Changes to the 7 Series are concentrated in the fast-moving realm of connectivity. All 7 Series models now have enhanced USB and Bluetooth smartphone integration, as well as BMW Assist eCall, BMW TeleServices, BMW Online, advanced real-time traffic info, remote services, and BMW apps. The iDrive rotary controller now includes a touch pad, where one can enter letters and numbers (such as for a navigation address) by drawing them with a finger -- a feature seen first on Audis. The executive package, for 740i and 750i models, has revised content, and some of the other packages have been renamed...
BMW's big Alps cruiser, the 7 Series, competes against the other German -- and British, and Japanese -- heavyweight luxury sedans. A plethora of configurations slice this rarefied market segment into very small slivers, as buyers can choose six-cylinder, V-8, more powerful V-8, or hybrid powerplants; rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; and standard or long wheelbase.
The BMW 7 Series sits at the top of the brand's sedan hierarchy. This is a big machine, whether you choose the slightly more maneuverable standard-wheelbase car or the roomier long-wheelbase variant. The latter has an additional 5.5 inches between the axles, and most of that stretch goes directly toward increasing rear-seat legroom, which is truly generous. The ultra-expensive, twelve-cylinder 760Li is long-wheelbase only, but the six-cylinder 740i and the V-8 750i come both ways. The 7 Series combines a magic-carpet ride with impressive agility, although drivers can fine-tune the car's chassis and drivetrain characteristics via BMW's driving dynamics control, which offers a choice of comfort, sport, and sport-plus settings.
Of the many powertrain offerings, the six-cylinder 740i stands out for its excellent fuel economy (19/29 mpg) and modest (for this class) entry price. It's also available with xDrive all-wheel drive, but only in the long-wheelbase 740Li. The turbo V-8 in the 750i brings another 130 hp to the party, and this model is available with xDrive in either wheelbase length. We're less enthused about the Active Hybrid 7, which barely beats the fuel economy of the 740i but is more powerful and a lot more expensive. Tellingly, BMW offers this model in only one configuration: long-wheelbase and rear-wheel drive.
Critiques? We have a few. Although not many people would quibble with the straight-line performance from any of the 7's creamy powertrains, it can take some concentration to achieve a smooth takeoff in stop-and-go driving due to BMW's aggressively calibrated throttle and the turbocharged engines' power delivery. Also, for all their brawn, most members of the 7 Series family drive more like limousines than sport sedans, which is kind of disappointing for any BMW. The notable exception here is the Alpina B7. The Alpina B7 serves as sort-of a stand-in for the missing M7, and it has a distinct character within the 7 Series family. Its high-strung V-8 is tweaked to produce 540 hp, and the steering and suspension are calibrated to create a big car that steps lively. Available with rear- or all-wheel drive in both standard- or long-wheelbase form, the Alpina B7 is our favorite iteration of the 7 Series.
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