2009 BMW 750Li - The Subtle Seven

Daniel Byrne

Whether it was the face-lift or China's growing demand for premium large cars that was actually responsible for the E65's record sales, one thing is for sure: the 2009 750Li marks a return to a conservatively styled 7-series. The new 7 probably will never win any beauty pageants-at least not without a nose job to reduce those enormous nostrils-but it's not likely to invite the vehement criticism that the last one did. The styling is disappointing to those who expected BMW's new flagship sedan to look like the gorgeous, swoopy Concept CS that generated gasps at the 2007 Shanghai auto show. Worry not, CS fans-the 7's superconservative styling serves as a hint that a production CS is coming. In the meantime, let us say good-bye to the Bangle Butt and welcome back the handsome and understated 7-series.

Beginning this March, you'll have your choice of two 7s-the 750i and the long-wheelbase 750Li. Both cars, internally designated F01 and F02, respectively, are about an inch and a half longer and 80 pounds heavier than last year's 750i and 750Li. Although the numbers on the badge haven't changed, the V-8 under the hood has. Replacing last year's 360-hp, 4.8-liter V-8 is the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged and direct-injected V-8 first seen in the X6. The force-fed V-8 produces 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, making the 2009 750Li significantly more powerful than the 2008 750Li-and quicker than even the 6.0-liter, V-12-powered 760Li, which now has been dropped.

According to BMW, the 750Li is only 0.5 second behind the screaming M3 in the sprint to 60 mph. In contrast to the raucous M3, however, the 7 pulls as smoothly as a Gulfstream V from standstill to top speed. Its coddled passengers will feel nothing so undignified as a vibration or a shudder, much less a clumsy shift from the sublimely supple, six-speed ZF automatic transmission. And although the engine is strong and hushed even at speeds nearing its 6800-rpm redline, the 750Li is most spectacular when flexing its muscles in the midrange, where two silent turbochargers endow the V-8 with Herculean torque. Apart from slight turbo lag off idle, which makes the V-8's power occasionally difficult to meter, neither the driver nor the 750Li's passengers will be aware of the dual turbos under the hood.

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