You might almost be overwhelmed by the heady dose of electronics in every 2011 BMW 7-Series, but you'll also be coddled to the nth degree with appropriate and over-the-top luxury features in all versions, not just in the almost $150,000 760Li.
The feature that does the most, and takes the most heat, is iDrive. The wheel-driven infotainment controller has been massaged, reprogrammed and flanked by reinstated buttons over the years, and finally it seems to wade into the car's climate, audio, phone and telematics services with something approaching ease of use. We're still sold far more easily on the admittedly complex voice functions of something like Ford's MyTouch system, but iDrive's roller controller is no longer the sign of imminent doom it was in its first iteration, back in the early 2000s. You now can change AM radio stations hertz by hertz, for example. As it's improved, iDrive's also been augmented with new bookmark buttons and direct-function buttons that let you drill more rapidly in through its deep database. In the process, it's dialed back more physical controls into the cabin--while the original goal was to replace all of them with a single wheel.
Other features are more intuitive, and downright lush. Chief among them is BMW's voice-activated navigation system, which outputs its data on a wide, gorgeous 10.2-inch high-resolution display, and stores its maps on an 80GB hard drive. If you're tired of wading through iDrive, you can always Google a destination and send it to your car's GPS live from the Web.
We're always happy to listen to BMW's audio systems, which now have the firepower to match the best luxury vehicles on the planet. The head unit in the 7-Series will play DVD-etched music files, and also has built-in HD and satellite radio hardware. An iPod/iPhone media kit allows the car's controls to take over the functions of the Apple device. A rear-seat entertainment system is optional on V-8 cars, and standard on the most expensive 7ers.
The uppermost model, the 760Li, makes almost all of these features standard. Options remain, including night vision, massaging rear seats, adaptive cruise control, and a choice of wood trim.