The current 7-series is in its third model year and spent four seasons in our fleet, and yet still elicits an, "Oh wow" from me every time I have an opportunity to drive it. There's an air of authenticity, exclusiveness, and taste to the biggest BMW that even very good competitors like the Porsche Panamera lack. The interior looks rich -- and smells like a baseball glove -- and feels spacious without hitting you over the head with its modernity or luxuriousness. Much as I love the cabins in the Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ, I can't help but wonder if the Bimmer will look more tasteful twenty years from now.
Your hands wrapped around the small-diameter steering wheel, the 7-series feels no bigger than the closely related 5-series. There are few cars -- let alone ones of this size -- that communicate so well with the driver. As Joe DeMatio notes, it really feels like you can flick it as you would a small roadster. The 7-series also reminds me why we constantly tout European suspension tuning as the gold standard -- excellent body control no tradeoff in ride quality, even when the nav system took me over some of Detroit's worst roads.
Speaking of which, why did the nav system take me over some of Detroit's worst roads? For some reason, its real-time traffic feature failed to recognize that my highway exit -- and several exits after that -- was closed for construction. It then took me through a series of progressively less effective detours that led me into to the deserted intersection of Scary-Neighborhood Street and I'm-Driving-a-$100,000-BMW Avenue.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Here's one reason to stick with the twin-turbocharged V-8 instead of that superb six that's now available: all-wheel-drive. Of the three engine choices available for BMW's flagship, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter eight-cylinder is the only one that's available with the company's xDrive driveline. We've survived harsh winters with a rear-wheel-drive 7 Series just fine, but xDrive offers ferocious grip in slippery conditions, and there will certainly be buyers in harsh climates who regularly need increased traction.
A sunny summer's day didn't exactly provide the best sort of weather to test xDrive's mettle, but it did illustrate one factor: by and large, it's largely inconspicuous. From behind the wheel, xDrive cars feel no heavier or slower than their rear-wheel-drive siblings. Apart from the $3000 price premium and slightly marginalized fuel economy, there's virtually no penalty for channeling some of the V-8's power to the front wheels.
Predictably, BMW packs quite a bit of technology into its most prestigious model line, and depending on how much you're willing to spend, you can add some pretty impressive gizmos to the mix. Like my colleagues, I was impressed with the optional active roll stabilization system, which kept the large car level and planted during hard driving. I also appreciated the nose-mounted side view cameras, especially when forced to nose my way out of a blind intersection. I'd add both to my dream 750Li xDrive, though that also means its price tag jumps by $2000 and $3500, respectively.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
I never got a chance to be a back-seat passenger and really stretch my legs out in this long-wheelbase 7-series, but the 750Lix isn't too shabby from the driver's seat, either. With 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque available, the V-8 in this 7-series is more than sufficient to help move about with alacrity. Despite its long wheelbase, this 7-series is sufficiently maneuverable in tight spaces, belieing its rather large footprint, and at speed, the body is well composed through fast corners. In this part of the world, all-wheel drive is a useful option, and although you could likely get through winter with rear-wheel drive and a good set of snow tires, there's nothing like all-wheel drive to give you that extra bit of traction on an especially slippery day.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor