MARBELLA, SPAIN Criticized from the outset for its eccentric styling and quirky electronics, the current BMW 7-series is taking a step back toward normalcy with a mid-cycle freshening.
The 2006 7-series gets an updated bored and stroked 4.8-liter V-8-a stroked version of the previous model's 4.4-liter V-8-which puts out an additional 35 hp and 30 more lb-ft of torque and gives the car its new name, albeit again overstated. The impressive power of our Four Seasons 745Li (January 2005) kept us ahead of traffic just fine, but we'll endorse a power upgrade any day-especially when it doesn't hinder fuel economy. On the road, the refined engine makes passing more swift.
Suspension enhancements are highlighted by a rear track increase of 0.6 inch, giving the nimble big car a slight handling edge in the twisties over earlier fourth-generation 7-series examples.
The iDrive control system returns but in a revised form that makes it clearer and less aggravating. The climate and entertainment sections, previously virtuoso confusers, received the most content changes, though operators still will need to scrutinize the owner's manual more than once to master the system.
Styling tweaks, most notably to the front and rear ends, make for a cleaner-looking ship that now stands out for the right reasons.
All of these changes apply to the long-wheelbase models, too, which account for more than half of all big-Bimmer sales. For what is already the best-selling 7-series on record, these revisions help diminish the car's minuses and strengthen its position in the luxobarge segment before next year's release of the new Mercedes-Benz S-class.
Price: $70,500 (base, est.)
Engine: 4.8L DOHC V-8, 360hp, 360 lb-ft