In the past, BMW stated that the previous generation 7 Series has been the most successful 7er to this date, so I had no choice but to see if the new 7 matches or exceeds the previous E65 model. Armed with all the “tools” I needed and a quick call to one of our local BMW dealership, got myself a choice between two beautiful 2009 BMW 7 Series.
What a way to spend a beautiful late winter - early spring day driving around in a beautiful Alpine White BMW 750Li, the long-wheelbase version of the new 7 Series.
The car at the local BMW dealership came equipped with most of the whistles and bells proudly announced by BMW at the official launch: Camera Package - Rear-view and side view cameras; Convenience Package - comfort access system, soft close automatic doors, automatic truncate operation; Driver Assistance Package - high beam assistant, lane departure warning, active blind spot detection; Luxury Seating Package - heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, active seat for driver, ventilated seats, heated rear seats; Premium Sound Package, Night Vision system Head Up Display and many others.
When compared to the short-wheelbase 750i, the 2009 BMW 750Li platform is 10.2inches longer to a total of 126.4 inches . Overall length, width and height are 205.3, 74.9 and 58.3 inches, respectively. The 750Li weighs 4640 lbs.
After seeing the new 7 Series several times in the last few months, the visual impact was far more limited. The so-bashed “Bangle butt” is gone and replaced by a new design with soft lines, but still plenty of curves to show off. The flat nose could come down in the BMW history as the Habib nose from the the former BMW 7 Series designer, Karim Habib, who left the company recently to join Mercedes-Benz. The nose of the new 7 is supposed to hark back to the golden days of the 80’s when the BMW’s had a more shark quality to the front-end, but its overall design was influenced by the European pedestrian safety requirements.
The new headlights feature more obvious “eyebrows” and different LEDs. The L-Shape taillights have been completely redesigned, part of the overall new rear approach.
The inside of the new BMW 7 Series is the most luxurious interior design yet from BMW. The warm, cozy feeling coming from the fine leather and high-quality design elements, are complemented by a new high-tech instrument panel.
The previous generation iDrive controller has been amongst the more criticized elements in a BMW in the past few years, many people strongly complaining about its features and usability. But BMW learned from this and the second generation iDrive, already seen in most of the BMW models, has been given a much needed “facelift”, if not more.
The controls are more intuitive and easy to operate, allowing to browse through different menus in a friendlier way and similar to how you would use any computer browser. Last but not least, the LCD screen and the new navigation system display improved graphics and 3D maps.
Overall, the inside controls no longer requires one to study the owner’s manual and are very intuitive, even for someone new to a BMW vehicle or the 7 Series. But just in case you would like to familiarize yourself with these options prior to driving off, BMW has made it easier for us by incorporating an extensive owner’s manual in the iDrive system. Video with Owner’s Manual
Under The Hood
BMW 750Li is powered by a twin-turbo direct injection 4.4 liter V8 engine, exactly the same engine already installed and successfully tested in the X6 xDrive50i model. It outputs 400 horsepower that peaks from 5500 to 6400 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rmp. The previous E65 model was powered by a 6.0 l V12 engine which puts out 444 lb-ft of torque.
According to official BMW numbers, the 750Li runs from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds and tops out at 150 mph.
Going in for the drive, I was thinking of different scenarios to test out the car’s potential and see what it can do and how it handles. Another thought running through my mind was the “speech” I received recently from a friend of mine of how his E65 7er is too soft, too comfortable and not sporty enough. Without having any road test experience with the car, my arguments based on BMW’s information and other test drives performed by car magazines, were not enough to convince him or myself that we’re looking at a total different car.
Coming from a 335i, I expected the new 7 Series to be a whole ‘nother game, but decided to go in with an open mind. Jumped into the car, buckled up, played briefly with the settings and off I go. The initial impression was how much comfortable and more pleasant drive the 7 Series is, but comparing with a 3 Series would have been just wrong.
So I scratched that off and decided to focus on comparing apples to apples, meaning the new 7 with the E65 model. I started off slowly with the Normal mode; there are different driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Changing these mods, automatically the throttle sensitivity, steering effort, suspension damping and stability control are changed as well. In Normal settings, the ride was very comfortable, calming, the perfect situation if you’re in the passenger seat and would like to relax. But since I can’t afford a driver yet and this will be a car I would drive myself, decided to push it a little bit.
Quickly shifted through the driving modes, each one of them giving me more thrill and courage. Ended up in the Sport+ mode which automatically increases the revs, providing a more agile and responsive feeling, but it lessens the traction control. In this mode, the Dynamic Stability Control switches to its Dynamic Traction Control setting. The V8 twin-turbo engine started to sound like a real BMW engine, nervous and ready to take my “abuse”.
The power coming out of that engine can be defined in one word: IMPRESSIVE. I don’t believe BMW could have chose a better engine for this car, 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. Yes, that’s right, after fifteen minutes of driving, I have forgotten about my lovely 335i sedan and I felt that I wasn’t missing anything. Sure, the 3er corners better and sprints faster (debatable), but the 750Li felt just as responsive and fun to drive. I have no doubt that the 750i is even better.
During my test drive, I found a nice quiet suburb in the cold, but sunny Chicago, where I could take the car through different roads. Luckily, being early afternoon, not much traffic and plenty of 2 mile long straight-lines and lots of curvy roads to go through. Still using the Sport+ mode, taking the car from 0 to 100 mph was incredible fun and listening to that roar coming from under the hood, it made me wish I was on a race track.
The 7 felt more stable than the previous 7 Series, losing that “boat bouncing” feel that many have complaint about. One thing that I would have liked to test on the 750Li was the Active Steering which is available independent or part of the Sport Package ($4,900) and the active roll stabilization. These both features help to lessen the negative effects of the car’s weight and size.
Despite the fact that it was missing the Active Steering (steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction from the front wheels), going through tight corners I felt absolutely safe and in control of the car. Decided to going through these fun curvy roads one more time, this time using different modes and the 750Li handled itself even better.
The final test was to take the car on our U.S Autobahn, yes, I know, not the real one, but rather our 4 lane highways here in Illinois. Starting off with the Comfort mode and took the car up to a steady 80 mph. The Comfort mode is indeed comfortable, providing a smooth and peaceful ride, typical to a luxury sedan or a sport limo if I may call it. The background noise was negligible and the engine sounds was far less obvious. Moving up into the Sport and Sport+ mode, gave me the opportunity to see how the 7 handles through quickly lane changes and overtaking other cars and that comfortable limo turned into a sport sedan, ready to show everyone what it can do and dominate the road.
The turbocharged V8 provided long, smooth bursts of acceleration, but the new 7-Series felt planted and stable.
Compared to the previous E65 models, the new BMW 750Li’s handling capabilities have remarkably improved and the slogan “Ultimate Driving Machine” is more powerful than ever.
Driving back to the parking lot, I started to focus more on the technology and gadgetry provided by the new 7 and fell in love with the Head Up Display, a feature that I find it to be more useful than let’s say, Comfort Access option. Being able to see the speed, driving directions and alerts displayed in front of view without distracting you from the road, it is absolutely priceless. Oh….did I mention how cool it really is? Here is a short video of it.
The side, front and rear cameras are a nice addition to the luxurious 7, they can be very useful in crowded cities with limited parking space and lots of pedestrians, Chicago being one of those cities. Since the BMW 7 Series focuses largely on passenger safety and accidents avoidance, the Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Detection are welcomed features. Blind detection has always been a concern for those driving larger vehicles, but BMW handles this elegantly by incorporating a sensor in the side mirrors.
For the audiophile crowd, the Premium Sound Package gives you a nice hi-fi audio system, providing that excellent sound one would expect from a luxury car. Add the iPod and USB adapters, and you’re set for a long drive listening to tunes.
Since I was driving during the day, I haven’t had the chance to test out the NightVision system with pedestrian detection, but I will have that report in a new upcoming test drive.
And the jury says…..
BMW still knows how to build flagship luxury sedans and the BMW 750Li is a step forward in the right direction. It combines the comfort and luxury required by some customers, but in the same time, it brings in the latest technologies and gadgets available and requested by other buyers. Sure, the present economic situation is not the best environment to launch a $100,000 car, 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 brands.