It's no surprise that this limousine-sized BMW 750Li spent the last year serving as our favorite escort to formal events. It attended three weddings and a funeral, even acting as the matrimonial limo for one happy bride and groom. But those trips alone account for only part of the 38,739 miles this large barge gobbled up during the last four seasons - a far greater number of miles than we put on most sedans.
The proverbial odometer gears started spinning wildly when senior Web editor Phil Floraday picked up our cashmere silver metallic 750Li in California and drove it 2600 miles to Michigan. Two weeks later, editor-in-chief Jean Jennings racked up 3000 miles heading to Florida and back. Jennings obviously didn't get enough of the car, because she signed out the BMW again a week later, piloting it another 1800 miles around Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. By the time we'd spent two months together, our 750Li had covered more than 10,000 miles.
All of our big road trips - including two to Boston, a couple more to New York, and one each to Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia - ended with a staff member scribbling logbook praise for the 750Li's all-day comfort. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio covered 850 miles in one day and still felt fresh. Floraday drove 1000 miles straight in an apparent effort to induce fatigue but couldn't tire himself out.
Lest you think that the 750Li was a one-trick road-trip pony, though, it also became one of our favorite rides for the daily grind. Even New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman, a perennial fan of cars the size of undernourished subterranean insects, fell for the big Seven, noting that it "gradually evolved from being viewed as a ponderous novelty used only for long trips to become my own preferred vehicle for one-up trips into the city."
So what made the 7-series so appealing? First, the ride - which senior editor Joe Lorio likened to "a magic carpet." Production editor Jennifer Misaros agreed but added some additional insight: "Can you say jet-powered hovercraft? So smooth, so fast, so high-tech." Indeed, it's the combination of those three qualities that made the 750Li such a grand conveyance to travel in. And yet, there were complaints about both the "fast" and "high-tech" qualities right from the get-go.
First, let's talk about the Fast: No one thought the 750Li was a slouch - a fighter-jet pilot would be titillated by the thrust of the 400-hp twin-turbocharged V-8 under the hood. But the logbook is bursting with complaints about lazy, nonlinear throttle response from a stop - blame turbo lag. Pulling away smoothly requires more than the usual gradual pedal pressure: press and hold the accelerator in any one position, and you get a modest step-off followed by an explosion of acceleration once the turbos spool up. And should the road be slippery, there's the resultant, and rather inelegant, wheel spin. Ms. Misaros would like to extend her apologies to the guy behind her whose car she accidentally sprayed with wet gravel.
And now the High-Tech part. Our 7-series was loaded with $17,395 worth of options, most of which were electronic driver aids and gizmos - and the base 750Li isn't exactly a simple machine to begin with. Even though each of us had previously mastered the complex electronics in numerous luxury cars - including those in other BMWs - many drivers were intimidated by all the technology packed into this sedan. Those fears faded quickly as we learned how to use the Seven, and as a group, we came to a pretty clear consensus on which options we thought were worthwhile.
For example, everyone loved the sharp, bright, and multicolor head-up display. Ditto the satellite radio. The rear- and sideview cameras are also helpful, especially in a car this big, and once your cold hands have been treated to the barrage of BTUs that comes from a heated steering wheel, you'll swear you can't live without one ever again. The thudless latching of the soft-close automatic doors raises the luxury quotient more than expected - especially combined with the standard damped hinges that hold the doors open in whatever position you leave them. Comfort Access allows you to keep the key in your pocket - but it bothered us to no end that one push of the on/off button, as in other BMWs, doesn't turn the 750Li fully off. (The accessories switch off only after you've exited and locked the vehicle - or if you press the button again with your foot off the brake pedal. If you hit the button again with your foot on the brake pedal, the engine restarts.)
And then there were the features we didn't love. Technical editor Don Sherman said "no, thanks" to the active cruise control, which can't be operated in conventional mode, and he described the night vision as an "interesting toy." Most everyone agreed. And we probably wouldn't have thought any less of our 7-series if it didn't have lane-departure warning or active blind-spot detection, either. And no one was able to get the rear-seat video monitors to work, so we'd definitely skip that $2200 option.
One significant option we didn't order was integral active steering, which both varies the steering ratio and turns the rear wheels to enhance maneuverability. We're glad we didn't - quick reflexes help this long-wheelbase 7-series mask its gargantuan length well enough, and active steering kills much of the feedback coming from the unexpectedly communicative steering rack.
We heard very little from the 750Li's maintenance computer, though. It requested oil changes only twice in nearly 40,000 miles, both of which were covered by BMW's free scheduled-maintenance program. We did need to add quite a bit of oil between changes - five quarts in total - something that concerned a few staffers. Still, having to visit the dealer only every 20,000 miles was a luxury that outweighed the need to add a quart here or there.
We had one extra visit to the dealer because of an "engine malfunction" error message that occurred following an aborted passing maneuver. The rough running and reduced power that accompanied the warning went away after a roadside reboot, but the check-engine light didn't. An engine-computer reflash fixed the software glitch that caused all the drama in the first place. At the second oil change, the dealer also replaced a sticky rear window shade (at no charge) and replaced, for $24.97, a chrome trim piece that went missing.
We also got slammed with a $4977 repair bill at a body shop after an accidental meeting between our 750Li and the wall of a narrow parking structure. Although the damage was only cosmetic, our Seven was off the road for five weeks while, according to our body shop, replacement parts slowly cleared customs. Since the accident happened only three months after this 7-series went on sale in the States, we'll chalk up that long wait as the result of having an accident so soon after this body-style 7-series became available.
It's not like our Seven didn't earn the downtime - we certainly racked up enough miles in the ten and a half months we had use of it. And if that odometer reading doesn't speak for itself, then Jennings's final logbook entry perfectly sums up how we feel about the 750Li: "If you were one of the many people who walked away from the once Best Sedan in the World 7-series - that would be the pre-bustle butt and pre-iDrive E38-chassis 1995-2001 740iL - you can come home. All is better, and all is forgiven." What a romantic statement - sounds like someone's been attending a lot of weddings lately.
4-yr/50,000-mile scheduled maintenance
4-yr/unlimited-mile roadside assistance
19,366 mi: $0
37,995 mi: $0
19,366 mi: Replace wiper blades, replace bowden cables on outside front door handles
23,851 mi: Update engine programming to address check-engine light
37,995 mi: Replace right-rear sunshade
32,058 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance four Dunlop SP Winter Sport M3 tires, $996.80
37,995 mi: Replace chrome turn-signal cover on right front fender, $24.97
Five occasions: Add quart of motor oil, about $8 apiece
37,995 mi: Remove drive-belt guard bracket
EPA city/hwy/combined 14/21/17 mpg
Observed 20 mpg
Cost per mile
(Fuel, service, winter tires)
($1.15 including depreciation)
Prices & Equipment
Price as tested
ABS; traction and stability control; four-zone automatic climate control; power windows, mirrors, locks, sunroof, and heated front seats; leather upholstery; nav system with iDrive; Bluetooth; swiveling HID headlights; front, side, and side curtain air bags
Camera package (rear- and sideview), $750; convenience package (power trunk, keyless ignition, soft-close doors), $1700; driver assistance package (automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning), $1350; luxury seating package (heated steering wheel, power sunshades, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, active driver seat, ski bag), $2500; premium sound (iPod and USB adapter, premium hi-fi system, six-disc DVD changer), $2000; rear-seat entertainment, $2200; active cruise control, $2400; night vision, $2600; head-up display, $1300; satellite radio, $595
*Estimate based on info from intellichoice.com
Pros + Cons
+ Comfortable and quiet
+ Good fuel economy
+ Long service intervals
- Sluggish initial response
- Daunting technology
- Baffling DVD player
2009 BMW 750Li
|RATING||4.5 out of 5 stars|
|Body style||4-door sedan|
|Displacement||4.4 liters (268 cu in)|
|Horsepower||400 hp @ 5500 rpm|
|Torque||450 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm|
|Transmission type||6-speed automatic|
|Turning circle||41.7 ft|
|Suspension, front||Control arms, coil springs|
|Suspension, rear||Multilink, coil springs|
|Brakes f/r||Vented discs, ABS|
|Tires||Goodyear Eagle LS-2 RunOnFlat|
|Headroom f/r||40.8/38.9 in|
|Legroom f/r||41.3/44.3 in|
|Shoulder room f/r||59.2/57.6 in|
|L x W x H||205.3 x 74.9 x 58.3 in|
|Track f/r||63.4/65.0 in|
|Weight dist. f/r||51.7/48.3%|
|Cargo capacity||14.0 cu ft|
|Fuel capacity||21.7 gallons|
|Est. Fuel Range||430 miles|
|Fuel Grade||91 octane|
|Our Test Results|
|0–60 mph||5.3 sec|
|0–100 mph||11.8 sec|
|1/4–mile||13.8 sec @ 107 mph|
|30–70 mph passing||5.0 sec|
|Peak acceleration||0.68 g|
|Speed in gears||1) 40; 2) 67; 3) 103; 4) 137; 5) 155; 6) 130 mph|
|Cornering l/r||0.87/0.84 g|
|70–0 mph braking||174 ft|
|Peak braking||0.99 g|