The full-size 7-Series sedan is the largest and most luxurious model in BMW's lineup. Turbocharged engines with six, eight or twelve cylinders are available, as is all-wheel-drive and an extended-wheelbase variant. While the previous-generation 7-Series ushered in the controversial Bangle era of BMW styling, the latest model takes a much more conservative (and arguably elegant) approach while continuing to offer responsive driving dynamics along with an updated version of the automaker's iDrive infotainment system.
The 7-Series benefits from a host of new standard equipment for the latest model year, including remote services, BMW Apps, real-time traffic information, BMW Assist eCall, BMW Online, BMW TeleServices and a dynamic instrument cluster. Additionally, the iDrive infotainment system now features a touchpad for "writing" numbers and letters for tasks like entering navigation destinations or saving phone numbers.
BMW gave the 7-Series a mid-cycle refresh for the previous model year. Enhanced powertrains, an upgraded infotainment system and a heavily revised ActiveHybrid 7 model were among the most significant updates for the sedan.
Outside, the styling changes of the updated 7-Series are decidedly subtle. The twin kidney grilles, which each feature nine slats in place of the previous 12, are now encased in larger chrome surrounds. The headlight design was tweaked, with adaptive LED units now on the options list. The full-width air intake in the lower front fascia was also redesigned and incorporates new fog lamps and chrome strips along its outer sections.
The cabin continues to follow in the BMW tradition of understated elegance coupled with simple, easily decipherable instruments and controls. The one control that provided a great deal of controversy when it made its debut in the last 7-Series - iDrive - has received a host of updates over the years that make it a relatively intuitive and user-friendly device. The electronic shifter, however, can take a little getting used to. The back seat, a major selling point for cars of this class, is suitably commodious, especially in extended wheelbase "L" form.
The navigation system was recently revised with crisper graphics and new 3D elements, and BMW has added an enhanced voice recognition system that allows the driver to dictate and send emails without removing his or her hands from the wheel.
Other nifty electronic touches include Remote Services, which lets smartphone users remotely start their car, turn on the A/C or, in the event of a crowded parking lot, honk the horn or flash the lights to locate the vehicle. BMW Apps lets passengers users access Facebook, Twitter, web radio services and more through iDrive, while BMW Online provides access to Google local search, restaurant and hotels guides, telephone directories and more.
The 7-Series can be had with three separate powertrains, each designated by a unique model name
The "entry-level" 740i features a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six with 315 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The mid-grade 750i employs a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with 445 ponies and 480 lb-ft. The range-topping 760Li boasts a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 that pumps out 535 horsepower and an impressive 550 lb-ft of torque. The big twelve-cylinder can propel the car to 60 mpg from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds.
All three motors are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the smaller two can be optioned with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
Fuel economy is rated at 19/28 city/highway mpg for all 740i variants (up from 17/25 mpg). The 750i returns 17/25 mpg, while the 750i xDrive, 750Li and 750Li xDrive return 16/24 mpg. The 760Li is good for 13/20 mpg.
Though its size and weight prevent it from cornering with the zeal of a 3-Series, the 7-Series still provides accurate steering along with a good tradeoff between ride comfort and handling.
Offered only with a long wheelbase, the ActiveHybrid 7 is the gas-electric version of BMW's 7-Series full-size luxury sedan.
The ActiveHybrid 7 is based on the 740Li, with both sedans featuring a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. The ActiveHybrid 7 goes a step further by adding an electric motor electric motor housed within the car's eight-speed automatic transmission that essentially takes the place of the torque converter. Total system output is rated at 349 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque.
Those figures that represent noticable gains over the 740Li's 315 ponies and 330 lb-ft, but the extra weight of the ActiveHybrid 7's electric motor and battery pack effectively negates any acceleration advantage. The ActiveHybrid 7 also offers little in the way of a fuel economy advantage, returning 22/30 mpg to the less expensive 740Li's 19/29 mpg.
Like most other hybrid vehicles, the ActiveHybrid 7's gas and electric engines are capable of operating independently or together. Given a light enough right foot, the car can be coaxed into covering 2.5 miles using only the electric motor. The top speed on electric power alone is 37 mph.
High Tech Barrage: Driving Dynamics Control, Eco Pro, Coasting Modes and Dynamic Damper Control
All 7-Series models boast a Driving Dynamics Control system that allows the driver to personalize a wide-range of the car's systems to suite his or her tastes, including accelerator response, engine response, power steering characteristics, stability control thresholds, transmission and damper settings and more.
Drivings Dynamics Control offers five pre-set settings, with Eco Pro being the most notable. Eco Pro optimizes a host of vehicle elements, such as the powertrain and programming of the heating and air conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heating, to operate with maximum efficiency. When used in conjunction with an efficient driving style (which the system actually offers tips for), Eco Pro can help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, BMW says. Eco Pro also features a coasting mode that decouples the engine when coasting at speeds between 30-100 mph.
It wouldn't be a full-size German luxury sedan without a world-first feature, and the BMW says this requisite distinction is provided by a Dynamic Damper System. Standard throughout the lineup, the system is reportedly the first electronically controlled damping system with shock absorbers that are adjusted individually at each wheel based on the condition of the road surface and the driving style.
Standard and Optional Features
All 7-Series models come standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a navigation system with voice command functionality, genuine wood trim, a moonroof, a rear parking camera, dynamic cruise control, a proximity key, a 10-speaker, 205-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with Sirius Satellite Radio, HD Radio and AUX and USB inputs, a 20 GB hard drive, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and four-zone automatic climate control.
Highlights from the options list, which approaches the length of the Illiad, include heated rear seats, soft-close automatic doors, a 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, a Head-Up display, a rear entertainment system with dual LCD screens and a four-wheel steering system that provides heightened maneuverability at low speeds and greater stability at high speeds. Also available is a power trunk that can be opened or closed by making a kicking motion under the bumper - it's especially handy for times when one's hands are full.
An available M Sport package brings an aerodynamic kit with aggressive front and rear bumpers, 19-inch wheels, Shadowline exterior trim, anthracite headliner and an M Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Every 7-Series model is equipped with dual front, side and side curtain airbags along with traction and stability control systems and a crash sensor that disconnects the alternator, fuel pump and starter from battery, automatically unlocks doors and turns on hazard and interior lights in the event of a collision.
For longer journeys, an Attention Assistant feature evaluates the driver's control inputs and issues an encouragement to rest if it detects signs of fatigue.
Even more safety features can be had with the driver assistance package, which brings an active blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning system with Collision Mitigation (which applies the brakes when an impending collision is detected). The package also includes side and top view camera, which provide extra side-view visibility, and Speed Limit Info, which displays the local speed limit at the top of the instrument panel.
In the market for a king-sized sedan full of luxury and technology? Before you sign on the dotted line for a new 7-Series, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte deserve a close look, too.
Rivals to the ActiveHybrid 7 include the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, the Mercedes-Benz S500 plug-in Hybrid and the Lexus LS 600h L.
Those who are more interested in saving fuel than having a hybrid badge on their sedan's decklid should check out the Audi A8 L TDI diesel, which bests all of the aforementioned models with an impressive 36 mpg highway rating.