2009 BMW 750i

Bye Bye Bangle Butt

You'd think that a preview of BMW's new luxury sedan would concentrate first and foremost on how the car drives. It is, after all, the Ultimate Driving Machine. If you can't stand the suspense, just skip ahead to the last page. Here's a teaser: we're pretty confident that the 7-series will be, dynamically, the best in its class. The last 7-series was pretty good in that regard. What the last-generation car needed badly, and what it got, was a makeover.

Personally, I consider the 2002 745i to be one of the homeliest sedans on the planet. The 2006 facelift did wonders for its face and for its sales numbers-according to BMW, it was the company's most successful facelift ever, in terms of additional sales generated-but the changes were a Band-Aid over a bullet wound.

The new car takes what was right about its predecessor-its stunning proportions-and rids it of the ugly details. No one will pull out cell-phone cameras when the new 7-series first rolls down your town's High Street-but they won't pull out sick bags, either. The first thing you notice is a startlingly large and vertical grille. The rest of the car, though, looks somehow familiar. The bull-nosed front end reminds us a little of the Lexus IS-F, and the exhaust diffusers (they're not exhaust tips) in the rear are vaguely like the ones in the Lexus LS. But the rest of the design isn't derivative.

The more you look at the 750i, the more details become apparent. In the photographs, the headlights look nondescript, if boring. But from straight on, when a 7-series is coming toward you, you'll notice the illuminated eyebrows, which instantly recall the stunning CS concept. The hood is devoid of ribs or detailing, save the wide power bulge that's typical of BMW. The sides of the 7-series are adorned with only two character lines-one very dramatic one that neatly incorporates the door handles, and another that flows gently from the chromed side-marker lights in the fender to the bottom of the doors. The roofline on the long-wheelbase 750Li differs from that of the short-wheelbase model to help eliminate the artificially stretched look that other cars suffer from (the long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ8, for example).

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