Money does not make you rich, experience does. Money allows for choices. Experience gives you the wisdom to make the right ones.
After driving the BMW 750Li for a week, I now have the experience to know it’s very desirable. Unfortunately the choice to buy it escapes me, at least for now. Always the optimist.
BMW badges don’t get tacked onto budget-priced rides and, starting at $71,025 (with destination mind you), the 7 Series isn’t tilting toward the Corolla crowd. The particular car sitting in my driveway that’s making my household look a lot more successful than it is stickers for $103,725. Few of us can afford a ride with power assisted door closure. Overall, this automobile would make me feel like a tycoon if it didn’t make me feel so poor.
What experience teaches
It’s good to specialize, but it’s important to be well rounded. That describes the 750. Being a BMW, buyers specifically demand top notch chassis dynamics. It delivers, but not to a spine-jarring fault. It embraces corners, telling a driver what the tires are doing, all while protecting the passengers from harshness. It’s as comfortable in the curves as it is at the country club.
The 7 is so athletic and compelling in the curves, the chauffeur will fear for his job. For the captain of industry who thinks the “triple Teflon coated” feel of a Mercedes S-Class or Lexus LS is too detached, the BMW offers up control with its coddling nature. And what CEO doesn’t like control?
At 70 MPH, it’s not library quiet in the 750, but the sounds heard are the kinds allowed to pass through the velvet rope, if you catch my drift. The V8 sounds rich and lovely when the pedal hits the thick carpet. Drinking premium gasoline, EPA rates fuel consumption at 15 city, 22 highway, explaining the $1,300 gas guzzler tax. Huge disc brakes haul this machine to a standstill right now.
If money is really about choices, the 7 Series offers plenty of them. The 750 is the mid-powered model with a 4.4-liter 400 horsepower V8 with twin turbos (or TwinPower as BMW and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen call it). Its deep throaty sound is satisfying. An X-Drive badge tells the neighbors you’ve opted for the security of all-wheel drive handling (rear drive is standard). Finally, the L means it’s five and a half inches longer than a standard 7.
Drop down a notch to the 740 and the 3.0-liter engine is a 315 HP twin turbo inline-6. X-Drive and the L wheelbase can still be had. Surprisingly, the most powerful version is the ActiveHybrid version with 440 horsepower but 15 percent better fuel economy. Sorry, only rear drive here. ActiveHybrid 7 starts at around 102 grand and can easily pass the 120 mark. Rumor has it, it can hit 0-to-60 in around four and a half seconds as opposed to the five second make I’m experiencing. Top speed is electronically governed to 150 MPH in all models. Just so you know.
Goodbye Bangle Butt, hello elegance
The exterior design of the new 7-Series is unmistakably BMW, but less imposing than the outgoing model. As a whole, the lines are more elegant and egalitarian this time around. The controversial but often copied rump penned by Chris Bangle is gone and the greenhouse appears to have more glass.
The 6-speed transmission selector with its joystick operation takes time getting used to. The cabin space doesn’t. Without question, it’s the most luxurious cabin BMW has ever produced. Rich to the eye, smells and feels good, too. The instrument panel is swaddled in cut and sewn leather, the wood clearly from real trees. Open the doors and the reach the end of their travel with a dampened grace.
No matter what your size, the front chairs can cradle perfectly. Too bad they’re not cooled at this price though. Interior door pulls are integrated into the wood trim and, because of their high mount, they’re curiously hard to get used to. With time, I could learn.
In the past, poor and wealthy alike have complained about BMWs user interface called iDrive. Users no longer need an advanced engineering degree from MIT to operate it. A knob that gets turned, pushed and nudged is flanked by dedicated buttons to navigate virtual layers on a crisp wide screen. Not perfect but on par with Audi and Mercedes now. Oddly enough, a rear view camera is optional, and not on this car.
Using iDrive and console mounted buttons the suspension and throttle response can be tuned to your liking (part of the $6,500 M Sport Package). My tester doesn’t have an owner’s manual in the glove box, access it on screen by iDrive. In fact, the only thing this system can’t do is make smoothies (but it can direct you to a Jamba juice, if needed).
Where the letter L lives
To describe the back seat as spacious is like saying Warren Buffett has good credit. String up a net back here and there’s practically room to play tennis. Sitting in the front seat with my legs extended straight out leaves plenty of room for passengers in back. Space is generous enough that BMW provides foot rests. Dual-zone climate control and heated seats in the rear gives the 7 more temperate zones than Kansas. The seat back does not drop forward to expand cargo.
Segue to the TP test. This is not a small car so you’d expect the trunk to be large. Nope. It is very nicely trimmed with storage cubbies and good grade carpet but gooseneck hinge arms and undulations hurt it. Ultimately, at a capacity of 6 packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue, it holds just one more bundle than a 3-Series.
Most buyers will forgive that for the supremely luxurious experience the 7 offers up to both driver and passenger. Yes, it’s easy to dismiss the 750 Li for its cost. $100K should deliver an exceptional product. But here, it’s possible to spend twice that price and get little or no more performance and luxury. Smart buyers will test the handful of cars that reside in this exclusive club. The pampered who want to actually experience the act of driving will gravitate toward the BMW. Because, experience is what makes you rich.