In 2009, the BMW 7-Series went from being one of our least-favorite luxury sedans to one of our most coveted. It came in from the cold of the previous generation, when BMW gave itself the misguided mission of making the 7-Series a more abstract expression, instead of an extension of its "ultimate driving machine" tagline. The 2002-2008 7-Series went extreme with flame surfacing, awkwardly tall glass areas, drooping fenders, and a tiered decklid that foudn copycats across the globe, even though it gave the 7er a wide, ungainly, tall rear end.
Today, the 7-Series is almost a knockout, with a much more relaxed silhouette and more exciting proportions of metal to glass. The shoulders fit just right; the trunk has been smoothed over, its taillights more tightly integrated. In the front, the twin-kidney grille even looks pleased, split into a wider grin atop a deeper, dipped air dam. The "Hofmeister" kink at the D-pillar and doors gives the 7er its signature sublime touch of sport. The long-wheelbase versions don't tip the shape out of balance at all, with a small stretch in glass areas in the rear doors.
The cockpit is a win, too, with the chaotic mix of buttons, screens, and knobs reduced where possible, and regrouped into a more logical mien. The clutter has a more organized feel, at least, and the dash shapes have been streamlined so that the 7-Series' cabin "reads" more easily and more cleanly. The instruments can be completely blacked out when needed; otherwise they glimmer softly amid densely grained wood trim, ceramic-finished knobs, and the futuristic controllers that direct the transmission and driving dynamics, as well as the iDrive system.