New Cars

2016 BMW 750i xDrive review


Bimmer’s new flagship gets mobility interface fob instead of keys

There is a LOT going on in this big Bimmer, and after two days and several quick trips through the owner’s manual, I still have no idea how to use most of its capabilities. It’s all the gingerbread that requires research, though — the basic “get in, start the car, put it in gear” process is still nice and intuitive, and if all you want to do is get to your destination with the seat heaters on and your favorite satellite radio station playing, you’ll have no problem.

That does a huge disservice to the 750i, though, and all those poor Germans who obviously stayed up countless nights trying to come up with new things you might want to do with a long-wheelbase luxury sedan. Things like conjuring LED lighting in the dual-panel moonroof, perfume spritzers in the HVAC (OK, so Mercedes thought of it, but blame BMW for making it price-of-entry for the segment now) and developing a key fob with more functions than a first-gen iPhone.

Seriously. The key fob has touchscreen menus and is charged wirelessly in the center console.

A bit of the old “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” creeping in? Not really. In this supersedan market, manufacturers kind of have to be perceived as bleeding edge, so it comes with the territory. You’ll pay $130,000 for a bunch of stuff you’ll never use, and you’ll be happy about it. Your phone, laptop and flat-screen TV are the same way, albeit at different price points. Moving on …

As a former Prelude 4WS owner, I love the feel of whipping a car into a parking space in a ridiculously tight arc. In the Honda it was entertaining; in the massive, 2.5-ton 750i it feels like you’re bending some kind of geometric constant. As with the Prelude, though, all-wheel steering is a mixed bag, helping in many situations but producing an artificial pendulum feel in others; it’ll be interesting to see how 7-Series buyers respond to a fundamental change in big-sedan driving dynamics.

They’ll be fine with the rest, though: Press sport, grab the thick wheel and put some weight on the right pedal and all that’s good about German autobahnivores asserts itself. The experience is only available in a handful of cars, many of which cost significantly more than the 750’s $130K; given the level of technology and comfort this also car contains, could it possibly be considered a value?

The market will answer that question for us, so stay tuned.


What is it? It’s the new 2016 BMW 740i and 750i; collectively the 7-series, the company’s flagship luxury sedan is now in its sixth generation. BMW says the new car sets …


When I drove the new 7-Series on the long lede, I thought it was quite extraordinary. No matter the speed, it offered quick steering, a lightness to the handling and impressive body control — it drove much smaller than it actually is, in other words. Now that I’ve driven it again, I like it even more. The lower center of gravity, weight savings (unsprung weight is down 15 percent) and new chassis and suspension (air suspension combined with a double wishbone front and five-link rear) join optional active steering (turning the rear wheels in the same or opposite direction as the fronts depending on speed) to help the car feel more maneuverable around town and composed at highway speeds.

The ride and body control are excellent in all modes — the thing arcs through corners and thunders down straights like a smaller car. The big fella just glides over road imperfections and the like, too. In short, it simply has more vim and vigor than a 7 ever had. Throw in near-zero road noise, and the danger is you’re going quite a bit faster than you think.

The new interior design is more evolution than revolution, so it’s still driver-focused, but fit and finish and material quality are way up. BMW design boss Karim Habib told me that the interior is probably the car’s biggest step forward. I believe it. The instrument cluster is configurable, altering the graphics and color scheme depending on drive mode (eco pro, comfort and sport). Major buttons and knobs are now chrome, and there’s a choice of aluminum or wood trim.

As Stoy says, punch up sport mode and mash the gas pedal and hang on baby! It’s like having your own jet. All the good stuff we’ve grown to love — and expect — from BMW is here. Stoy’s point that such an experience is only available in a few cars and most of them cost a lot more than a buck thirty is on the money. Yes, I consider this thing a bargain …

Do luxury sedan customers want to actually have fun behind the wheel? There are other choices if not; but if the answer is yes, then this is their car. Drive to Big Sur this afternoon? Yes please.

Shiny new car tech often takes a beating from consumers (Ford’s Sync and Cadillac’s CUE come to mind) and I never really got it. These systems always seemed work well for me, and it only takes a few hours of driving to commit even the more complicated operations to memory, right?

That’s not how it happens, though. When technology, whether it’s a new interface or semi-autonomous driver-assist tech, works seamlessly, it’s wizardry. When it doesn’t work, it’s downright infuriating. And in the quest to out-tech the new S-Class, and maybe even the Tesla Model S, BMW has created innumerable opportunities for infuriation.

For one, there’s that key fob. What the hell? It’s like a focus group decided that the “key” could be reconceived as a “mobility interface device” or something. Why? Well, why not?

Couldn’t figure out how to remote-start the damn thing, but good to know that I can check my oil remotely, I guess.

Then there are the parking sensors/cameras. Combined with the tight steering, they worked well — at first. Tucking a massive sedan into a tiny parking space, and then knowing at a glance if I’d have enough space to open any of the four doors? Great! Negotiating down my narrow driveway with confidence was wonderful, too; it’s truly amazing what engineers can do with cameras and software these days.

Then it snowed, which still happens from time to time in some parts of the world. A thick layer of ice built up on the front of the car during my morning commute … and everything went to hell. Every time I slowed to a stop, park assist mode would activate. The center console screen switched to a view of the road ahead. And it would beep. And beep. I couldn’t figure out how to disable it; at every new stop, it would reactivate and beep some more. (Apparently, the car thought the snow and ice was a wall. But sure, autonomous cars are just around the corner.)

I could have pulled over to the side of the road to scrape off the ice, or cracked open the owner’s manual to figure out how to disable the parking system permanently. That’s what a reasonable person would have done, maybe.

Instead, I raged at what’s otherwise a really nice luxury cruiser because some of its much-hyped technology hit a speedbump; not even the perfume dispenser could calm me down. Is this a fair assessment? No, but it’s probably how the average driver will react.

This might be the perfect grand cruising ocean liner juggernaut of all luxury cars, and not just for its techno-wallop. I’ve had it for almost a week and I still find myself seeking out rain gutters to attack just to feel how composed the air bag suspension and Dynamic Damper Control are when wafting over them. There is such complete control of the mass of this land-lubbing mega-yacht that it feels heavier than its 4745-pound curb weight just by sheer power of the kinetic energy you feel as you fussilade down the highway.

In normal driving with a full compliment of crew (four, although five have fit)) the 750i xDrive rules supreme over the freeway ferrets of greater Los Angeles. You are insulated from the noise and idiocy that surrounds you as if carried on the tiny-but-efficient wings of little German engineering angels everywhere you go.

And technology? This thing is like the International Space Station. I would love to see the dealer training that goes on for this rig. So much technology. I tried out the gesture control and found it worked about one out of every ten times that I made the gesture, which caused me to add another gesture, if you know what I mean. That interior lighting? I tried every different color before settling on light blue. They didn’t want to leave that fancy smart phone key fob thingy in my test unit because if you leave it in the car then anyone can drive away with it (duh), so I can’t tell you more about that. But the more you explore the submenus here the more features you discover. I wonder how many 750i buyers will just figure out the radio settings (which are too complex, btw) and forget about the rest.

I first drove a 7-Series when I lived in Germany in the 1980s. I remember taking all the chaperones to the General H.H. Arnold High School prom in Weisbaden in a second-gen E32 735i, wearing a tuxedo I’d scavenged from flea markets across Europe. Now that was class. The 7-Series was impressive then and it’s impressive now – a satisfying blend of luxury that maintains enough performance to satisfy a driver who finds an occasional apex here and there. Given the choice between this and the Mercedes equivalent – an S-Class – I’d take the Bimmer every time. Not that I’m likely to be in the market for a car that stickers at $98,395, but if you are, you have my recommendation.


Options: Executive lounge seating including rear lounge seating, rear ventilated seats, rear comfort seats, reclining seat and footrest, executive lounge rear console, rear massaging seats and rear-seat entertainment ($5,750); Autobahn package including integral active steering and active comfort drive with preview ($4,100); luxury seating package with cold weather including heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and armrest ($3,900); Bowers and Wilkins sound system ($3,400); executive package including power side window shades, front ventilated seats, instrument panel with leather, front massaging seats and ceramic controls ($3,200); NightVision with pedestrian detection ($2,300); driver assistance plus including active driving assistance plus, surround view with 3-D view and parking assistant with active park distance control ($1,900); interior design package including wood trim grab handle, wood rear seat belt cover, wood trim for rear armrest, luxury rear floor mats and Alcantara headliner coordinate ($1,800); panoramic sky lounge LED roof ($900); 20-inch light allot wheels ($1,300); ambient air package ($350); alarm system ($250)


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