A heavy but agile luxo-cruiser.
Luxury and agility meet in the BMW 7-series, a magic-carpet cruiser that also manages to be an extraordinarily capable performance car. Quibbles with the 7-series are few. Achieving a smooth takeoff from a stop can be difficult, owing to the 7’s electronic throttle mapping and the boost characteristics of its turbocharged engines. And operating the car’s many controls can be daunting, despite (or because of) the iDrive controller. What’s also daunting is choosing from the many iterations of BMW’s grandest sedan. There are five engines: a six, a six-cylinder hybrid, two V-8s, and a V-12. All but the hybrid can be had with all-wheel drive in addition to rear-wheel drive. There’s also the choice between the slightly more maneuverable standard-wheelbase car and the L version, whose 5.5-inch stretch makes for additional rear-seat legroom. To make it a bit easier, we’ll call out two of our favorites. The 740i (a relative bargain at $74,195) has a turbocharged in-line six that gets surprisingly good gas mileage yet can still whisk this car to 60 mph in as little as 5.8 seconds. Then there’s the Alpina B7, the sportiest model. It has a lower ride height, a firmer suspension, and 21-inch wheels. It’s amazingly fast and agile for such a big machine, but it’s incredibly comfortable as well. In that way, it’s the ultimate expression of the 7-series.
new for 2013
For 2013, all 7-series models save the V-12s get auto stop/start (in an effort to eke out a bit better mileage in the city), and the 740 and the 750 go from six-speed to eight-speed automatics. The ActiveHybrid 7, formerly our least favorite model, switches from a V-8 to a six-cylinder engine and chops its price, making it a somewhat more compelling proposition.
Front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; ABS; a tire-pressure monitor; a backup camera; adaptive xenon headlamps; and adaptive brake lights are standard. Lane-departure warning, blind-spot assist, and night vision are available. BMW Assist with automated crash response is standard.
An agile luxury sedan
A sybaritic experience
Wide variety of powertrains
Complexity of controls
Throttle tip-in not linear
Base Price Range: $74,195–$142,795
DRIVE: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
TRIM LEVELS: 740i, 740Li, 750i, 750Li, ActiveHybrid 7, Alpina B7 (SWB), Alpina B7 (LWB), 760Li
BODY STYLE: Sedan, 5-passenger
ENGINES: 3.0L turbo I-6, 315 hp, 330 lb-ft
3.0L turbo I-6/electric hybrid, 348 hp, 367 lb-ft
4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 443 hp, 479 lb-ft
4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 540 hp, 538 lb-ft
6.0L turbo V-12, 536 hp, 553 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: (SWB/LWB) 106.0/115.0 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: (ActiveHybrid/others) 13.0/14.0 cu ft