It’s amazing how a few visual tweaks can totally change the character of a vehicle. Whereas our Four Seasons 7-series is an old world Q-ship with its beige paint and smallish eighteen-inch wheels (yes, I just called eighteen-inch wheels “smallish” – welcome to 2010), this particular model looks like a taut four-door sports car. M-sport twenty-inch wheels visually shrink the body, while the gunmetal gray paint brings out the 7’s high-tech, modern side. I also prefer this model’s darker interior, as it again hides the car’s girth.
Otherwise, this 7 feels much like our beloved Four Seasons car. We might have appreciated this model’s all-wheel-drive a few weeks ago, but with the snow and ice all but gone, it was hard to detect any difference. I did notice a bit better feel of the road through the M-sport steering wheel, likely another benefit of those bigger wheels and accompanying low-profile tires. The 4.4-liter V-8 still feels a bit sluggish off the line but is more than capable once you’re rolling.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
A quick glance at the spec list indicates that, if you wanted to, you could load up this 7-series with another $15,700 worth of options, bumping its list price close to the $120,000 mark. Yow. Of course, once behind the wheel of this particular 750Li xDrive, you don’t exactly feel as if you’re lacking in amenities, what with iDrive, navigation, satellite radio, a heated steering wheel (great for cold early-spring weather), all-wheel drive, and the M sport package and wheel upgrade.
As with our Four Seasons 7-series, this is a very large car — to fit in my garage I have to pull it far enough forward that its nose is practically kissing the front wall. However, for all its size, you don’t feel like you’re piloting a barge when you drive it. That doesn’t mean that it feels small — this is, after all, a full-size luxury sedan — but instead of feeling bloated it feels athletic and capable.
It’s nice to see that the 7-series is finally available with all-wheel drive. Although our rear-wheel-drive Four Seasons 7-series performed pretty well in the snow this winter, its electronics were forced to work overtime in order the keep the nose pointed straight ahead. With all-wheel drive, the 7-series can now compete head to head with all-wheel-drive versions of the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
It’s amazing to me how many different ways buyers can order a 7-series and still come up with an identical price tag. Our Four Seasons 750Li was equipped with virtually every option, save for the deluxe rear seating, all-wheel-drive, and the M sport package. Total price? $103,420. This 750Li’s options are limited to the all-wheel-drive, premium audio package, cold weather package, and the M sport pack. Total price? Roughly a thousand dollars less than our example.
I think I have to tip my hat in favor of this example. Sure, it may not have the nifty rear- or side-view cameras, the privacy-instilling window screens, or other doodads — but if you’re really looking for something that’s fun to flog, you need to opt for the sport pack. The larger wheels don’t compromise ride quality all that much, but the handling does feel sharper and more refined than that of our Four Seasons car. BMW also seems to have considerably improved the throttle response — there’s still a bit of lag from the twin-turbo V-8, but tip-in no longer seems to be an all-or-nothing affair.
These tweaks — options or not — have me completely smitten for a car I previously was only impressed with. You can have it your way — but before you buy, give that sport package a serious try.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
For as many options that are missing on this 750Li xDrive, it really isn’t at a loss for it. If I were ever in the market for one of these vehicles, I imagine mine would be spec’d out similar to this. Sure, it doesn’t have night vision, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot helpers, or a rearview camera, but it doesn’t need it. Instead of relying on flashing lights and warnings, just use your properly adjusted mirrors; we all learned that once.
This 750Li xDrive example comes with more eye-catching styling and performance-oriented upgrades, which is a nice change of pace from our loaded-up Four-Seasons tester. The M Sport package comes with twenty-inch wheels, an aerodynamic kit, an M Sport steering wheel, and anthracite headliner trim; the exterior pieces, combined with the gray paint, really enhance the styling and bring the big, boring 7-series body back to life. And the larger wheels and 35-series Goodyear tires don’t compromise ride quality at all.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system works just fine, although it eliminates the joy of easily drifting the long-wheelbase vehicle around corners, but who really does that?
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
I agree with previous comments that this particular spec 7-series is just as compelling in its own way as our identically priced 2009 Four Seasons 750Li, which is loaded up with almost every imaginable luxury and safety feature. I much prefer this particular car’s baseball-mitt leather over black carpet and trim to our Four Seasons car’s all-cream interior, which has taken a beating, especially the carpet, over twelve hard months of use. Cream colors always look good in dealer showrooms, but they are never practical in real-world usage.
This morning, in the daylight, I took a look at the two cars side-by-side and noticed some subtle but discernible differences (see photos) by which one can tell the 750Li apart from the xDrive 750Li on the road. In addition to the most obvious difference, that being the xDrive’s gorgeous M Sport twenty-inch wheels, both the front and rear styling differs between the stock 7 and this M-Sport-package-equipped xDrive model. At the rear, the red corner driving lights are moved from the bottom edge of the bumper to the top edge on the M Sport car, which allows for a bigger strip of chrome trim. The rectangular exhaust pipes themselves are identical.
At the front, the grille’s twin kidneys are more deliberately outlined in chrome on the luxury-oriented base 750Li, whereas on the M Sport car, the chrome is more recessed. The M Sport grille has narrower openings between the vertical slats and has no horizontal pieces, whereas the base grille has wider openings and has an egg-crate appearance. The M Sport car has a much more aggressive air dam and big strips of chrome at the corners, which mirror those on the rear bumper. The xDrive car also gets a subtle “xDrive” badge on the front quarter panels.
As for performance, I noticed a discernible difference in the car’s seat-of-the-pants acceleration from stoplights last night on wet roads, thanks to additional traction offered by the inanely named xDrive all-wheel-drive system. And is it me or is the exhaust note just a bit more rorty than in the more luxury-oriented car?
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The biggest problem with $100,000 vehicles is that they don’t actually have any problems. Reviews turn into a license to split hairs and usually make the slightest difference between these über-sedans seem like the end of the world.
To keep things simple, I’ll remind you that the 7-series is an amazing vehicle that would be perfectly comfortable for crossing a continent even if you were permitted to stop only for food, fuel, and restroom breaks. However, I don’t feel special driving a 7-series in the same way I do while I’m behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz S-class or even the last-generation Jaguar XJ. In this class, the intangible feeling you experience behind the wheel counts much more than any of the very minor differences in power, acceleration, or optional features among the brands. For that reason, I just can’t walk away from a 7-series and say that I’m longing for another chance behind the wheel.
Perhaps my familiarity with the 7-series (thanks to our lovely Four Seasons test car) is the reason it doesn’t feel so special right now. A little time apart may just make my heart grow fonder, as the saying goes.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Even in my short time behind the wheel of the 750Li xDrive, the benefit of all-wheel drive was apparent. In our rear-wheel drive Four Season’s 750Li, I’ve accidentally squealed away from numerous stoplights. But even in standing water, this XDrive model produces seriously quick forward motion without attracting police attention. Plus, because the V-8’s turbo lag can make pulling away from a stop an all-or-nothing affair, sending power to all four wheels helps prevent its 450 lb-ft of torque from overwhelming the rear wheels.
Despite this, I’m still not enamored with the 7-series. Yes, it’s fast, luxurious, and packed with every option known to man, but when I’m behind the wheel I, like Phil, feel a bit empty. It doesn’t stir my emotions or make me feel like I’ve “arrived” the way a $100,000-plus luxury cruiser should.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
For luxoboat owners who live in snowy or very rainy climates, xDrive all-wheel drive would be a smart way to add $3000 to the cost of a BMW 7-Series. But as we’ve learned with our Four Seasons 750Li, the rear-wheel-drive car does pretty well in the snow when fitted with a set of good winter tires. And fuel economy with xDrive drops by 1 mpg on the highway: 14/20 mpg city/highway versus 14/21 mpg for the standard RWD edition.
The more fun (and costlier) difference between this test vehicle and our long-termer, as my colleagues have discussed, is the sport package. If you’re going to spend $6500 on the sport package, after spending more than $80K on a base 7-series, you’d be silly not to fork over another $1300 for those supercool ten-spoke, twenty-inch wheels. They truly look fantastic.
Still, I must wholeheartedly agree with Phil: although the 7-series is a perfectly lovely reward for those who love (and can afford) the finer things — it doesn’t leave me pining for my next chance behind the wheel, unlike the Mercedes S-class and the outgoing Jaguar XJ.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2010 BMW 750Li xDrive Sedan
Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $89,480
Price as tested: $102,130
4.4-liter 32-valve twin-turbocharged V-8
6-Speed automatic w/auto & manual shifts modes
ABS, DSC, brake fade compensation, start off assistant, brake drying, dynamic traction & brake control
xDrive all-wheel system
Double-wishbone front suspension; multi-link rear suspension
Park distance control, front and rear
iDrive system with on-board computer and controller and 8 programmable memory buttons
Navigation with voice activation & real-time traffic
High-fidelity sound system with HD radio
Front and rear head protection systems
Adaptive brake lights
Options on this vehicle:
Convenience Package – $1700
– Power trunklid
– Keyless entry
– Soft-close automatic doors
Cold Weather Package – $800
– Heated Steering Wheel
– Ski Bag
– Heated Rear Seats
M Sport Package – $6500
– Shadowline Exterior trim
– M steering wheel
– Aerodynamic Kit
– Anthracite Headliner
M Sport Wheel Upgrade – $1300
– 20-inch Wheels with performance tires
Premium Sound Package – $2000
– iPod/USB adapter/6-disc DVD Changer
– Premium Hi-fi system
Satellite Radio – $350
Key options not on vehicle:
Rear Entertainment Package – $2200
Luxury Rear Seating Package – $3700
BMW Individual Composition – $7700
Driver Assistance Package – $1350
Camera Package – $750
EPA Fuel economy:
14 / 20 / 16 mpg
Size: 4.4L twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 5500-6400 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 1800-4500 rpm
Curb weight: 4861 lb
20-inch aluminum wheels
275/35R20 Goodyear Excellence run-flat summer tires