Spend an hour driving the BMW 7 Series sedan and you'll know what the fuss is about. This is a luxury sedan in the truest sense. It's a great way to travel, and it won't take long to be convinced.
For 2007, there are a few noteworthy changes to the 7 Series line, including the elimination of the 760i, or the short wheelbase model with a V12 engine. A new BMW Individual package adds 20-inch wheels, specially cured, extra-sumptuous leather and a suede-like Alcantara headliner, among other things. Yet the 7 Series remains essentially as it has been since it was introduced five years ago, and its impact has hardly diminished.
What to like? This big sedan is so smooth that full days at the wheel are never taxing, and it's a great refuge in commuter traffic. It's easy to drive the 7 Series well, even on winding mountain roads, and few luxury sedans can keep up with it at high speeds. Measured by its combination of acceleration, braking, handling and ride quality, it may be the best car in its class, which happens to include some of the best, most expensive cars in the world. The whisper-quiet interior is exceptionally comfortable, with every gizmo you can imagine. The 7 Series is stuffed with the latest technology, including the automotive equivalent of infra-red night-vision goggles and advanced safety features that make it an electronically protected, rolling cocoon.
There are intrusions, unfortunately, on all the speed and serenity, and some drivers may not like them. Some of that 7 Series technology can feel more like a distraction than an aid. The interface between driver and machine can be complex, and occasionally tiring. While the 7 Series was a landmark in automotive design when it was introduced, it was deemed so for good and bad reasons. You will either like the look or you won't.
Any of the three 7 Series models, starting with the standard wheelbase, V8-powered 750i, are big, smooth, fast and inspiring. All 7 Series have a responsive six-speed automatic transmission and awesomely powerful brakes. Advanced suspension and well-tuned electronic stability control systems mix magic-carpet ride quality with the ultimate in big-sedan control.
The 750Li and 760Li (L for long) increase the wheelbase nearly six inches, which means much more legroom in the back seat. If the 438-hp, V12-powered 760Li doesn't stir something inside you, you may as well call a cab. It's one of the quickest, nimblest 2.5-ton vehicles in the world.
Virtually everything inside is controlled through a single, mouse-like interface called iDrive: entertainment, navigation, climate, and myriad settings managing the car's suspension, lighting, ad infinitum. We find iDrive difficult to operate, distracting and annoying. Despite BMW's efforts to enhance, de-tune or re-package iDrive over the years, we still do not like it. Owners tell us they've learned their way around iDrive and like it.
The 2007 BMW 7 Series comes in two different lengths, with a choice of V8 and V12 engines.
The 750i ($71,800) is powered by a 4.8-liter V8 generating 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. Standard features include the expected in this class, and then some. Voice activated GPS navigation, a four-year subscription to BMW Assist emergency communications, adaptive headlights that turn with the car, BMW's Park Distance Control and a climate-controlled console box come standard. The 10-speaker audio system has a single CD player and auxiliary jack, and the standard wheels are 18 inches in diameter.
The 750Li ($78,100) is nearly six inches longer than the 750i between the wheels. The longer wheelbase translates into a nearly equal increase in rear seat legroom.
The 760Li ($121,400) features a 6.0-liter V12 with 438 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with nearly every luxury and convenience BMW offers, including soft-close doors that suck themselves shut, adjustable heated and ventilated rear seats, and power rear window and rear-side window sun shades. Polished ash with inlays replaces the standard walnut trim, and virtually every interior surface is covered with leather.
Most of what's offered on the 760Li is available on the 750i and 750Li. Eight major option packages include the popular Sport Package ($3,000), with firmer sport-tuned suspension and 20-inch wheels, and the Premium Sound Package ($1,800), with more wattage, digital sound processing, 13 speakers, subwoofers and a six-CD changer.
The many stand-alone options include Comfort Access keyless operation ($1,000), Night Vision ($2,200) infra-red camera with monitor, radar-managed Active Cruise Control ($2,200) and Sirius Satellite Radio ($595).
The BMW Individual package ($11,000) is new for 2007. It adds ultra-soft, ultra-durable Merino leather upholstery, a selection of BMW Individual interior trims, Alcantara headliner, 20-inch wheels with performance tires, illuminated BMW Individual doorsills, and storage nets in the passenger-side footwell. It can be matched with three multi-hue Xirallic exterior colors ($3,000).
Safety features match the class benchmark: front-impact airbags, front occupant knee-protection and side-impact airbags, and BMW's Head Protection System, which amounts to a full-length, tube-shaped curtain on both sides of the cabin. Rear passenger side impact airbags ($385) are optional. BMW Assist works like GM's more familiar OnStar system. It automatically reports airbag deployment, and can summon emergency help or provide concierge services. All 7 Series models come with electronic stability control, traction control, a tire pressure monitor and one of the most sophisticated anti-lock brake systems (ABS) available.