The BMW 7 Series cars are some of the most dynamic and exhilarating large luxury sedans in the world. Completely redesigned for 2009, the fifth-generation 7 Series line expanded considerably for 2011. The 740i and 740Li were the first six-cylinder 7 Series cars since 1992. Also new for 2011 were the ActiveHybrid 750i and 750Li models, combining power with fuel economy. And for those who want even more performance, BMW teamed up with tuner Alpina to offer a new Alpina B7. All-wheel drive is available for stability and traction in wintry conditions.
After all that, changes are limited for 2012. All models now come with an iPod/USB adapter, sport steering wheel and rearview camera; while V8 models get upgraded audio systems and 19-inch wheels. Some option packages have changed.
The 2012 BMW 7 Series sedans comes in standard and long versions, the latter designated by an L in the numeric nomenclature. The BMW 740Li, 750Li and 760Li have a wheelbase that's 5.5 inches longer than that of the 740i and 750i. They're a little harder to parallel park, but they offer a ride that's even more luxurious and have considerably more rear-seat legroom. So the L models are the better choice for buyers who frequently put adults in the back seat. The long-wheelbase cars have their own roofline, and the silhouette is sleek.
Short or long, all BMW 7 Series models have presence wherever they go. The 7 Series body has no transparently gratuitous scoops or scallops, and the car's size and lines clearly say first class.
The 7 Series interior is classy and luxurious, like a richly appointed, roomy cocoon, protecting occupants from an ornery world. Just about every safety, comfort or convenience feature invented for the automobile is available on the 7 Series. Some of the controls and features are overly complicated, however.
Yet dynamic verve is what really distinguishes the BMW 7 Series: a combination of response, acceleration, smooth ride and sharp handling that few large sedans can match. Weight-efficient construction and innovative chassis technology contribute to the lively driving dynamics that many expect from a BMW.
The BMW 750i and 750Li feature a new-generation V8 engine, with direct fuel injection and twin turbocharging. This 4.4-liter V8 makes 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, awesome numbers for an engine its size, while using less fuel than its predecessor to get occupants around town. It's matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The BMW 760Li ups the ante with a 535-hp V12 and an 8-speed automatic. All 7 Series models come with BMW's Brake Energy Regeneration system, which captures energy lost as the car slows to charge the battery.
All-wheel drive adds all-weather capability to the 750xi and 750Lxi and, in our opinion, does so without ruining the sporty handling characteristics found in the rear-wheel-drive models.
The ActiveHybrid 750i and 750Li employ a mild hybrid powertrain with the same twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 from the 750i, an electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Total output is 455 horsepower and 515 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph arrives in just 4.7 seconds and fuel economy is improved by 15 percent. Fuel economy is good but not great at an EPA-rated 17 mpg City/24 Highway. That's close but not quite as good as the six-cylinder engine.
The Alpina B7 is likely the closest you'll get to an M7, which isn't offered. During our test drive, we found the Alpina B7 offers sharper handling than that of the superb standard models but it doesn't sacrifice overly in terms of ride quality. The Alpina B7 boasts 500 horsepower from its specially tuned, turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, and it rides on 21-inch wheels.
The 2012 BMW 740i ($71,000) and 740Li ($75,500) use BMW's turbocharged 315-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Li wheelbase is five and a half inches longer, translating to an equal increase in rear-seat legroom. All 7 Series models come loaded with standard equipment.
The 740i starts with leather upholstery; power tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; four-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; hard-drive-based navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic information and space for music storage; BMW Assist telematics service; power front seats with memory for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel; power windows and locks; power retractable auto-dimming side mirrors with tilt-down backup aid; remote keyless entry; sunroof; 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD stereo; auxiliary input jack; Bluetooth cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; rain-sensing wipers; automatic adaptive Xenon headlights; fog lights; theft-deterrent system; adjustable suspension; and P245/50R18 run-flat tires on alloy wheels. New for 2012 are an iPod/USB adapter, sport steering wheel and rear-view camera. The 740Li adds to that heated front seats, illuminated rear visor mirrors, and a load-leveling suspension.
The BMW 750i ($84,300), 750Li ($88,200), 750i xDrive ($87,300) and 750Li xDrive ($91,200) are powered by a 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8, again matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission. To the above, they add heated Multi-Contour 20-way power adjustable front bucket seats; keyless access and starting; and power closing doors and trunklid. For 2012, wheels and tires now upgrade to 245/45R19; and a 600-watt, 16-speaker stereo with 9-channel amplifier is now standard. The xDrive models come with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive.
The BMW 760Li ($137,300) gets V12 power and an 8-speed automatic with manual shift capability; plus Blind Spot Alert; Lane Departure Warning; heated steering wheel; rear-, top- and side-view camera; massaging and ventilated front seats; power adjustable heated and ventilated rear seats; 6CD changer; Sirius Satellite Radio; Head-Up Display; self-dimming headlights; Active Roll Stabilization suspension; Integral Active Steering; load-leveling rear air suspension; and P245/45R19 front and P275/40R19 rear tires.
The ActiveHybrid 750i ($97,000) and 750Li ($101,000) use the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 from the 750i mated with an electric motor and the 8-speed automatic transmission. For 2012, the ActiveHybrid is equipped more like the standard 750i/750iL. It still adds a trunk pass-through with ski sack.
The Alpina B7 is offered in short- or long-wheelbase versions with rear-wheel- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $122,600 to $129,500. Prepared by tuner Alpina, the B7 is essentially an M version of the 7. For performance, it adds a 500-horsepower version of the 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, Active Roll Stabilization, and P245/35R21 front and P285/30R21 rear tires. It also gets luxury amenities, including a massaging driver's seat, ventilated front seats, ski sack, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the Head-Up Display. The long-wheelbase version also gets a power rear sunshade, manual side sunshades, illuminated rear visor mirrors, and the load-leveling suspension.
Even with such a long list of standard equipment, the 7 Series models offer more options and packages than we have room to list. A few examples: An M Sport Package for six-cylinder ($4,500) or V8 ($3,200) models adds a black headliner, lift-reducing aerodynamic kit, Shadowline trim, and high-performance tires sized 245/45R19 front and 275/40R19 rear. The same package is also available ($5,800/$4,500) with 245/40 R20 front and 275/35R20 tires on 20-inch wheels. A Luxury Rear Seating Package for long-wheelbase models ($3,700) adds power heated, ventilated and massaging rear seats. A Driver Assistance Package ($3,500) comprises self-dimming headlights, Lane Departure Warning, Active Blind Spot Detection; Head-Up Display; and rear-, top- and side-view cameras. A massaging rear seat ($200) for the 760iL; dual-screen rear DVD entertainment with a 6-disc DVD changer; Active Roll Stabilization ($2,000); Integral Active Steering ($1,750); and infrared Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection ($2,600) are just a few of the stand-alones offered.
BMW's Advanced Safety System comes on all 7 Series models, including multi-stage front airbags with occupant sensors, front knee airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and front and rear side curtain head-protection airbags. Active safety features include Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Brake Control, featuring Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, Brake Assist, and Active Brake Lights. Also standard are front and rear park assist, a tire-pressure monitor, and active front head restraints. All-wheel drive is optional.