September 17, 2007

BMW 7 series

Complicated, but still the Ultimate Driving Machine.
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 BMW 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 BMW 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 BMW 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 BMW 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 BMW 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.

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