The combination of a rich, luxurious interior; a smooth, powerful engine; and truly refined road manners make it hard to top a BMW 7-Series when it’s time to embark on a road trip, so I was more than happy to sign out the 750i xDrive for my journey to Michigan’s west coast for the weekend. Because the occasion was a high-school reunion, I plugged in my iPod and chose a classic rock playlist so that I could aurally transport myself to the late 1970s. Turns out, though, that was the only thing that reminded me of the ’70s, because the 7-series is a true twenty-first-century car packed full of state-of-the-art technology. Thirty years ago, it would have been hard to fathom a car like the modern 7-series. Of course, thirty years ago paying $100,000 for luxury BMW sedan would have been hard to fathom, too.
Our Four Seasons 750Li’s rear tires often had a hard time staying connected to wet road surfaces, especially from a stop, so, in my mind, adding all-wheel drive to any BMW 7-series is a no-brainer. And with a mere $3000 premium over the base 750i and a loss of only 1 mpg combined according to the EPA, there isn’t much of a downside.
Building an impeccable sport sedan or a flawless luxury flagship is nothing short of a herculean task for any automaker. Perhaps it’s all the more amazing, then, that BMW can build both within a single vehicle — the 7-series — without breaking a sweat.
The 750i can float and smoothly cruise like a genteel luxo-barge, but with the touch of a few buttons, it’s more than happy to be driven more aggressively. Although the twelve-cylinder 760i and 760Li represent the zenith of the 7-series, I see nothing wrong with the twin-turbo V-8 used in the 750i — at least not in short-wheelbase form. Once the turbos spool, this engine is more than happy to pull you, your companions, and your cargo to autobahn-friendly speeds.
BMW allows buyers to build a 7-series exactly to their tastes, and I’d lobby long and hard for springing for the $6500 M Sport package. So equipped, active roll stabilization helps the 7 handle like a much smaller vehicle, and the body kit, larger wheels, anthracite headliner, and thicker leather-wrapped steering wheel go a long way to dress the car up both inside and out.
On nice summer days like those we occasionally get in Michigan, it’s almost impossible to tell if a 7-series has an xDrive all-wheel-drive. Despite a 150-pound weight penalty versus the base rear-wheel-drive 750i, the driving experience of the xDrive-equipped car feels almost the same, which is to say, surprisingly sporty for such a large car. The fuel-economy penalty is a bit more noticeable, though, as xDrive makes for a fairly significant hit at the pump, with the EPA fuel-economy rating 1 mpg lower in the city and 2 mpg less on the highway (14/20 mpg city/highway versus the RWD car’s 15/22 mpg).
Still, even southern Michigan’s winters don’t really necessitate all-wheel-drive luxury cars like the 7-series or the 4Matic edition of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (winter tires and rear-wheel drive with stability control are usually sufficient). But in snowier climes, that extra edge can make the difference between getting there and not, particularly if “there” is up your steep driveway. By the way, this is the base xDrive 7-series, as the new six-cylinder 740i/Li will not be offered with all-wheel drive.
Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $87,175
Price as tested: $100,575
4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Dynamic stability control
Dynamic traction control
Dynamic brake control
xDrive all-wheel-drive system
Xenon adaptive headlights
Park distance control
High-fidelity sound system with HD radio
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
M Sport package — $6500
Premium sound package — $2000
iPod and USB adapter
Premium hi-fi system
6-disc CD changer
Convenience package — $1700
Power trunk lid
Soft close doors
Head-up display — $1300
Cold weather package — $800
Heated steering wheel
Heated rear seats
Camera package — $750
Satellite radio — $350
Key options not on vehicle:
Driver assistance package — $1300
Luxury seating package — $2000
Fuel economy: 14/20/16 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 4.4L twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 5500-6400 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 1750-4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Unladen weight: 4718 lb
Wheels/tires: 19 x 8.5-inch wheels front; 19 x 9.0-inch wheels rear;
245/45R19 front; 275/40R19 rear Goodyear Excellence performance tires