Driven: 2010 BMW 760Li

There exists no conceivable occasion for which the standard BMW 750Li's 400 hp is insufficient. With two turbochargers strapped on presumably just for fun, its V-8 produces so much grunt that only someone afflicted with a congenital cognitive defect would require more power.

Oh, but luxury isn't about meeting requirements - it's about stroking wants. And apparently, there are some 7-series customers whose wants can be stroked only by the unparalleled smoothness of a V-12-powered automobile. For those select few, there exists the 760Li, which is some $30,000 dearer than a comparably equipped V-8 model. Behind its enormous nostrils reside twelve pistons that dance in perfectly balanced, happy harmony - and two turbochargers to rile them to the tune of 535 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque.

The turbos are small, the injection direct, and the boost pressures moderate (11.6 psi), so the 6.0-liter V-12 can produce its peak torque output throughout almost its entire operating range. From a dead stop, the 275-mm summer-compound rear tires scramble for traction the entire way to 60 mph, a feat accomplished in 4.5 seconds, says BMW. In second gear.

That's right - not only does the 760Li have power to spare, it has an abundance of gears, too. Between the enormous engine and the abused rear tires lies a ZF automatic transmission with eight forward speeds - the most ever in a BMW. First gear is used only in Sport mode and at the risk of leaving behind a cloud of tire smoke. Eighth is superlong for relaxed cruising - the engine turns over at an almost inaudible 3600 rpm while oozing down the autobahn at its governed top speed of 155 mph. Allowed to run free, the 760Li could attain another 50 mph or so, and it's precisely these tremendous performance reserves that make the BMW flagship seem so relaxed even in the fastest traffic.

Double-glazed windows ensure that only a whisper of wind noise enters the cabin. Equipped as standard with almost every option available on lesser 7s, the 760Li is a rolling technology showcase whether you're up front or in the capacious rear seating area. Many of BMW's newest driver-assistance systems - blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear- and sideview cameras, high-beam assistant, and a head-up display - are included in the price of entry. Integral active steering (which varies the steering ratio in addition to using the rear wheels to steer the car) is also standard.

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