2009 BMW 7-Series

David Gluckman
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Ever the technology showcase, the latest 7-series shouldn't disappoint electronics lovers. BMW has released preliminary information and images of the revamped and restyled 7 ahead of its official debut at this year's Paris show.

The fifth-generation 7-series will come to the U.S. first as the V-8-powered 750i and its long-wheelbase counterpart, the 750Li. Though the model designations remain the same as before, the V-8 underhood does not. As we expected, the 750 models will get the 400-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 that first appeared in BMW's X6. A smaller engine with a big dose of technology goes a long way, as the direct-injected turbo engine makes more power than the outgoing 750's 4.8-liter normally aspirated V-8, and more torque than the V-12 currently found in the 760Li. The 7 will continue to use a six-speed automatic transmission.

When it comes time to put the 7 in Drive, drivers will now make use of BMW's console-mounted joystick gear selector which replaces the electronic column-mounted shifter of the previous-generation car. We see also that the odd steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons (with two for upshifts on the rim's front, and two for downshifts on the rear) have gone away. Manual shifting can be accomplished once the joystick-style selector is tilted to the left.

BMW's improved iDrive controller is located next to the gear selector, and with it comes a revised interface that is more intuitive than that on the outgoing model and which we expect to be more in line with BMW's other iDrive-equipped offerings. Menus are now displayed on a larger (10.2 inches vs. 8.8 inches), higher-definition central display. GPS navigation software is now stored on a hard drive, which can also be used to store about 13 gigabytes of music (auxiliary, USB, and iPod interfaces will also be included). The 7-series will also adopt the programmable memory keys seen on other BMWs that allow for one touch access to user-defined vehicle functions. BMW also notes that the steering controls can access more functions than before.

Not to be outdone by the central display, the 7's new instruments make use of what BMW calls Black Panel technology. We gather that this is similar to the instrument layout in the Mercedes-Benz S-class, though the 7-series has four permanent chrome rings bounding its virtual instruments.

On the dynamic side of things, the 750s receive a new suspension, as well as the normal raft of 7-series technologies like roll stabilization, stability control, and traction control. New for 2009 is BMW's Integral Active Steering, which adds speed-sensitive rear-wheel steering and is included with the Sport package. The new Driving Dynamics Control selector is located on the center console and allows drivers to select between Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes. Each setting has its own characteristics for suspension damping, throttle response, transmission shift points, power-steering assist level, and Dynamic Stability Control mode.

The safety technology ante has been upped with active cruise control that can now bring the car to a complete standstill, allowing it to be used in stop-and-go traffic. Other safety features include a lane departure warning, blind spot detection, a head-up display, automatic high beams, night vision (now with pedestrian detection), as well as side view and backup cameras. Side view cameras are mounted at the front corners and show the images in the control display when traveling at low speeds.

Always searching for the most advanced solution to a problem, BMW has solved a dilemma caused by the abundance of technology in the 7-series by including an electronic owner's manual accessible via, you guessed it, the iDrive interface. The included digital information includes animations and slide shows to explain vehicle functions, which could be much easier to understand than traditional printed pages. BMW's Integrated Owner's Manual is also vehicle-specific and therefore tailored to the exact options of the 7-series it is housed within. For quick reference, specific subjects can also be stored on the programmable memory keys, provided you can figure out how to store them.

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