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SAFETY | 10 out of 10
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Sideview camera 'lets the driver view oncoming traffic when trying to enter a road from, say, an alley or garage exit'
Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front and rear side airbags, knee airbags, and curtain side airbags
Head-up display 'is easily legible'
The safety ratings for the 2011 BMW 7-Series we're awarding are fairly generous, considering the fact that neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported crash-test scores for the big sedan.
The reason? It wasn't tested in 2009 when it was brand-new either--but the mechanically related 2011 BMW 5-Series has been, and it's won top scores from the agencies.
The 7-Series' extreme helping of safety gear also earns our respect, along with the big score. Every 7-Series gets standard front, side, and side-curtain airbags; rear-seat side airbags; front-seat active head restraints; and knee airbags. Each copy also has standard anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. And BMW also fits a rearview camera, a front-view 180-degree camera, and parking sensors to assist drivers in keeping the 7-Series clear of parking-lot trouble.
The options offered on the luxury sedan will appeal to technophiles and safetyphobes, too. A Driver Assistance Package bundles together blind-spot detection, a lane-departure warning system (which vibrates the steering wheel when the car drifts from its lane) and automatic high-beam headlights.
Something we'd opt out of is the available head-up display. It's a nifty tech piece that projects navigation instructions, vehicle speeds and other functions into the driver's view, but it clutters up our view of the road ahead. The same goes for night vision, a principle we think is better left to the military from whence it came.
All-wheel-drive 7-Series sedans have standard hill descent control--in this case, not for amazing off-road traction, but for controlling the car on icy, messy roads.
The big safety agencies haven't scored the 2011 BMW 7-Series, but it gets our highest score from a wealth of standard safety gear, and a good track record for crash protection.