Thumbs Up: Perhaps the best ride quality of any luxury sedan.
Thumbs Down: Peculiar off-idle stumble makes smooth acceleration difficult.
Buy This Car If: Crossing time zones on interstate highways is your idea of the ideal vacation.
When it comes to full size German luxury sedans, there’s no shortage of choices on the market today. If your tastes run towards comfort and luxury, it’s hard to go wrong with an S-Class Mercedes-Benz. On the other hand, if you enjoy the occasional open-throttle blast up a canyon road, the Porsche Panamera Turbo S may be better-suited to your expectations. In between these bookends lie the Audi A8 and the BMW 7 Series.
The BMW 7 was last revamped for the 2009 model year, and not much has changed on the outside since then. In 2010, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive was added, and a hybrid variant (the 7 Series ActiveHybrid) debuted the same year. In 2011, the 740i joined the lineup in the United States, and option packages have been revised over the years, but otherwise the 7 Series is a shining example of German continuity.
That’s not a bad thing, since the 7 Series offers much for buyers to like. Styling-wise, it’s conservative without being plain, and it’s elegant lines will likely remain fashionable for many years to come. Up front, the traditional BMW kidney-shaped grille dominates a front end trimmed by aero headlights, a wide lower-fascia air intake and subtle creases that flow from the grille, across the hood to the A-pillar.
From the side, the 7 Series boasts a short front overhang, subtle chrome trim on the front fender and windows and a tasteful character line that crosses the doors at handle height. The expected Hofmeister Kink is present and accounted for, though slightly less pronounced than on 3 and 5 Series models.
Large LED taillights help define the rear of the 7 Series, and a bit more chrome is used to accent the trunk lid and the exhaust outlets. Overall, the styling won’t offend anyone, though it likely won’t cause many jaws to drop, either. That’s not a criticism, since subtlety has long been a trait associated with range-topping BMWs. If you want flash or a car that screams, “I’ve arrived,” you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Inside, the BMW 7 Series carries over the same refined styling, upping the ante with a visually and tactilely pleasing blend of colors, textures, shapes and materials. As you’d expect from a flagship sedan, materials are of the highest quality and are deployed tastefully throughout. The dash blends coarse-grain vinyl with leather, textured plastic and gleaming wood trim. While metallic accents are toned back, the 7 Series makes good use of brightwork on the vent surrounds, door pulls and steering wheel. Overall, the effect is luxury, minus any pretensions.
Instruments consist of a large speedometer and tachometer, flanked by fuel and coolant gauges. While both the instrument faces and the surround are black, each gauge is tastefully trimmed in silver, and ancillary readouts are embedded in the gauge face. The speedometer also displays information such as fuel economy and distance to empty, while the tachometer shows the current gear and an “Efficient Dynamics” graph. Above the instruments, the driver can easily see if features like lane departure warning are active, and the bottom of the panel is accented in red lines, presumably an artistic touch to convey a sense of motion.
While the best reason to buy a 7 Series is ride quality, the second best reason would be the seats that come standard in 750i models. Of course they’re power adjustable, with thigh extensions, inflatable side bolstering and an inflatable (and movable) lumbar support. Headrests can even be set up to cradle a driver or front-seat passenger’s head, leading us to think that there is such as thing as too much comfort, for the driver, anyway. While the supple leather seats are heated, they’re not ventilated; if you want cooled seats, too, you’ll need to check the box next to the “Luxury Seating Package” option.
Outboard rear seat passengers won’t find much to complain about, either. There’s plenty of headroom and enough legroom that we’d question the need for an extended-wheel-base 750iL. Opt for the Cold Weather Package, and the rear seats are heated, but that’s almost a moot point; just like front seat passengers, rear seat passengers get to choose their own climate control settings, and BMW offers the now-seemingly-required rear seat entertainment system to keep children (or attention-span-challenged adults) pacified on longer trips.
Our BMW-supplied 750i came with the automaker’s 4.4-liter, twin-turbo in-line six, good for 400 horsepower and 450 pound feet of torque. Despite the 750i’s bulk, that’s still enough power to get the car from 0-60 in a little over five seconds, on its way to a electronically-governed top speed of 155 mph. Even fuel economy is reasonable, considering the car’s capabilities: the EPA says to expect 22 mpg on the highway, 15 mpg in the city and 17 mpg combined. We saw an indicated average of 17.6 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.
On the road, the 7 Series can have a distinctly different personality depending upon the chosen Driving Dynamics Control setting. Choices include Sport + (which, as the name implies, provides the most nimble handling, throttle response and shifting), Sport, Comfort and Comfort +. We found that Sport yielded the best blend of handling and ride quality, but even Comfort wasn’t what we’d consider overly soft. As previously mentioned, the engine had a bit of off-idle stumble, even in Comfort mode, that made smooth throttle modulation difficult, so there was a fine line between not enough throttle and too much throttle when leaving a stoplight.
On the highway, all sins are forgiven. The BMW 7 Series will soak up as many miles as you can throw at it (stopping for gas, of course) at whatever speed you care to drive. It’s a very confidence-inspiring sedan, and you get the feeling that even lapping a banked oval racetrack at 130 mph would produce very little drama. As with the power and the handling, the brakes of the 7 Series are more than up to the task of slowing you from whatever speed you may be traveling. They’re probably not up to regular track day use, but that’s hardly the purpose of this car.
Overall, we’d stop short of calling the 7 Series a sport sedan, since it’s simply got too much mass to provide serious entertainment value. It’s best suited for its luxury sedan role, and we seriously doubt that any 7 Series shopper will find the car lacking in performance or amenities.
Our 2012 BMW 750i had a base sticker price of $86,195, including an $895 destination charge and a $1,000 Gas Guzzler tax. Options on our car included the $3,500 Driver Assistance Package (high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, side and top view cameras, heads-up windshield display), the $800 Cold Weather Package (ski bag, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel) and the $2,400 Active Cruise Control for a total sticker price of $92,895.
For comparison, a similarly equipped (but all-wheel-drive) Audi A8 would sticker for $88,875, while a comparable Mercedes-Benz S550 would price at $98,815.