2006 BMW 7 Series review
Superb driving dynamics, world-class drivetrains, highly advanced safety systems, dizzying array of features, sumptuous furnishings.
High-tech toys distract from the task at hand, confusing secondary controls, odd styling details.
What's New for 2006
With the 2006 BMW 7 Series, the company has toned down the car's styling and shifted the emphasis back to performance. After a five-year absence, the 750 badge is back for 2006, but this time it carries a big V8, not a V12. A 4.8-liter V8 replaces last year's 4.4-liter and provides a generous increase in power. The 745 model is history. Walnut wood trim replaces last year's cherry; Bluetooth is now standard; all interior knobs have chrome trim and the CD changer is now MP3-compatible.
As BMW's flagship sedan, the 7 Series offers supreme levels of luxury and performance. The 7 Series is available in four models -- the regular-wheelbase 750i and 760i, and the long-wheelbase 750Li and 760Li. Powering each 750 model is a 4.8-liter V8 with bi-VANOS dual variable valve timing, Valvetronic technology that infinitely adjusts valve lift and a two-stage intake system that matches intake manifold length to engine speed. Thusly equipped, this V8 makes 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. The 760 models sport a 6.0-liter V12 with 438 hp and 444 lb-ft of torque. Abundant power for sure, but still far below what Mercedes-Benz offers in its most powerful sedans. Still, the 760 is the greater technological marvel, as it employs direct gasoline-injection technology, which along with Valvetronic and Double VANOS, allows it to maximize power, torque and fuel economy simultaneously. Once you step up to the super-luxury sedan segment, you expect prospective cars to amaze you with their fabulous levels of luxury and safety, and the 7 Series does not disappoint in these areas: The front seats offer up to 20-way power adjustments and the rear seats give you 14-way adjustment. And you can heat or cool just about any surface inside the car. This BMW also offers a high level of competence when pushed hard on twisty roads -- something that can't be said of most of its competitors. The most important innovation contained in the 7 is also the one that gives us the most pause: the iDrive system. While able to manage a lot of functions -- onboard telematics, including GPS navigation, Internet access and the BMW Assist system (for emergencies), as well as climate and stereo functions -- iDrive has a steep learning curve. Basic adjustments can be made rather easily, but more complex functions require time with the owner's manual and patience to learn -- and we know of more than one driver who has accidentally drifted out of his lane while fiddling with the system. If you're wealthy, love technology like this (and don't mind the frustration that comes with it) and have always wanted to own a large, luxurious sedan, the 7 Series is likely the car for you. But if you seek a more straightforward experience, one of its many competitors may prove to be a more rewarding daily driver.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
Four versions of the 7 Series sedan are offered: the standard-wheelbase 750i and 760i, and the long-wheelbase 750Li and 760Li. Standard fare on the 750i includes 18-inch wheels, bi-HID headlights, park distance control, adaptive headlights, leather upholstery, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, walnut wood interior trim, a 14-way power driver seat and 12-way front-passenger seat, a navigation system, a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, dual-zone climate control, one-touch windows and a moonroof. The 750Li adds 20-way adjustable front seats and dynamic front headrests (both optional on the 750i). Both cars are eligible for a long list of options -- the only difference is that the 750Li can be had with power rear seats to complement the extra legroom in the back. Otherwise, options include 19-inch wheels, Active Cruise Control, an adaptive ride package with a self-leveling rear suspension and Electronic Damping Control, "soft-close" doors and trunk lid, heating and cooling for the front seats and a premium sound system with an in-dash CD changer. Almost all of the above items come standard on the 760i and 760Li. A rear DVD entertainment package is also available, and features a rear-seat iDrive controller and screen, along with a trunk-mounted six-disc DVD changer.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 750i and 750Li are powered by a 4.8-liter V8 with 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque, along with impressive mileage ratings of 18 city/26 highway. The 760i and 760Li offer a 6.0-liter V12 with direct-injection technology -- the first V12 production engine to use this. Mileage numbers are lower than the 750i at 15 city/22 highway, but power is impressive at 438 hp and 444 lb-ft of torque.
Included on every model are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with proportioning, cornering and stability enhancements, BMW's Dynamic Stability Control system, front side-impact airbags, head protection airbags for front and rear occupants, and active knee protection.
Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the cabin has a clean appearance, thanks to the minimal center stack controls. The iDrive system was designed to consolidate the vehicle's control systems into one easy-to-use interface, but even with this year's usability upgrades, the learning curve is steep. Backseat passengers will be just as comfortable as those in front, as the rear seatback contours perfectly to support your lower back and shoulders, while headroom and legroom are abundant. Go for the 750Li or 760Li and you'll get 5.6 inches of increased wheelbase, most of it going into rear-seat legroom.
Even at high speeds, the 7 Series cabin is devoid of engine and wind noise. Steering feel is typical BMW with relatively high weighting and excellent feedback. Body roll is held in check during cornering via the standard Active Roll Stabilization system. While it may be a stretch to call such a large car nimble, it's easy to confuse for a sport sedan on the open road.
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