me when involving a BMW. Immediately my attention was drawn to the new gadgetry: the new iDrive, the enhanced Head-up Display, the new black-panel instrument cluster, etc.
For the technology fanatics, this car is a delight! The new 7 offers the Active Cruise with Stop and Go, much like the current 5-series. The newer Head-Up display offers more thorough instructions when Navigation is activated to direct you to your nearest Golf retreat or Country Club. If you switch off the optional head-up display, your Nav instructions/arrows are cued to appear below your instrument cluster, in center. The Lane Departure Warning in conjunction with Active Blind Spot Detection keep you fully informed as to keeping your vehicle safe and steady.
The “Far Reaching Infrared Technology” used in the new Night Vision option uses “military grade” thermal detection of body heat to identify pedestrians. It leaves less critical data such as parked cars in a more gray-scale appearance, but bodies are glowing in a yellow hue. One more advantage to any other system available anywhere, this system tells you via a blue arrow which direction the pedestrian is traveling. Head-Up Display equipped vehicles take the system to the next level by informing you with a yellow pedestrian triangle, and a red triangle if the pedestrian has potential to interfere with your vehicle’s path of travel.
One of my favorite gadgets, the side-view cameras in the Camera Package, built into the fornt bumper forward of the wheel-well. You can see around corners and past barriers using high-definition cameras that are near impossible with the seating position of a typical sedan. Ever pull out of an alley-way or past a parked semi-truck that you couldn’t see past, taking “blind” risks? Not anymore! Also included, back-up camera similar to the current X5.
You now have the benefit of two screens in the rear seats upon opting for the Rear Seat Entertainment Pkg, which also gives you A/V hookups for either screen, your own DVD player in the center stack, and a handy remote similar to what we have seen in the X5/X6. Something aesthetic caught my eye: NO rear iDrive controller with the Rear Entertainment Pkg. Upon inquiry, I was informed that all surrounding markets will receive the rear controller on the center armrest, but it will not be in the U.S. spec 7-series.
Upon opting for the Rear Comfort Seats, you forfeit the fifth passenger’s seat in the center. That spot is replaced with an additional storage compartment. Four-zone climate control is standard, providing the rear seat occupants with a digital climate instrument cluster on the rear of the front center console.
Keyless Start is standard, Comfort Access is optional. If you want the convenience of pulling your door handle or trunk release without fumbling for your keys, Comfort Access is still an option to consider, part of the Convenience Package. However, regardless of vehicle equipment, the new 7 has keyless start via the familiar Start/Stop button on dash. I was informed that the technology for keyless start is far less expensive than the typical key recess and mechanism. The all-new key is different from other BMW keys, as we are now used to with the e65 body style. Its internal battery is guaranteed for 3 years life. Should the key itself become dead, stranding your vehicle in a location not suitable for leaving a BMW for an extended period of time, simply hold the keyfob up to the steering column and the vehicle will draw enough information from the key to securely allow you ignition.
Upon my second test drive, this time in a 7 equipped with Sport Package, I was able to explore the Integral Active Steering. Using the pivoting rear wheels in a u-turn maneuver, I immediately appreciated this new option. I am impressed with the tight turning radius available in such a large car. At highway speeds, this system provides stability as does the current Active Steering in the 5-series, etc. Power is always readily available via the twin-turbo V-8. Handling is smooth and without body lean. One aspect of this new 7 that oddly left me slightly disappointed: the relaxed driving characteristic. Behind the wheel of an e65 with Sport Pkg, one can drive as if seated in a 335i; corners are harmonious when focusing on steering input and response, body control, and throttle response. This new 7 almost seems designed as a “less-sporty” driving machine for a slightly more comfortable ride. As such, I plan on thoroughly testing our demonstration 750 upon arrival to maybe re-connect with the sportier side of this new machine.
The new interior trims are beautiful and unique; I prefer the dark Ash wood, but the matte finish Fine-line wood trim is also very beautiful. The vehicles are equipped with Nappa leather as standard, one of my favorites at BMW. The leather dashboard option is reminiscent of the ’09 X5/X6 with Nappa dash. The wood trim door pull handles are an interesting design characteristic, deriving from the current design in the Rolls Royce Phantom I’m sure.
The 2009 7-series is a much-evolved vehicle, when considering the current one. I am thrilled with its aggressive body lines, supple interior comfort, and technology that blows everything else in the market right out of the water.
For those in areas that experience all four seasons, xDrive will be available this fall. Also this fall, a 760Li. This vehicle is definitely a window in which to see the future of other BMW models, and I am excited to see what BMW will throw out into the market next!