BMW reinvented the 7-Series for the 2009 model year. Among the improvements: the iDrive controller was simplified and refined. It is now easy to toggle between menus and do all sorts of other important things like turning in a radio station.
The new iDrive is a metaphor for the whole new car. BMW took the old one, which dynamically was a treat to drive, and simply refined everything. Beautifully.
If you have 100 grand to spend on a saloon, the 7 is, arguably, the best-handling of them all. Indeed, the new 7-Series, whether in standard (750i) or stretched (750Li) guise, is a superb automobile, inside and out. It is fast, nimble and fun to drive - more entertaining than a plus-sized saloon has any right to be.
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And it looks good. The rear is slim and streamlined, while the nose is bold and daring and designed to meet pedestrian safety regulations in Europe. The chief exterior designer, the man who deserves most of the credit here, is Canadian Karim Habib. Alas, he has moved on to Mercedes.
As for the cabin, the gigantic high-resolution display screen in the centre of the dash is the largest I've seen in a production car and it is tremendous. It easily houses split-screen maps plus a submenu and in Europe you can even access the Internet, though liability concerns don't allow that here.
As for the cabin design itself, basic-yet-gorgeous analog gauges are front and centre and deliver serious information. However, the overall look is warm and deliciously well finished. Case in point: a flowing wedge of wood along the instrument panel is rich but tasteful.
Meanwhile, the seats are built for long hauls and have built-in heating and ventilation, an optional massager and an additional adjustment for the upper seatback. The cabin could use more storage up front and the trunk is on the puny side for big cars, but that's not the end of the world.
As for the driving, a slick double-wishbone front suspension, a first for a BMW passenger car, combines with computerized shock absorbers, tight steering and perfect braking to deliver a sporty ride in a monster sedan. Oh, by the way, the longer model adds a standard self-levelling rear suspension, too.
In any case, the 7 has an uncanny ability to feel communicative and natural, yet the car itself is enormous. Quite the feat of engineering.
Power? Like the compact 3-Series sedan and even tinier 1-Series coupe, the 7 has adopted dual turbochargers to bump up the power from a relatively small engine. Here, a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V-8 develops 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque.
Smart, useful, entertaining to drive, pretty and safe. That is the 7. But honestly, one can say that about all the top luxury saloons. In the end, a buyer's choice boils down to a simple matter of taste.
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