The new BMW 7 Series is one of those cars that you either fall in love at first sight or you never will, but we did and this happened the first time we laid our eyes on the car at the L.A Auto Show last November. Our second encounter with the 7 Series reinforced this warm feeling and after driving the car for the first time, we were ready to commit.
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But here comes the third date where we finally got to spend some time together and got to know each other down to the very last detail. You know what they say? Live together before you commit and we did, for an entire week and hundreds of miles, we have been bonding.
Ready to hear more about this wonderful relationship? Or….was it really wonderful?
It takes time to get to know a car and most important to learn how it drives and handles, so our goal was to use the new 750i in different scenarios, from a daily driver commuting in the infernal Chicago traffic to a family car and of course, to a sporty ride let loose on an uncluttered highway.
But most important, riding in the car as a passenger also, it really shows that the new BMW 7 Series can be indeed used by a variety of people, reaching out to a far larger demographic that one would expect.
It’s got the “Look”
While the previous fourth-generation model lived under the umbrella of the controversial ex-Chief Design at BMW, Chris Bangle, the new generation marks the debut of a new design language led by Adriaan Von Hoydonk. The new longer, but sleeker and muscular design of this new 7 Series comes to correct some of the minuses of the previous generation 7er, which still holds today the record of the best selling 7 Series ever.
If I were to describe the exterior design in one word, then “handsome” would be the choice. Starting at the front, the first thing that stands out is the massive and vertical grille which received its fair share of criticism in the beginning, but seeing the car in person can really change the overall perception of it. Take a few seconds and imagine this massive and fairly long car sporting a smaller kidney grille….now look back again at the front-end and tell me if BMW could have really pulled it off by going with a more conventional approach; most likely not, the grille absolutely matches the front fascia.
The headlights are more harmonious than the ones in the previous generation and the more obvious eyebrow seems to port across other new models as well.
The side view can be categorized as clean but at the same time very modern. The shoulder line goes across the side, from the upper area of the taillight and all the way to the front, slowly blending into the front skirt. The BMW trademark, Hoffmeister Kink is still there, so tradition is carried along the way.
“Bangle-but” – that expression that we all loved to hate( or is it hate to love?) can finally be forgotten. The trunklid is far less bulbous and it adds an ounce of aggressiveness. The L-Shaped taillights have been redesigned, maintaining an elegant and modern look, which unfortunately can’t always be seen in all the photos.
The bumper-mounted exhaust tips, in our opinion, do seem to resemble the ones found on the Lexus LS, a comparison that we would love to be able to ignore.
Luxury at its finest
Any long-time BMW owner or fans will come to appreciate the interior design of the new 7 Series and truth is, it’s hard not to. The 750i sports one of the most luxurious interior designs ever seen in a BMW with fine leather finishes and high quality materials that give an warm, cozy feeling to anyone riding in the car. BMW’s driver oriented dashboard is making a comeback with a 7 degree angle toward the driver. Ergonomics and personal comfort could not have been forgotten in a flagship sedan and it sets the bar higher for any upcoming model.
For those of us that are more massive or taller, BMW has made it easy. When the door is open, the bolsters automatically retract making the exiting or entering the car far more comfortable. Our biggest pet peeve in the previous model was the iDrive system and knob, both combined with a less intuitive interface which made the overall navigation system more difficult than it should have been. But, BMW has listened to its buyers and the new generation iDrive really shows a single system can control most of the settings in a car. The direct-access buttons placed around the iDrive controller are extremely welcomed since it allows quick back and forth jumps between menus and settings. To make them even more intuitive, a comparison can be made between the BACK/OPTION buttons and an Internet Browser.
The LCD screen has also been upgraded to a 10.2 inches size and a crispy resolution at 1280×480 which allows for more information to be displayed at once on the screen. The BMW 750i comes with no printed car manual since it stored electronically on the 40GB hard drive that comes with the new iDrive.
The gauges display is by far the best we have seen so far and not only from a design point of view, but also from an usability and technological stand point due to its complex reporting capabilities. Add to this the pleasant, calming color pallet and you can’t ask for more. It uses BMW”s new Black Panel Technology which shows the dials and displays only when the system is activated. When not in use, the display forms a homogeneous, black surface. At night, the instrument panel displays change color from white to amber.
Our tester came equipped with all the whistles and bells offered in the new 7 Series: Driver Assistance Package, Luxury Seating Package, Convenience Package, Camera Package and Premium Sound. After a week of intensive driving, we came to appreciate all of these features, but the ones that really made our driving more comfortable and especially safer, were the Driver Assistance options which includes High Beam Assistant, Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Detection. Nothing beats passing cars in a high traffic area without having to worry of hitting the car….For those of you that might not know, the Active Blind Spot sensors send a vibrating signal to your steering wheel along with a flashing yellow led mounted on the side mirrors.
And yes, those of you that are far more aggressive in your driving, you can simply turn off any of these features with a touch of a button.
The interior space is very generous, even for someone that is 6″2 (186 cm) tall, this applies to the rear compartment as well which is very comfortable even when three people are traveling with you. We’ve said at the beginning that intensive and varied testing is what we looked for, so therefore we have even added a car seat back there.
The Comfort package with its automatic trunkgate operation, comfort access system and soft close automatic doors, is just one of those perks that made you feel like you own a high luxury car.
Chicago can get very hot in the summer, but driving the 750i kept our “cool” due to the front ventilated seats and the rear sunshades. True, not the most needed option, but one that can make a difference.
Since some of our driving was done at night, the Night Vision System and Lane Departure Control Warning really came handy and I have often found ourselves relying on the camera to quickly detect any pedestrians crossing our path.
But enough with the gadgetry, let’s move onto what made BMW so famous….
Performance, Dynamics and Handling
The 4.4 liter V8 twin-turbo engine does its job properly and we would say, even beyond. At around 4,500 lbs, the 750i is far from being a compact car, but those 404 horsepower and the incredible 450 lb-ft of torque, make up for it and reveal the sportiness in this car.The BMW 750i runs from 0 to 60 mph in around 5.1 seconds and has a electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. The engine is matted to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Automatic and Manual shift mode. In our test, we achieved a fuel consumption on the combined cycle of 19 mpg.
The power coming out of that engine makes the 750i more agile that one would believe it would be. We don’t believe BMW could have chosen a better engine for this car since it provides so much power and pull, that even an heavy and large car as the 7 Series, can feel like a 3 Series Sedan. At times we wondered how a straight line race between the 7er and 3er would turn out….
The turbocharged V8 provided long, smooth bursts of acceleration, but the new 7-Series felt planted and stable. The fifth-generation 7er lost that “boat bouncing” feel that many have complaint about in the previous models. The Comfort driving mode does bring back that feeling, but at least it is offered as an “option” now. The 750i offers a choice of a four driving modes, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ (the one that we’ve been using the most).
While shifting through these different modes, the difference in ride quality is immediately noticeable, offering instant feedback that could help you make a decision faster: comfy, laid back ride or dynamic, rough and sporty.
We found that the Comfort or Normal modes were perfect for those times when blocked in traffic or cruising down the bumpy Chicago roads, but once we found ourselves on the highway, the “Ultimate Driving Machine” instinct kicked in and we quickly activated the Sport+ mode which automatically increases the revs, providing a more agile and responsive feeling, but it lessens the traction control. Looking for more thrill and car feedback? Simply manually change gears by tapping the shifter to the left and then the usual back and forth taps.
The steering wheel is quite different from the one in our 3 Series (as expected) with almost no stiffness making the car feel smaller than it is and of course, easier to maneuver. The car sits on 245/50 tires and at no time, there was any road noise, thanks to the triple seals on the doors and other noise isolation techniques.
We can’t disclose the top speed we achieved, but that’s less relevant now, what’s important is that we felt in control of the car at all time and all the technology powering and handling 7er, come to assist the driver in any situation. Taking the car through some curvy roads and tight corners is highly advisable since it will give you a better feel of what this 750i is made of. Believe us, it can match up to a 3er when cornering….
“The King has returned….”
A cliche? Maybe, but the truth is that new 2009 BMW 7 Series has made a glorious comeback and by learning some things from previous developments, it has managed to place itself at the top of the high-end luxury sedan group. The new 7 Series also proves that BMW still knows how to build flagship luxury sedans and the BMW 750Li is a step forward in the right direction.
Our tester had a base price of $80,300, but all the packages outlined above and the other options, brought up the price to $94,270. Expensive? Sure, but if the budget permits and the pockets are deep, then the new BMW 7 Series may be your safest bet from the high-end luxury sedans models.