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The year 2009 brought the newest edition of the bigger Bimmer--and in this, its fifth turn around the block, the player from Munich neatly reverses the styling miscues applied under the old regime, which makes today's 7-Series one of the best-conceived big sedans Bavaria's ever brewed.
The awkward proportions and surfaces of the 2002-2008 model are gone, and performance is better than ever, too. The quintessential BMW driving feel remains intact, despite a horde of new electronic interventions and a big uptick in size. There's a version, practically, for anyone well-funded enough to lay down a minimum of $70,000 for a four-door sedan. The in-line six versions are sprightly enough; the twin-turbo V-8s are thrusty joys to drive. The V-12 may be overkill for anyone who can't afford one--and the new Hybrid, a first important step into new technology that could use some smoothing over.
Cavernous interior room comes with either the short-wheelbase 7er. Long-wheelbase cars have chauffeur-style room for front and rear-seat passengers. Safety ratings are still on hold, but other features overflow the order sheet--everything from DVD changers to night vision to custom wood and leather trim.
With a base price above $72,000 in the 740i, climbing to more than $135,000 for the 760Li, there's a vast gulf in the 7-Series lineup that leaves lots of wiggle room for the justifications and rationalizations you'll want to make. In that range, the 7-Series' competition includes the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS; Porsche Panamera; possibly even the Aston Martin Rapide, if you're willing to sacrifice a lot for beauty.
- An aesthetic high-five
- Startling power, even with six-cylinder versions
- Handling's pretty sharp for such a wide, long car
- That huge back seat
- Your choice of nine different models
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- The electronic gadgets can feel overwhelming
- BMW's iDrive system's getting better--but have you tried MyFord Touch?
- ActiveHybrid 7 has too much regen baked in at low speeds
- Is the V-12 worth it?