- Formal yet athletic appearance
- Strong powertrains
- Handles well for a large luxury car
- Back seat comfort better than a limo (iL)
- Many chances to upgrade
- Tech overload
- ActiveHybrid 7 should be smoother
- Interiors without upgrades feel stark
The 2014 BMW 7-Series is not just luxurious and comfortable, but exceptionally quick and technologically advanced.
The 7-Series has long been the flagship model for BMW, a roomy luxury sedan that's also where you'll find some of the most advanced technology in the world. Even though the 2014 BMW 7-Series builds on bones that are now more than five years old, last year's refresh, continued technology upgrades, and strong, efficient powertrains keep this trend-setter relevant—as well as one of our top high-end luxury sedan picks.
Last year, the 7-Series was given a modest makeover in front, and a sharpening of some of its details throughout. But it was inside where the change was more dramatic; new front seats, revised back-seat accommodations, and new trims were only part of it. What meant the most to longtime BMW fans, perhaps, was the all-new set of turbocharged V-8 engines, a revised ActiveHybrid7 model, and eight-speed automatic transmissions across the lineup. Additionally, iDrive got a major upgrade, and the 7-Series got a new generation of entertainment systems.
This year BMW has followed that up with some additional interior and feature upgrades, but the model is still standing well on last year's changes. The proportions of the current, fifth-generation 7-Series have always been right on the mark. There's a nice amount of wedge to the shape (always hard to achieve in a long flagship) of the 2014 7-Series, and a nice kick in its tail. And whether you go with the standard or long-wheelbase versions (where you get another 5.5 inches of rear-seat legroom), the look is just as dramatic. The cockpit is a win as well, as the design is straightforward--not chaotic and cluttered, as luxury cars can often be—with streamlined dash shapes and densely grained wood trim and ceramic-finished knobs.
There are five different powerplants offered in the 2014 BMW 7-Series—740i, 750i, 760i, Active Hybrid 7, and top-performance Alpina B7. All of these models include standard rear-wheel drive, although some offer all-wheel drive. While those who appreciate the 7-Series' sport-sedan pedigree will be able to parse out (and appreciate) the finer differences between these models, across the board you'll surely find that the 7-Series models accelerate swiftly, with amazing grip and more poise from a vehicle this size. These are for the most part surprisingly satisfying sedans for the driver, although comfort, luxury, and tech are at the top--and that also shows more for some models than others.
The 2014 BMW 740i and 740Li are the base models in the lineup; they come with a version of BMW's twin-turbo in-line six, making 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. These models are more than 200 pounds lighter than V-8 versions, so you might find handling more nimble and enjoyable as well. 750i and 750iL models step up to V-8 engines that were all-new last year. The twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque, and these models can charge to 60 mph in an automaker-cited 4.7 seconds. The 760Li might sound like one of the performance leaders of the group—and it is, with 537 hp from its twin-turbo V-12--but it's the portly one in the lineup. The true athlete here is the performance-focused Alpina B7, which has a special version of the V-8 underhood that makes 540 horsepower and 538 pound-feet. In addition to that, you get a suspension that's firmer than any of the other models can manage in Sport mode, as well as bigger brakes, and other enhancements. The 0-60 mph time is just 4.5 seconds here.
All versions get an air suspension, plus Driving Dynamics Control, a system that governs shock firmness, steering heft, transmission shifts, and throttle response--but allows drivers to twiddle with the settings to fit their habits. The only thing we're left wanting is steering feel that isn't so artificial.
With last year's refresh, the 7-Series got a thinner, more contoured design for the front seats—mostly without extendable thigh bolsters this time. While we still haven't had the chance to test these out on a long road trip and assure you they're as good as the seats they replaces, the 7-Series has quite a reputation for keeping trouble-prone backs well supported on the long haul. And we'll venture to say that the 7-Series remains one of the top picks for tall drivers. Last year's round of changes also brought redesigned back seats; and you can still choose from bench seats or, with the Luxury Rear Seating Package, individual bucket-style seats with integrated massage and ventilation functions. Ride quality isn't soft and pillowy, or at all bouncy; rather it's very well controlled, and about as firm as possible without compromising comfort.
The refresh last year also brought new ambient lighting, more sound insulation, and other small changes to the interior make it a more comfortable, engaging place to travel. We still haven't revisited the 7-Series since then, but we hope to soon update those with proper 2014-model-year impressions.
In the center of the dash is a new version of iDrive, which this year adds a touch-pad controller. With the new reconfigurable information display introduced last year, it's much better coordinating and intuitive--as well as better-looking. Attention Assist is standard across the lineup, and it monitors the driver's behavior and displays a coffee cup if it detects an unsafe level of fatigue. Also available on the 7-Series is Enhanced Active Cruise Control system with Stop & Go, which will bring the vehicle to a complete stop if the driver doesn't react to stopped traffic in time.
A revised version of BMW's iDrive interface is included in all 7-Series models. So is a new navigation system adds 3D elements to the display, thanks to a more powerful 1.3-GHz processor and a dedicated 3D graphics card, improving the overall speed of the system as well. And what makes this latest iDrive better is its revised menu system, revised navigation displays, and expanded voice control--including voice-to-text features and other voice editing tools.
An optional rear-seat entertainment package adds an iDrive controller and two 9.2-inch screens, cleverly "floated" behind the rear seats rather than integrated into them. And on the audio front, a new Bang & Olufsen Surround Sound system brings 16 speakers, active digital signal processing, and Dirac Dimensions technology.