BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
BMW 750Li review (2008 onwards)
Model: BMW 750Li
Bodystyle: 4-door executive saloon
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
What is it?
BMW's latest uber-saloon, and effectively flagship model of the BMW range - and is likely to stay there as well now that the ghastly state of the global economy has killed off the forthcoming coupe-saloon CS, previously scheduled to arrive in 2009. This new car seeks to capitalise on its hot-selling predecessor but deliver much better looks - and yet more very high technology.
Where does it fit?
BMW's 7 Series has long occupied the sweet spot at the sporty end of the large executive saloon market, sharing the space with Audi's A8. Also in the same market are the market-leading Mercedes S-Class, and Jaguar XJ. By offering it in either standard or long-wheel base guise, meaning that both company directors and chauffeurs are catered for.The more adventurous could also consider the stylish lines of the Maserati Quattroporte or the technological wizardry that comes with the Lexus LS460. The petrol unit that comes with this 7 Series is a rarity in a market dominated by powerful yet refined diesel engines.
Is it for you?
If you crave the smoothness of a powerful petrol engine -and ideally have somebody else buying your fuel for you -quite possibly. The car looks good - a massive improvement on its frankly ugly predecessor, perhaps the least successful of the 'flame-surfaced' design language that have marked all BMWs since 2001.As you might expect for a car that comes with such an extravagant £69,000 price tag, it comes loaded with kit - though you'll have to pay extra for much of it. It's a car designed to be driven, in contrast to some competitors which are more passenger focused.
What does it do well?
Looks good - and drives better. This new model brings rear-wheel steering for the first time which turns three-degrees in either direction to provide faster turn-in and works cleverly with the optional dynamic steering. The new V8 twin turbo petrol engine is a sweet engine which provides surging power that propels it to 62mph in just 5.2 seconds, as fast as the previous M3. Body control is very good indeed.Its 407hp engine has masses of torque too - 442 lb ft - 13% more than the Mercedes S500. Its interior is much better; BMW is finally moving away from its austerity minimalism - though still not as good as I would like. The new interface system is totally awesome. BMW has dumped that dark binnacle in favour of a glorious 10.2-inch widescreen with four-times more resolution than before.
And it really shows, the sat-nav now displaying topography so you can see hills, dales and valleys if you are so inclined - backed up by a 80GB hard disk that is a lot faster in operation than the old DVD-based system. You can use 12GB of this space to transfer your music collection into. The car also has the new joystick driven iDrive controller first seen in the re-skinned 3 Series which is a massive improvement on the old horrid silver knob.The Heads Up Display (HUD) - which beams your speed, your sat-nav directions and even the current speed limit onto the windscreen in front of you - is also great. But be warned, the speed limit indicator - which derives its data from a combination of 'reading' speed limit signs and its GPS memory - is not foolproof in my experience.
What doesn't it do well?
The compromise between drive and ride is imperfect. The car has four settings - Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus - which governs suspension and gear changes. Even Comfort doesn't cover the fact that this car - with its 18" wheels - is not as cosseting as you expect in this type of car - even with the self-levelling air suspension that is standard in all long wheelbase 7 Series'. The big thick wheels create a fair amount of noise as well. Paddle shifts have gone - BMW says that people didn't really use them; that may be true, but I certainly missed them.
What's it like to live with?
Better than the old one - but still not as £69-grand special as you might reasonably expect. The seats are nice enough - but is it really fair that once you have spent that much money on this car, BMW then expects you to pay another £3,500 on 'comfort seats' as fitted on our test car? And indeed that kit like the HUD, four-wheel steering, active steering and all the rest will cost you (a lot) more too?That said some of the kit is very clever - I especially liked the cameras on the front wings of the car that look out at a 90-degree angle to the car, which are very useful when coming out of blind turnings or when visibility is blocked by parked cars and so on - and for £290, they're a bargain too. The boot is large enough, and rear legroom on this stretched version is very healthy as well.
How green is it?
Not especially. It is a big petrol powered car, and that equals poor fuel economy and high CO2 output compared to diesel offerings. The general drawback of big petrol V8 engines is disappointing fuel economy, so with that in mind, it's no surprise the 750 returns an official combined fuel economy of 25mpg combined - if driven sensibly - with CO2 emissions of 266 g/km. It does however have 407 hp, so it's not too bad under the circumstances.
Would we buy it?
Jeremy Clarkson famously slammed this car's V12-powered predecessor - driven by James Bond back in 1997 - as the sort of car used by German cement executives to drive to sales meetings. If I was a cement executive in Germany - with access to all those lovely autobahns - I would seriously consider this car as there can be fewer more satisfying ways to blat between German cities at a steady 130mph.It is certainly edgy enough to do that day-in-day-out for years, and the comfort compromises won't cost in that type of driving. Unfortunately we do not have autobahns in this country, and we also have considerably more rotten road surfaces - which means that the performance will mostly go to waste (unless you want to lose your licence) and the ride problems will grate. I would go for a diesel version - and to be precise the yet-to-be-announced but sure to arrive twin-turbodiesel as featured on the 535d, 635d et al; that car will do most of what the 750i can do, but with 40% better economy.But what about the 750i when put up against rivals? It depends what you want. If you want comfort go for the Jaguar XJ or (very expensive) Mercedes, but this car edges out the Audi A8 at the sporty end of this market.
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