When BMW's previous-generation 7 Series, which introduced designer Chris Bangle's "flame-surfacing" styling and new technology such as iDrive, first hit the road in 2002, the car signified a sea change compared with the outgoing model. Many loved the way the new 7 drove, but struggled with its, um, more controversial aspects.
Now the Munich automaker has released information on its U.S.-spec, fifth-generation 2009 BMW 7 Series due in the U.S. early next year. With updated styling, lightweight construction, a new twin-turbo V-8, and tons of new safety, technology, and luxury features, BMW's latest flagship represents another significant -- though less divisive -- leap ahead.
Available in the U.S. in normal and long-wheelbase versions as the 750i and 750Li, compared with its predecessor the new 7 Series sports fluid, cohesive lines and a decidedly muscular appearance. Rounder headlamps flank BMW's signature kidney grille treatment, and the controversial "Bangle-butt" rear of the previous car is now a more traditional design that highlights the sedan's wide stance.
Inside, the car emphasizes a clean look that focuses on the driver, with many controls accessible from a new three-spoke, multifunction steering wheel. BMW's new "Black Panel" technology makes much of the instrument cluster appear blank when not in use, and the new transmission lever moves back to its traditional place on the console. But don't think BMW is taking a step back from the previous car's techno-wizardry. Using its E-shift system, the transmission ditches a traditional gate for an entirely electronic control that's "tipped" in one direction or another to select drive or reverse. Park is engaged by pressing a button.
While the new 7 Series may mark the end of BMW's experiment with column-mounted shift levers, the automaker's iDrive system lives on. The much-maligned multimedia interface originally made its debut in the 2002 7 Series, and a completely new generation has been designed for 2009.
Featuring a larger, 10.2-in. screen (up from 8.8 in.) and revised menus the automaker says are more intuitive, the new iDrive controller allows turn, push, and tilt motions instead of the basic scroll wheel of the last-generation car. To increase useability further, four direct-select buttons bypass the controller entirely for major functions, and there are eight programmable memory buttons to execute any task the driver wants. Many functions also can be accessed via voice commands. Keeping with its flagship status, the 750i and 750Li are also chock full of tech features such as a new GPS system with enhanced 3D topographical details, Internet access via the automaker's new ConnectedDrive system, and a stereo featuring a 40-gig hard drive, DVD player, auxiliary input, and optional iPod interface. For those who ride in the back, the long-wheelbase 750Li offers optional rear comfort seats that are individually adjustable, and both models can be had with a rear entertainment system.
Buyers who choose the 7 Series over its Mercedes and Audi competitors typically prefer spending time behind the wheel; BMW is making sure its new 7 won't disappoint them. Both U.S. versions of the 750i and 750Li feature the automaker's new twin-turbo, direct-injection 4.4L V-8 under the hood, which recently made its debut in the X6 SAC. Good for 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque (between 1750 and 4500 rpm) and mated to a six-speed automatic, the new 7 Series offers an improvement of 40 hp and 90 lb-ft over its predecessor. BMW claims it also will have class-leading fuel economy.
In addition, the 7 Series boasts several improvements for fans of canyon-carving, such as lightweight construction featuring an aluminum roof, doors, hood, and fenders, and an entirely new suspension. The automaker's first passenger car to use a multilink double-wishbone front suspension (the setup is also on some SACs), the 7 includes a new Driving Dynamics Control that allows the driver to choose four settings of shock absorber firmness, transmission shift characteristics, and engine-throttle response. Active steering also will be available in the U.S. on models with the Sport Package, and it includes speed-sensitive steering technology for the rear wheels as well as the fronts.
Beyond power and luxury, the 2009 7 Series also includes all the latest and greatest safety technology, with many systems that have never before been offered in a BMW. Apart from the usual array of airbags, the car includes extras such as active cruise control with the ability to come to a complete stop, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, night vision with pedestrian detection, and sideview and backup cameras. The company's head-up display is also available as an option.
Pictures of the 750i and 750Li are out now, but if you'd like to check out BMW's new flagship sedan in person, it will make its U.S. premiere at the Los Angeles auto show in November after its world bow at the Paris show in October, with sales starting in spring 2009. Since 1976, the German automaker has sold 1.2 million examples of its topline sedan, and despite its controversial features, 344,000 buyers around the world scooped up the last-generation model, more than ever before. BMW hopes its new 7 will become even more successful, and with a dramatic increase in power, luxury, and safety (along with a rumored hybrid version in the pipeline), the automaker could very well get its wish. [source]