sponsored by Mercedes-Benz
sponsored by Mercedes-Benz USA
MIAMI, Fla. — BMW's new flagship sedan, the 760Li, comes to market with a entirely new and enormously powerful 6.0-liter V-12 engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and not one, but two sets of controls for its iDrive system, one for the front seat, and one for the rear seat. You see, this is BMW’s most often chauffeur-driven model, so the company had to provide a complete extra control system for the owner, who might be in the right or left rear seat.
On a roll?
On the heels of enormous sales success in this country in 2002, up more than 25 percent in a crazy market, BMW wants to continue the momentum with the Z4 roadster just introduced, the new X3 SUV based on the 3-Series, and at the top end of the market, this ultra-luxury 760Li (they changed the name from 760iL to be more consistent, they say).
2003 BMW 7-Series
With all this technology and more, the 6.0-liter V-12 develops 438 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque, 103 hp and 114 lb-ft more than the 4.4-liter V-8. This dynamo is coupled to a new Steptronic six-speed automatic transmission, smaller and lighter than the previous five-speed, with three modes, full manual control and steering-wheel-mounted upshift and downshift buttons, a combination that should make 0-60 mph times in about 5.5 seconds, pretty amazing for a 4900-pound limousine.
Interestingly, the BMW iDrive system works with the transmission and brakes, and can automatically apply the brakes whenever the car is stopped to avoid creeping, and automatically set the Park brake whenever the engine is switched off.
The chassis of this behemoth is as sophisticated as everything else, of course, with variable-ratio, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering, electronic damping control, active roll stabilization, rear air suspension, and huge 13.6-inch front and 13.7-inch rear disc brakes with ABS, dynamic brake control, and the world’s first electronically applied parking brake.
BMW has given the big car three tire and wheel package designs: new 19-inch wheels, with 245/45R-19 front and 275/45R-19 rear all-season tires; smaller 18-inch wheels with 245/50R-18 handling-biased tires all around; and a third option, run-flat 18-inch wheels and tires are optional, as is a tire pressure warning system. Other options include active cruise control, security glass, the rear cooling box, and rear seat side airbags.
Behind the velvet rope
2003 BMW 7-Series
Driving and being driven (by handsome young BMW chauffeurs imported from Munich) in the 760Li in South Beach Miami and south Florida was a unique experience. With all the time in the world in the back seat to work with the iDrive system, and our own adjustable 9-inch monitor screen, we could dial up TV, DVD, CD, or radio entertainment, with satellite navigation thrown in for good measure. Mostly, though, we just sat back, played with iDrive until we almost understood it, and enjoyed not having to drive in Miami traffic.
In the afternoon, after a spirited session driving on the race track at Miami Homestead Speedway, when it was our turn to drive on the road, we did what we normally do; we waited for a good, straight road, and we legged it as hard as we could for as long as we dared. In a trice, the luxurious ambience of the rear seat area and its optional cooling box for drinks and snacks gave way to the raw power and torque of what was under the hood. In near silence, the engine makes torque, power and rpm in huge quantities, and it is incredibly smooth and quiet.
The six-speed transmission (two overdrives) is a jewel, especially in manual mode, with shifter buttons on both front and back sides of the steering wheel for instant gratification. However, we did find some situations involving braking, downshifting, and then getting on the gas where the car didn’t quite know what to do next. A little electronic dithering can be forgiven, especially when it’s apparently just a software fix, but it did happen.
The same electronics that got befuddled occasionally in the powertrain never put a foot wrong, figuratively speaking, when it came to cornering hard, braking hard, and changing direction very abruptly. This is still a BMW, no matter how heavy or complex, and they all turn corners better than just about anything else out there.
2003 BMW 7-Series
Safe as houses
As for occupant safety, front driver and passenger smart airbags are standard, along with front side-impact airbags and dual front and rear side air curtains, and now knee airbags for front seat passengers, too. The fabulously comfortable and every-way adjustable heated seats have generous head restraints and front seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters, and the rear seats are likewise 14-way power adjustable, with heating, cooling and massage.
BMW expects to sell close to 2000 of its new 760Li sedan versions in the U.S. this year. As the unquestioned star of the BMW show, the new 760Li is one of those technological tours de force that we always talk about, absolutely dripping with electronic technology, graced with a wonderful interior design and a sporty flavor exuded by no other $116,495 luxury sedan, although the $107,000 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG supercharged V-8 and the $121,000 S600 twin–turbo V-12 are both extremely fast and luxurious machines.
2003 BMW 760Li
Base price: $116,495
Engine: 6.0-liter V-12, 438 hp/444 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height (inches): 203.5 x 74.9 x 58.7
Wheelbase: 123.2 in
Curb weight: 4872 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 12/16 mpg
Safety equipment: Driver and passenger front and side airbags, roof bags, knee bags, anti-lock braking, traction control, yaw control, active roll control, electronic brake force distribution, cornering brake control
Major standard equipment: front and rear iDrive, cruise control; automatic climate control; 20-way adjustable, heated front and rear seats; leather seat, headliner and dashboard surfaces, steering wheel shifting; power windows and sunshades; tilt/telescopic steering wheel; heated electrochromatic rearview mirrors; multiple-function car computer; navigation system, 13-speaker am/fm/CD Logic 7 stereo with subwoofer; 18-inch tires and wheels, alloy wheels, cross-drilled brakes
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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